Surprise Installation Costs
Replacing outdated kitchen appliances with new ones in older homes can spring some nasty surprises. Be ready to incur some unanticipated and hefty installation costs. For that reason, buy kitchen appliances during the fall and winter when retailers discount last year’s models to make room for the new ones. Even when the discounts on major appliances are substantial, the costs to install a new range, microwave oven, dishwasher, or refrigerator in an older home may gobble up the savings.
Appliance Size Matters
Until a few years ago, the standard width of an electric kitchen range was 28 inches. Most houses built prior to the 1980s left only enough space between the cabinets to accommodate the appliance. Today’s standard electric range is 30 inches, too large for the space between older cabinets. Major cabinet cutting is often required to gain 2 inches of space. Height is another consideration. If the plan is to replace the old microwave oven above the stove, the newer ones are larger and likely won’t fit. Shortening the cabinets above it or removing the cabinet entirely are the only solutions and either way, can throw off the symmetry. Refrigerators are also taller and wider than they were a few years ago.
Appliance Power Cords
Today, power cords no longer come attached to some major appliances. Sold separately, they can add an additional 50 dollars to the cost of an electric dryer or an electric range. The nightmare doesn’t end there. After making the power cord purchase, the outlet might not accommodate it. Suppose hardwire the old electric range into the wall power supply. An electrician must come in and install a new female wall outlet to accept the new grounded, heavy-duty male plug.
If the old microwave oven is on a cart or sits on the counter, to place a new oven above the stove, a dedicated 120-volt connection from the breaker box must be drawn through an outside wall into the kitchen. If the old microwave oven is on a 120-volt wall outlet, that power source can be used. However, to keep from stringing the unsightly electric cord up a wall, an outlet line must run from there through the wall. Place the plug inside a cabinet. According to an electrician, taking this less expensive route may cause a power interruption in the kitchen when two small appliances operating simultaneously put power strain on the one breaker.
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)
Most homes built prior to 1973 don’t have GFCIs installed. GFCIs provide protection from severe or fatal electrical shocks and fires by shutting off the electrical current if it detects a problem in an appliance wiring. If an electrician installing new power outlets and adding new wiring sees no GFCI on any of the kitchen outlets, he might insist on having one or more installed.
Before replacing old countertops with any of the popular stones or other countertop materials, buy all appliance upgrades and have them put in first. Appliance installers recount horror stories of homeowners being forced to butcher their expensive new countertop material to accommodate new appliances.
Before making any appliance purchases for an older kitchen, the brand and you should decide where to purchase. Call or go to the store and get the appliance measurements along with the name and number of the installer. Set up an appointment with the installer to visit the home and assess the kitchen setup. Most appliance stores offer this as a free service. He will determine what installation adjustments you need (if any). Taking a few preliminary steps can save time, money, and many headaches later.