Thanks for all of your great questions during our recent Kitchen Design Webinar! Below are answers from AARP staff and our webinar presenter, Rosemary Bakker. We hope these provide additional help as you plan for your future kitchen needs. For more information, visit view our latest Livable Communities Awards page or rosemarybakker.com.
See also: What a winning kitchen looks like.
Cabinets/Countertops/General Kitchen Materials
Q: What is a reasonable life span for traditional wood cabinets, in terms of fading from sunlight exposure, dryness, etc?
A: The life span for cabinets varies widely depending on the quality of the original materials and workmanship. Cabinets rated low might last 15 years; those rated excellent might stay in good shape for as long as 35 years. (Source: Home Repair and Remodel Cost Guide, Marshall & Swift)
Q: What is the height trend for cabinets? Do you set them right up against the ceiling, or do you make them look more modern by lowering them from the ceiling?
A: So much depends on your storage needs and the height of your kitchen ceiling. One trend in kitchens with high ceilings is to install fluorescent tube lighting (hidden) on top of the upper cabinets. Make sure there is at least 12 inches of space between the ceiling and the upper cabinets. This is a great and inexpensive way to add lighting to the kitchen. Whatever your choice, make sure you can easily and safely access storage on the upper shelves. One way to do that is to add pull-down shelving units. It's an ergonomic way to access items on higher shelves.
Q: Where can I find slide-out shelving and drawers for cabinets?
A: Many manufacturers make high-quality slide-out cabinet storage units for both base and upper cabinets. Your best bet is to visit local home and kitchen remodeling stores and see which ones work for your situation. Consider full-extension glides for sliding drawers and shelves. Full extension means that you have full use of the drawer; you can pull it out completely, which gives you more usable space for storage and allows you to see everything inside the drawer.
Q: How can I check that the cabinets, flooring, countertops, etc. are made of safe, non-toxic materials?
A: Refer to the U.S. Green Building Council website at greenhomeguide.com.
Q: How can I find out the cost of upgrades to my kitchen, like adding pull-out shelves, replacing all the cabinetry and so on?
A: Go to costhelper.com, which has many links to other cost estimation tools. You can also go to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry website or call a certified aging-in-place (CAPS) contractor. Go to aarp.org/caps for more information.
Q: Do wood floors scratch easily?
A: Although wood floors are susceptible to scratches and dents, and will show wear especially in heavily trafficked areas, you can refinish them by sanding and applying a protective finish. Choose an environmentally friendly low-VOC (volatile organic compound) finish.