Main Line Kitchen Design
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Posted May 11, 2019 by pmcalary

We often get asked by our customers what percentage of the money they spend remodeling their kitchen do we think they should get back when they sell their home. The Return On Investment, abbreviated ROI, for a kitchen renovation is more complex that most homeowners and real estate professionals believe. The most common misconception is that there is some approximate percentage that a newly renovated kitchen should bring upon selling a home. Another is that renovating a kitchen in a home that is already valued higher than most others in the area won’t be a good investment.

In reality we have seen the value of a home do anything from actually decreasing in value to increasing in value many times the cost of the renovation. The biggest factor affecting the the ROI of a kitchen renovation is the kitchen design itself. For example redoing the same poorly designed kitchen the same way could have very little ROI. Or a new even worse design that gives a homeowner what they think they want despite it not fitting or working well in their space might lower the value of their home.

Knowing what designs are good choices and what doesn’t work are often not obvious to homeowners. If fact many homeowners want to implement designs they thought of themselves even when we explain why they are poor choices. Or they want to keep the present terrible design because it is what they know.

At Main Line Kitchen Design we believe our first obligation is to at least show our customers better designs than what they might ask for. It wouldn’t be ethical or professional in our opinion to simply implement a design a customer asked for if there were better designs or design improvements we felt that they needed to see. Of course they can buy the kitchen they envisioned after seeing what we recommend, so long as it isn’t dangerous. But working together and having a professional kitchen designer critique different designs usually leads to sensible compromises that customers appreciate. Especially after the dust settles and they begin cooking and living in their new kitchen.

Below is our generalized list of the top ROI’s we see on kitchen renovations. Notice that high end appliances, quartz countertops, custom cabinetry, and gadgets don’t appear.

Top ten ROI ‘s for a Kitchen Renovation:

  1. Working with a talented and experienced kitchen designer
  2. Removing a soffit
  3. Removing a wall separating the dining room and the kitchen in smaller homes
  4. Going to the ceiling with molding
  5. Upgrading cabinets to all plywood construction
  6. Upgrading to soft close dovetail drawers and soft close doors
  7. Building the refrigerator into cabinetry
  8. Double trash pull out next to sink
  9. Recessed door style
  10. Large single bowl sink


Main Line Kitchen Design wishes everyone a happy Mothers Day and as always a hearty – BON APPETITE!

Paul, Julie, Ed, John, Tom and Stacia

Main Line Kitchen Design


  1. Marcie Sanfratello, May 15, 2019 at 9:05 am:

    This is great information! Thank you!!!
    We are re doing our kitchen and I read up on alot on what you wrote. I’m torn between Medallion or Decora cabinets.what would you choose? For some reason Decora showcases seems sturdier. I do plan on all plywood construction with both of them. Thank you for your time!

  2. pmcalary, May 15, 2019 at 9:40 am:

    Hi Marcie,
    Decora uses a solid wood hanging rail if memory serves which is a little better than a 3/8″ Plywood back that Medalion is often sold with. Still upgraded they are both nice well made cabinets. Medallion is usually more money. I would choose the better designer if they are quotes from different places and you like the door style and finishs equally. Same designer – I pick what I like that worth it to me and ignore the construction difference in this case.

  3. Jody Phelps, May 23, 2019 at 4:17 pm:

    Thanks, this is helpful. I was about to order my cabinets from Brookhaven but now, I’ll probably go with a custom cabinet maker in Denver, where we live. The only reason I had not ordered my cabinets was that I couldn’t quite make the decision to use MDF vs solid Maple for my cabinet doors. Those in the know tell me to use MDF but I can’t find one friend who thinks MDF is a good choice. So, when speaking about ROI, why would I use a material that I can’t boost about when I sell my house. Maybe my friends don’t know what material was used in their cabinets, but I doubt that. What material do your designers select for cabinet doors and would provide the best ROI?

  4. Mary Cooper, June 2, 2019 at 4:33 pm:

    Thanks so much for such helpful information! I currently have 1960s style kitchen with 7.5 feet ceilings with 30 inch cabinets with 9 inch soffits. I know…UGHH! Any guidelines? Also, why is large single bowl for sink preferred for ROI?

    Thanks! πŸ™‚

  5. pmcalary, June 2, 2019 at 5:47 pm:

    If a ceiling is 7’5″ you should not have a 9″ soffit. That means your cabinets are mounted 4″ too low. You should remove the soffits and mount wall cabinets with the tops at 84″ and redo any plumbing in the soffits to allow the wall cabinets to be mounted at the correct height. Plumbing can be hidden behind stacked moldings. Double bowl sinks are from an era before dishwashers. Having a true double bowl sink means you have two 14 1/2″ wide bowls that don’t fit any large pots or pans. Bowl and a half sinks do give you a second small but not very useful bowl and the smallest size standard single bowl sink. Large bowls allow all pots, pans, and trays to actually fit in the sink and also give you more space to work.

  6. Mary Cooper, June 3, 2019 at 3:51 pm:

    Thank you! I wish you had an outlet in Buffalo, NY area. πŸ™‚

  7. Paul McAlary, June 3, 2019 at 4:20 pm:


  8. Norm Numerof, June 25, 2019 at 4:02 pm:


    Not sure exactly where to post this question on your blog, but here goes.

    On your 2018 kitchen cabinet ratings, there is a listing for Holiday (frameless) with a C rating for quality, and right below it a listing for Holiday Kitchens with an A rating. Is there a company “Holiday” to which you are referring, which is separate from the company “Holiday Kitchens”? Or, do both entries refer to Holiday Kitchens, the first entry for their frameless cabinets and the second entry for face frame cabinets? I am aware that you give frameless cabinets no higher than a B quality rating, but it seems odd that one company would have such disparate ratings, C and A for frameless versus face frame cabinets. Thanks for clarifying.

  9. Richard Miner, June 25, 2019 at 4:32 pm:

    Thanks,this is really great information and insight. I’m in process of updating cabinets and have two quotes one for Fabuwood and one for 21st century. Fabuwood quote is 2500 more than 21st century. Is Fabuwood cabinets worth the extra cost of an i better off with 21st century.

  10. pmcalary, June 25, 2019 at 5:01 pm:

    Hi Norm,
    Yes it’s the same company and their framed and frameless line. We do not like how they make their frameless line. I don’t remember what the issue was with their frameless line. Probably how they made the back of the cabinet and possibly you couldn’t upgrade to plywood either. Once a line gets a C for construction it becomes impossible to do well for value.

    The disparity could be accounted for by the fact that customers that want frameless cabinets often have very different buying sensibilities. Better construction could be unimportant to a frameless customer while offering internal cabinet mechanisms and recycled materials could be most important. A smart cabinet company knows their customer and gives them the options that they want and will pay for.
    Also customers that want frameless cabinets often also want less input from kitchen designers, hence the popularity of IKEA for example. Kitchen designers tend to know this and so many kitchen designers when designing in a frameless line might not rock the boat with information that a customer doesn’t want to hear.

  11. pmcalary, June 25, 2019 at 5:14 pm:

    This depends on a lot. What percentage $2,500 is to your cabinet order, how long you plan on living in your home, how hard your family is on cabinetry. If you like the door styles and finishes equally and plan on being in the home less than ten years Century is probably fine. In general I would pay 15% more for Fabuwood all things being equal.

  12. Laurie, June 25, 2019 at 10:35 pm:

    Hi. Thanks a lot for the fantastic blog! I am doing kitchen remodel for the first time and I found an amazing amount of very valuable information here. In your comments you often mention problematic customers that designers don’t want. Do you have any rules of thumb on how not to become one of those customers inadvertently?

  13. pmcalary, June 26, 2019 at 7:20 am:

    Hi Laurie,
    I’ll take this opening to tell a funny story.

    About 20 years ago after listening to my stories about bad kitchen customers a friend of mine who was also a professional comedian walked into a kitchen showroom. He knew that the designer working there was a friend of mine and so he thought he’d see if he could get a rise out of him.

    He walked up to the designer without an appointment and said. “Excuse me, I’d like to order a kitchen. I know exactly what I want. I cook and so know what I need and my wife is a real estate agent so we don’t need a designer. I have all the measurements so I just need a few minutes of your time to put my kitchen on the computer. Of course since I have already done all the design work in my head I expect a better price. Should I talk to your manager about that or can you sharpen your pencil?” If you are busy right now I can wait a few minutes.”

    My friend the kitchen designer’s face went beet red and he stood up shaking a little. Before he could open his mouth to speak or scream we’ll never know which, my comedian friend said “Sorry to bust you stones, I’m a friend of Paul McAlary’s and I wanted to see if everything he complains about would bother another kitchen designer.” They both started laughing then and telling each other stories probably unflattering to me.

    Flash forward 15 years and that same comedian friend wrote and stared in one of our Youtube videos.
    Here is my friend Mark Mitten, a former computer engineer and stand up comic playing the engineer in the first part of the video:

    And here is one of our blogs on the same topic:

    So to sum up what you should get from these examples:
    Kitchen design is complex and takes at least ten years of working as a designer full time to become competent. So customers that think they know everything, and don’t respect a designers time or expertise are not our favorites. In fact shopping your design around at several places and acting like a know-it-all will often land you with a designer that will take pleasure in taking advantage of how little you know by making substitutions that cheat you.

  14. pmcalary, June 27, 2019 at 12:46 pm:

    Hi Jody,
    Apologies, I just realized we never answered your question. I would recommend an MDF center panel on cabinet styles that have a recessed panel, but not recommend an entire MDF door unless you are incredibly easy on things. MDF doors will look nice but damage easily. Recessed center panels don’t normally get damaged so making those MDF which doesn’t shrink, warp,and saves you money makes sense. Using friends with kitchen opinions to make complex kitchen decisions is also not a great idea. Hopefully the professional you are working with can give you better advice than friends that might be confused or have gotten information from bad sources such as HGTV.

  15. Jacqueline, June 27, 2019 at 11:26 pm:

    It does not appear you sell faucets. But if we could ever persuade you to do a ranking of faucets, or at least advise in this area, it would be greatly appreciated.

  16. pmcalary, June 28, 2019 at 7:43 am:

    Thanks for the vote of confidence. Not being a plumbing supply company our opinion on faucets would not be expert. However it is possible that we could find another website like the Yale Appliance site that expertly rates appliances for faucets and plumbing fixtures. I will put it on my list of things to investigate in the future.

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