When Consumers Remodel

A new study reveals their kitchen remodeling wants and needs
By Ellen Sturm Niz
September 09, 2010

Kitchen remodeling may have declined, but customized cooktops, environmentally friendly products and professional-design services are in demand. So says the 2010 Remodelers 360: How Americans Use Their Kitchens & Their Remodeling Experiences, a recent study of nearly 3,000 U.S. consumers by Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence (RICKI), an independent, membership-based organization of manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers and publications whose revenues come from sales related to activities that take place in the kitchen, including kitchen remodeling.

According to the study, the incidence of kitchen remodeling continues to be lower than the 2006 baseline of 20%. One out of six respondents in the 2010 Remodelers 360 survey (16%) say they remodeled or improved their kitchens in the past year, mirroring the 2008 finding.

Twenty-two percent of survey respondents had planned to remodel or make improvements to their kitchens in the past 12 months but changed their minds. This is similar to the percentage found in the 2008 wave of  Remodelers 360 (19%). The main reason people give for changing their plans is the same as in 2008: “not enough money in the budget.” Significantly more respondents who changed their minds in 2010 are “uncertain about future finances” compared to those in the 2008 study. In addition to gathering data from the general population on various topics related to their kitchens, the study included in-depth questions about kitchen remodeling. A subset of respondents who had remodeled or improved their kitchens was oversampled to allow for additional analysis. These respondents who spent $2,500 or more on kitchen remodels or improvements in the last year are referred to in the study as “kitchen remodelers.”

Among “kitchen remodelers” in the study, almost one in five (18%) spent $15,000 or more (including materials, labor and design costs). The percentage of those spending $15,000 or more on a kitchen improvement has declined since 2008 after a slight increase in the prior period, moving up from 22 percent in 2006 to 24 percent in 2008.


Study respondents were asked to imagine creating their “ideal” kitchen—without any consideration to budget limitations—and choose their most-wanted products from a list of 31 options. The top five most-wished-for products are: 1) a cooktop with a built-in griddle, wok, grill or rotisserie attachment; 2) commercial-grade appliances; 3) a larger dishwasher to accommodate a wider variety of dishes; 4) a central island cooktop; and 5) an oven that dramatically reduces cooking time without microwaves. When asked which one change or improvement they would make to their kitchen in 2010 if cost were not an obstacle, the top products selected from the list of 15 were: cabinets, range/oven/cooktop, countertop and refrigerator.

Out of a list of 28 products and design elements that might be in a kitchen renovation—from appliances to lighting to adding square footage—the top 10 items purchased by “kitchen remodelers” in the study are: 1) refrigerators, 2) faucets, 3) countertops, 4) sinks, 5 ) dishwashers, 6) range/oven/cooktops, 7) flooring, 8) lighting, 9) paint/wallpaper and 10) cabinets. The total number of products purchased in a kitchen remodel has declined significantly (a mean of 6.0 products purchased in 2010 versus 7.8 in 2008 and 8.1 in 2006).

Around half of those who remodeled their kitchens (49%) say they heavily considered the impact on the environment when they selected products for the project. Another third of “kitchen remodelers” (36%) gave “some consideration” to the environmental impact of their purchases.


When asked where they got their best ideas for their kitchen remodel, the top five sources out of a list of 34 options presented were: 1) magazines, 2) Home Depot, 3) Lowe’s, 4) HGTV and 5) the Internet. Comparing the ranking of sources used for remodeling ideas between 2008 and 2010, there have been some dramatic shifts. In 2008, “kitchen remodelers” chose “my own ideas” as their No. 1 source for ideas. In 2010, “kitchen remodelers” seem to be less confident: “my own ideas” dropped to seventh place. Moving up the list are Sears, the Internet, Home Depot and Lowe’s. And in 2010, the total number of sources used for ideas in a kitchen remodel increased dramatically compared to 2008 (a mean of 5.6 idea sources in 2010 versus 3.7 idea sources in 2008).

• The demand for professionals. Despite the economic downturn, the incidence of hiring outside help for all of a kitchen renovation project remains relatively steady (26% in 2006, 28% in 2010 and 24% in 2010). A professional designer or architect played a role in three in 10 kitchen remodels costing more than $2,500, up significantly from prior study periods. There is some evidence that “kitchen remodelers” are using kitchen designers at the big box stores more today, while others may be consulting designers for projects and getting ideas from them, but not necessarily hiring them for the entire project.

Three -quarters of “kitchen remodelers” did the project with some level of help, either doing it all themselves (34%) or having help with some of it (42%). However, given the opportunity to do the project over, DIYers are most likely to want to shift some of that work to someone else.

• 20/20 hindsight. About a quarter of “kitchen remodelers” say they would do nothing differently if they could do their kitchen remodel again (23%). Among those who would do something differently next time, the top desired changes are different appliances (“I would have spent the extra money and bought the newer more efficient appliances”) and plan better or do the project sooner (“take more time… less rushing,” “I did a lot of research, but I would probably seek more professional advice”).

When asked if they were doing the same project today, balancing what they want in a kitchen with the realities of their household budgets, around one in three “kitchen remodelers” (31%) say they would spend more on the project if they had it to do over—closely mirroring the percentage of “kitchen remodelers” who said so in previous years (30% in 2008 and 33% in 2006).


A sweet spot on the remodeling landscape is the “High-End Remodeler,” defined by RICKI as someone who spent $15,000 or more on a recent kitchen project. Compared to “Main Market Remodelers” (defined as those who spent between $2,500 and $14,999), High-End Remodelers:

—Are significantly more likely to have purchased the vast majority of the 28 items asked about for their recent remodel

—Bought far more products for their kitchen remodel (mean of 9.9 versus 5.1)

—Are more than twice as likely to use a professional designer or architect

—Are significantly more likely than their more modest counterparts to say they would spend more money if they had the project to do over

While there was a lower proportion of High-End Remodelers this year compared to previous study periods, economic indicators measured by RICKI, as well as other sources, point to pent-up demand and greater spending that may lead to an increase in High-End Remodelers in the near future.

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