Ready to ditch your tired appliances, dated cabinets, and stain-splotched countertops? Consumer Reports can help you make every dollar count.
The magazine’s testers slaved over hot stoves, loaded and unloaded dishes, and toiled away for months in our labs, evaluating the most important ingredients of a kitchen renovation.
Consumer Reports also contacted kitchen designers to learn the latest trends. And we spoke with real estate agents for a reality check on whether stainless-steel appliances, granite counters, and kitchen islands are still the hot ticket to selling your home.
What’s hot in . . . Appliances French-door fridges. Designers tout this configuration, which combines the streamlined form of a side-by-side with the accessibility of a bottom freezer, for offering improved storage in a smaller footprint.
Two-cook kitchens. Layout permitting, there is a growing preference for wall-oven and cooktop combos. With wall ovens, you will do less bending over and heavy lifting, a benefit for everyone but essential for those with limited strength and mobility.
What sells. Energy efficiency helps sell houses because home buyers know they will benefit from lower energy bills.
Bottom line. Not every innovation is a winner. A $1,200 microwave and a $1,700 range with slow-cook options performed worse in tests than a $60 slow cooker. When appliance shopping, don’t go by Energy Star alone. Consumer Reports tests have found some significant differences in annual operating costs, as well as performance, among Energy Star-qualified models.
. . . Sinks, faucets, and lighting Undermount sinks. These look good and let you wipe countertop spills into the sink.
Pull-out faucets with integrated sprayers help with the dishes. Hands-free faucets are becoming more widely used by busy cooks and those with arthritis or limited mobility.
Efficient, effective lighting. High-efficiency LED was chosen by 54 percent of National Kitchen and Bath Association kitchen designers in 2010, according to that trade group.
What sells. Fixtures that work. Buyers emphasize function over form. Adequate lighting. Most open houses take place during the day, so buyers are more likely to by impressed by natural light.
Bottom line. Faucets are a great place to save money because price had little to do with performance in Consumer Reports’ tests. Those that cost as little as $80 had a lifetime warranty against leaks and staining.
. . . Layout Pantries. With at least one wall lost to windows and a door, there’s less space for cabinets. That has put a premium on pantry space. A stand-alone freezer is a valuable addition to walk-in pantries, allowing owners to keep grocery bills in check by getting deals on bulk items.
Islands. Designers also tout islands or a peninsula countertop. Most people prefer the “public’’ side of the island to be raised to conceal meal prep. Auxiliary cabinet space and a prep sink increase an island’s function, but think hard about adding a cooktop.
What sells. Functionality. The most beautiful kitchen in the world can’t make up for lousy layout.
Bottom line. When it comes to windows and doors, it’s not just about letting light in. Look for windows and doors with insulating features such as heat-reflecting low-E coatings and argon gas between glass panes.
The island might be one of the most desired items, but if it’s not appropriate to the scale of the room, it won’t work for you or for your home’s resale value.
You need at least 42 inches between the island and surrounding cabinets and appliances to maintain traffic flow, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association.
Consumer Reports writes columns, reviews, and ratings on cars, appliances, electronics, and other consumer goods. Previous stories can be found at consumerreports.org.