When I come into a home for an inspection, I like to start with the kitchen. To check out the appliances here can take a while. Remodeled kitchens can add value to your home, but first you may want to see what needs to be done. An inspector will look at appliances which are considered built-in: oven; range; dishwasher; trash compactor, range hood; or any piece of equipment attached to the cabinet. This means that refrigerators are not covered by an inspection. To inspect any appliance, you operate it under normal conditions to see if it works as expected. If the appliance has knobs or some type of labelling which is needed for operation, the labels need to be easy to read. No parts should be broken or ready to fall off. So lets go over some specifics: Ranges/ovens/cook tops: labels indicating what the knob does wear down with cleanings; most people never use all their burners, so they will leave broken burners un-repaired, which means you should check all of them; ovens vary greatly in performance, so use an oven thermometer to check the temperature when the oven is set to 350F (let it be on for at least fifteen minutes, and it should be within 25 degrees of the set temperature); check that the oven light works; there should be some type of plate on the wall behind a range to prevent it from tipping over; look for rust, broken parts, or worn seals Dishwasher: run it in normal cycle to see if water is leaking (an unused dishwasher’s seals will weaken); set the arm in an identifiable position before starting, then check to see if it moved when done; close the flap door for additional detergent to see if it opens; look for rust, broken parts, or worn seals Note: some dishwashers will have a switch (think light switch) on the backsplash, which needs to be on before it can work
Range hood: check filters; operate it at all speed levels, checking for excessive noise and vibrations; check the light; see if the vent tubes (if any) are installed well (I frequently find duct tape here to fit mismatched parts); look for rust and broken parts
Microwave: heat a cup of water to see if it works; check the light; look for rust, broken parts, or worn seals
Disposer: run it with the water running; pay attention for excessive noise and vibration; look under the sink to see if water is leaking from the unit.
Refrigerator:check the seals to for their condition; look at the back to see the state of the coils; see if the unit is cooling sufficiently (it is hard to tell what temperature is meant on some units by “cold 1-2-3-4-5”, so refrigerators are around 45F and freezers are at or below 40F)
Sink:run the hot water to see if it comes through (also check the cold water handle); let each basin fill up, then drain to check for leaks below; look to see that there is a trap before the water goes to the waste pipe Note: when you see buckets under the trap, and sponges set aside for clean-up, there is a good chance of a leak problem, but look for water stains in the cabinet)
Cabinets (not done by inspectors):hardware should function and be in good shape; doors and drawers should open and close easily; materials for the cabinet compartment should join together well and have no dings and dents; cabinets should be secure to the wall Lights and outlets: outlets on the counter should be GFCI(ground fault circuits), but outlets for the appliances (mainly the refrigerator) should not be; lights should work and have a cover (if the bulb breaks, you do not want glass in the food)
Trash Compactor: no broken parts; no excessive noise or vibration; you should place a bundled newspaper in it to check compaction when operating.
If you are finding problems, solutions may be simple. Excessive noise and vibrations in most equipment is due to the unit not being properly mounted. Seals and filters can be replaced. Most main brand appliances have easily obtainable parts to make repairs. If you work with a good contractor, they would be able to tell you if the repair is not difficult to accomplish. Before ripping out the cabinets, consider the following:
1. Refinishing the surface (painting or staining) can make cabinets look new.
2. Replace the hardware (hinges and handles). This can give an entirely new look to the kitchen quickly.
3. Consider having the doors replaced. If they are in bad shape, but the cabinet frame is good, this can be a quick, cost effective solution.
4. New counter top. Most home centers can have these made and shipped to you. Along with the hardware, this can really update the look of the kitchen.
5. New appliances. Since many sizes are standard, you would be able to find units that could fit into your existing space, and you may not need new appliances for everything.
6. New fixtures. Faucets can be a little difficult to replace, but generally the process for installing a new fixture for the faucet or the lights is simple enough. Even GFCI outlets can be easily installed. Just take the proper precautions when working on a fixture- turn off power and water for example. This is where good how-to manuals are helpful.
You may find that only doing a few steps or a few items is all you need. This will cost you less money and time, and the less that you replace helps the environment (less items in a landfill). One thing to consider is what brand to use when replacing items. Fancy fixtures and appliances can be costly to purchase and fix. Parts will be hard to find. Moreover, I read a report recently that some fashionable high quality appliances break down more often, and do not work as well. If you believe that adding one of these items into the kitchen in hopes of driving up the value of the home, you may find that the unit has not helped you to achieve your goal. If you are fixing a house for sale or for your own use, a complete remodel may not be practical. Take your time to see if there are ways to improve what is already there. This is better for the environment and your budget.