Home Improvement

Sweet! Kitchen Upgrades That Add Functionality and Value

What do you love about your kitchen? There’s probably some aspect that you truly appreciate, since most of us spend a considerable amount of time in the kitchen — whether it’s to cook or entertain.

The kitchen is now the place to gather, entertain, plug in a laptop, charge the cell phone and more. Cabinets are designed to wring every inch of storage out of available space. Design continues to evolve. There are ever-growing ways to make kitchen life better.

So yeah, there’s lots to love in today’s kitchen, and when the question was put to readers, it yielded tales — of pot racks, spice cabinets, pop-up mixer shelves, butcher blocks and sneaky storage compartments. Here are 11 tales of kitchen can-do, each a short case study in the immediate payoffs of practical thinking.

Doing cartwheels over racks

Robert and Mary Lou Simmelink are in the middle of a remodel of their Shorewood, Wis., home, but already love their “speed rack on wheels.” It sits next to the stove, under a counter, ready to be pressed (or pushed) into service. It gets used a lot.

“I used to be a pastry chef, so I had used speed racks for years in my professional life, but it never occurred to me that one would be useful at home. I saw a picture in a kitchen inspiration design book that included one and it was an ‘aha,’ or really a ‘duh!’ moment,” said Mary Lou.

Robert, executive chef at Alto-Shaam, makers of food service equipment for commercial kitchens, agrees.

“The best thing we did was to put a half-size speed rack that is on wheels next to the stove,” he said. “We use this for hot trays coming out of the oven, such as the Christmas cookies. … We can also park hot saute pans just before plating. I plan to use it to stage platters of food and ‘back-up’ food when we entertain. This way, the back-up food is away from the guest and we can all have a good time in the kitchen without clutter.”

‘Sold,’ to the couple with kitchen smarts

Dean and Valerie Ferber know a thing or two about shopping around. The previous owners of the Ferbers’ cottage-style home in Hales Corners, Wis., had an antique bread table. It gave the antique-loving Ferbers an idea. They hunted flea markets, antique shops, estate sales. At one antiques mall, they spotted the perfect piece: a woodworker’s bench. But at $1,100, it was too pricey.

Then, on the way to another store, they stopped at an auction and found a bench covered with paint and equipped with two vises. Where others might have seen a mess, the Ferbers saw potential. But first they had to win it.

Bidding started near the price of that first bench they’d seen, but there were no takers. The price dropped to $500, then $250, then $100. Finally, Dean Ferber raised his auction paddle. The auctioneer asked for $125, and a man in front held up his hand. Dean Ferber bid $150 — and the 1880s work bench was theirs.

“And all Wifey could say was ‘How are we going to load that thing?'”

With some help, they got it into their van and were off.

Down-to-earth decisions

For Elizabeth A. Gorzalski, a yearlong remodel began with one realization. “It took me seven years to accept my wheelchair status,” said Gorzalski, who was in a car accident and also has a muscular disorder. “When I finally realized, ‘this is it,’ and I accepted it (the condition), I redesigned my kitchen so I could entertain and cook and enjoy it.”

With the help of Eric Wright of Rockwood Construction in Wauwatosa, Wis., and cabinetmaker Rudy Steiner of StoneTree Woodworks in Mukwonago, Wis., she has a kitchen that works for her. It started with a unique measurement. Steiner told her, “Let’s measure where your nose is. We won’t put anything higher than your nose is.”

One element she’s especially fond of: The space below the counter at the stove that allows her wheelchair underneath, “allowing me to cook safely,” she writes.

Another nice touch was the height of doors. “I had a very old dog who never left my side,” she said. “The doors are exactly the right height (from the floor) so that I could pull them out and ‘Buckles’ would not be disturbed.”

Buckles is gone, but her two dogs now, Sir Reginald and Max McGee, benefit from the same design detail.

Compost concept

Judy Holzmann of Campbellsport, Wis., saved up to remodel her kitchen, then went hunting for deals — and found them. She figures she saved nearly $14,000 by getting merchandise on eBay, and design showrooms. She sent along a spreadsheet to prove it. “Hope you don’t mind my enthusiasm — this project took five years to plan and save for so we wouldn’t go into debt,” she writes.

She loves the openness and flow of the new kitchen, and all the new appliances, but if she had to pick one thing?

“For functionality, silly as it sounds, my favorite thing is the built-in compost bucket,” she said. “So practical, and looks cool, too. I’m an avid gardener, so have been composting for years and using it in my flower beds.” Before the remodel, she composted in buckets kept outside the patio door. “In the winter the whole works would freeze solid. In the summer it just looked gross.”

Naturally, she found a great deal on the compost bin. “With all the ‘green’ products out there I knew there had to be something, and it took a lot of Googling to find it,” she said. She came up with one made by a firm called Rev-A-Shelf. She found the best deal by ordering it through Menards ($131).

The bin is set right into the countertop, installed in a “dead space corner next to the kitchen sink.” When the three-gallon bin is full, one of the kids takes it out to the compost pile in the woods behind the house.

Serving up suds

Trudy Hannam of Cedarburg, Wis., likes her kitchen just fine, but it was a small item installed by her 57-year-old son, Herbert (Jay) Hannam, that makes her life so much easier.

“I love my soap dispenser,” she writes, with more than a little excitement. “I got a new kitchen faucet this year, and my son installed it. He also had a special drill that he could use to make a hole in my sink and added a soap dispenser. Now I don’t have to bend over several times a day to get soap from under my sink when it is needed. It is absolutely wonderful! It fills from the top easily and directs a stream where needed.”

Clever corner

Terry Crevensten lived with the dated kitchen in her 1960s Cedarburg, Wis., ranch house for more than 20 years. Last summer, they finally gutted the kitchen, adding a family room and a mudroom. She put a lot of thought into organizing and making the most of the space, including creation of “lunch-making station.” But the element that sold them on the designer (Bob Sebastian of Brillo Home Improvements) was moving the sink to a corner.

“Although you can put carousels in the corner cabinets, they’re still not great and the corner counter can be a problem,” she said. “The design also put a niche above the sink and spotlight lighting, so we have some artwork there.”

Well-seasoned kitchen

Terri Walters said her “darling husband” Lee remodeled their 1930s home in Wauwatosa a few years ago and included lots of organizational features. The one that Walters loves, though, is the long, tall spice cabinet. There’s a reason it’s so tall.

“It’s a former ironing board cabinet that (now) organizes herbs and spices, makes them easy to find and is convenient to (but removed from) my stove and kitchen island,” Walters said.

“I have over 50 jars of spices and also store salt boxes, cookie decorating supplies and flavorings like vanilla and almond in my cabinet,” Walters said.

Turning talents inward

Kendall Polster is a welder who makes art and designs restaurants for a living. So he unleashed his talents on a challenging space: his own small kitchen.

“I put in a restaurant-grade, deep double sink from Fein Brothers,” he said. “I built the sink cabinet more as a piece of furniture on legs, not built to the floor as a traditional kitchen cabinet. I made it using all recycled oak … except for the maple I used in the two-inch-thick pull-out cutting board. The sink cabinet ended up only costing me about $60 in materials.”

Let there be light

Lori Cannestra, a self-described “kitchen design junkie,” had a big kitchen remodel and loves a lot of the details (like the custom spice rack, the phone niche and home organizing corner).

One small detail stands out for her: “Our simple, under-cabinet outlet strip. Tucking an outlet strip under the cabinets, rather than traditional receptacles every three feet, enhances the beauty of our tiled backsplash by allowing an uninterrupted, clean line across the length of the wall. It’s a small detail, but one that really improves the aesthetics of the design without compromising functionality.”

Measure by measure

Deborah Kramer of Onalaska, Wis., was determined that space would be wasted when she remodeled her kitchen. She measured cans and boxes to make sure they fit in the drawers she had in mind. To get every inch of space to work, she had pantry drawers designed to fit next to a long row of wine cubby holes.

“I had them plan the wine rack first and then make the drawers with the remaining space,” she said. “These pantry drawers pull completely out so no canned good is unseen.”

Bright idea

Kate Wilson did a remodel on a budget, with help from Home Depot in Milwaukee. Her new kitchen is bright and cheery, with lots of white and yellow, and it has great storage. Drawers rather than doors on cabinets make storage easier. One smart detail: “A front flip-out drawer above the under-sink cabinet that holds sponges, rubber gloves and scrubbers that I don’t want to keep out.”

Republished with permission from McClatchy Tribune News Service.

Articles Preparing Virtual Agent

Two Grand Can Make Your House Grand, Too

For $2,000, you can replace your kitchen countertops or retile your bathroom — maybe even both, depending on your chosen materials. You’ll increase the value of your home and bask daily in the glow of shiny new surfaces.

But isn’t that a little conventional? How about taking that same $2,000 and venturing beyond the obvious. We turned to three home improvement experts for some unexpected project ideas, most of which you can tackle yourself, and all of which can be done for under two grand.


“People often focus on resale rather than standard of living,” says Genevieve Gorder, host of HGTV’s “Dear Genevieve.” “But if you show a house that’s lived in really well, people pick up on that. And if you create an oasis for yourself while you live there, even better.”

Give your door a makeover. “The front door is the handshake that greets your guests,” says Amy Hughes, features editor at This Old House magazine. Install a new entry set — bronze, nickel and iron are just a few of the finish options, add a kick plate, an elegant-looking knocker and a coat of paint, and you can transform the face of your home.

“For around $500 or less, you can do something really snazzy looking, and you can literally do it in about an hour,” Hughes says.

If your door is old and worn, you can replace it entirely and still stay within your $2,000 budget. Tom Kraeutler, host of “The Money Pit,” a nationally syndicated home improvement radio show, says a fiberglass door is a great investment. “They’re just gorgeous,” he says. “They look like wood, but they’re about five times more energy efficient than wood and stronger than wood.” Most manufacturers let you choose from a variety of finishes and styles. (Kraeutler recommends Therma-Tru Doors at

Paint your kitchen cabinets. “You can really clean up the look of your kitchen if you take your time and do a good quality paint job,” says Kraeutler. “Sand them and prep them properly and use a semi-gloss or gloss as the finish.” Have some fun scouring hardware stores and online retailers for new cabinet and drawer knobs. (“We call that the bling,” Kraeutler says.)

Let there be light. “The lighting in your house should let you move through the day in a way that’s seamless and comfortable,” says Gorder. “It’s very irritating if a light is too bright when you’re trying to wind down or there’s not enough light when you need it.”

Gorder suggests a whole-house lighting makeover. “Every room needs the option to change the feeling throughout the day — dimmers, table lamps, floor lamps, sconces.” (Not all at once, of course.)

Hughes suggests transforming your recessed lighting — “which is really more of an ’80s look” — into pendant lighting. With the aid of a can converter kit (, you can change the look of a tiny nook or an entire room. “Over the kitchen sink is a nice place, or a series of them over an island. Pendant lighting starts at about $75. For $250, you can get a really beautiful pendant light.”

Replace your garage door. “The garage accounts for 33 percent of the average American home’s front-facing facade,” says Hughes. “As we’ve moved away from the detached garages of the 1950s, they’ve become fully integrated into the footprint of the house. Often it’s the first thing people see.”

New doors start at around $500 and can fetch as much as $10,000, she says. But $2,000 lands you squarely in the realm of good-quality, sharp-looking doors. “Carriage house-style doors used to be solely in the domain of the custom-door market. But you can get a door that looks like an old-school swing-out door that’s actually a conventional roll-up door.” Door color, window configuration and decorative hardware are all yours to determine. The install, Hughes says, is best left to the pros. “It isn’t a DIY-friendly job,” she says. “But a pro install starts at a couple hundred dollars.”

Make it green

Energy efficiency is always a great place to sink a few thousand dollars, say our experts. Consider these two steps.

Bathroom fixtures: Kraeutler recommends transitioning to WaterSense-labeled products, which have been certified by the Environmental Protection Agency for water efficiency and performance quality. “They use less water,but they’re engineered to do the job,” he says. “Years ago those water-saving faucets were like a trickle. They’ve gotten so much better. You can even get a rain shower shower head that’s WaterSense certified.”

Fireplace doors: “You can get a really nice set of fireplace doors for around $400,” says Hughes. “That’s going to keep air from infiltrating your house, but also from escaping. People usually think windows and doors, but forget about that big, gaping hole in the living room.”

This article from Tribune Company news outlets has been republished for additional  education purposes.  Please note that this editorial content was produced by Tribune news staff who are not employed by or  by Tribune Digital Marketplaces.  This article is not affiliated with any links or products that appear on the on the same pages.  Read more about our editorial policy.

Copyright © 2011, Chicago Tribune

Articles Negotiating Virtual Agent

Right Price, Smart Negotiating: Sold in One Day!

Jane Eanes didn’t want to sell the Pittsburgh-area house that she and her husband Russ had custom-built just two years before, in 2009. 

It was designed for easy and efficient living, right down to the geothermal system that kept heating bills to $30 a month.

But a sudden job relocation forced the couple to put their house on the market. The very first day, they received two offers – one for full price. Only selling ‘by owner’ netted the couple $22,000 more – enabling them to buy a home when they moved to Virginia.

The appeal of the house seemed obvious to Jane Eanes.  Geothermal heating translated to monthly heating bills of about $30 – a selling point both to the frugal and to the green-minded. The gardens were well planned, and the house was only two years old. But local real estate agents struggled to understand what the house offered and their attempts at articulating marketing points were clumsy and misguided. “I thought, if I’m coaching them through how to market the house, why are they getting the commission?” said Jane Eanes.

As well, the couple had put so much into the home that they knew they weren’t likely to get much equity out. “The price the agents suggested, plus their commission, would have put us at a huge loss,” said Eanes.
Suddenly, selling by owner looked like the only way out. Eanes explored, and quickly realized that the site’s easy-to-use web tools and step-by-step articles were all she needed to get the house showcased in front of millions of buyers.

She meticulously wrote and edited the listing description and took dozens of photos, with different lighting options, to have the very best options for the listing slideshow. She got the house on to the MLS and, and posted it to Craigslist, too.

As soon as the Eanes’ house went online,  buyers saw it and started calling. On the first day it was on the market, a  couple and their agent came by. Right on their heels was a buyer working without an agent. Though Eanes had advertised a buyer’s agent fee of 2.5%, the agent tried to force a 3% commission. The buyers had seen the house online and very much wanted it. But on the counsel of their agent, they made an offer 9% below the asking price of $232,000.  And their agent wrote numerous conditions into the contract.

Meanwhile, the buyers representing themselves had seen the house on Craigslist. They came, they saw, they put in a full price offer.  The Eanes  actually liked the agent-represented buyers more, on a personal level. But “the agent blew the deal for them,” said Jane Eanes. She and her husband  took the full-price offer, and had $22,000 more to work with when they relocated.

“Especially in a hurting job market, people need to get as much out of their home sales as possible, and ForSaleByOwner allows that,” said Jane Eanes. “You have to be willing to show the house yourself. But the tools that are there, at, help you navigate the process. I had never sold a house on my own, and the buyer had never bought on their own, but with the helpof thel ender and the real estate attorney, we didn’t miss having an agent.”

Use our Pricing Guide to learn how you can do what the Eanes did and price your house right for a fast, satisfying sale.


Home Improvement

In With the Old: Build New with Architectural Antiques

Anchor a stairway with an antique cast-iron newel post. Dress a window with vintage schoolhouse maps instead of shades. Turn a jettisoned apothecary cabinet into a bathroom vanity. Adorn walls with mantels from previous lives.Use those tips and many more from “Extraordinary Interiors: Decorating with Architectural Salvage & Antiques” by Brian Coleman, and everything old is new again.

“You just have to use your imagination,” said Steve Riordan, who incorporated oldies but goodies into his new house in Flossmoor and his town house in Chicago. To give his house a Tudor look, he bought period lighting fixtures and had them rewired. To make the wine cellar in his town home unique, he used a wooden jail door from Ireland.Riordan’s favorite source is Architectural Artifacts in Chicago, which carries salvaged lighting fixtures, stained-glass windows, mantels (fireplace surrounds), doors, tiles, ironwork and terra cotta.

“It’s like my candy store, but more expensive,” said Riordan.”We buy and sell things from all over the world,” said Stuart Grannen, owner of Architectural Artifacts. “Buyers want them because it’s green to recycle them and their neighbors don’t have the same things.”But mostly it’s the quality. An old stained-glass window, for example, or piece of old ironwork just isn’t like what’s available today.”Grannen’s recent customers have bought tiles for kitchen backsplashes, terra cotta for driveway pillars and ironwork for headboards or trellises.

Especially hot now are theater artifacts for home theaters, he said.Steve Lecas of Gander Builders in Frankfort combs the Internet for architectural scraps, then uses them in his new-construction houses. For instance, a model home showcased ceiling tiles from a church in France and flooring and beams from an 1870s barn in Georgia.”It was the old stuff that sold the house,” he said. “It was a slam-dunk for the buyer.”Lecas said he also has established relationships with out-of-state salvage contractors. He orders samples first to make sure the item is what the client wants.Northfield-based Focus Development completely renovated the former DuPage County courthouse in Wheaton, an 1896 Romanesque building with turrets and a clock tower, and restored the exterior to its original grandeur.

The landmark was converted into six luxury condominiums as part of the new residential community Courthouse Square.In some areas of the gabled dormers, decorative terra cotta pieces were missing.”We dismantled some of the terra cotta from dormers in places where it was intact, and we had molds made in order to make replacement pieces,” said Anita Olsen, sales and marketing director for Focus.Many companies that sell salvaged items field specific requests from homeowners.

Kneen & Co. in Chicago, for example, locates antique European fireplace surrounds and keeps about 3,000 in its warehouse.”Ideally, the client calls us before he builds the house,” said owner Mary Jeanne Kneen. “Then, the firebox can be built the right size for the fireplace surround. There are no standard sizes, but the old fireplace surrounds tend to be smaller than the openings in today’s new houses.”Many of Kneen’s clients, she said, build their homes around the fireplace surrounds.

“Often, they’re the focal points of the whole house.”Some companies specialize in restoring vintage items. Al Bar Wilmette Platers in Wilmette, for example, gives old hardware and lighting fixtures makeovers. President Gregory Bettenhausen said missing parts can be as small as a set screw, but homeowners will eventually realize it’s missing.”If you find something in a salvage yard, we can make sure it has all its functional parts,” said Bettenhausen. “It may not sound like a big deal until you realize that the gem of a crystal knob doesn’t have the proper set screw, rosette or spindle.”

Oswego resident Bill Novak asked his homebuilder, DJK Inc. in Plainfield, to dress his new house with salvaged materials. The result: oak flooring from Europe and a massive beam from a dismantled barn in Elizabeth, Ill., for a mantel in the family room.”That mantel must weigh 400 to 500 pounds,” said Novak. “It really gives the room an Old World look. It’s beautiful.” The items give him a “greener” home, he added.Many of the best-dressed homes in the area are those owned by the people who sell the salvaged goods.

Kneen’s Lincoln Park home is a treasure trove of antique fireplace surrounds, vintage lighting and marble scraps that became sills and shelves.In addition to repurposed hardware from his shop, Bettenhausen’s Wilmette house has salvaged millwork and built-ins.”No one says, ‘I love the new lacquered table,'” he said, “but the 100-year-old built-in gets the looks.”

Architectural salvage resources

Here’s a sampling of Illinois sources for architectural salvage items.

  • Airport Lumber Co., 6222 W. Plank Road, Peoria; 309-697-1106
  • Al Bar Wilmette Platers, 127 Green Bay Road, Wilmette;
  • Architectural Artifacts Inc., 4325 N. Ravenswood Ave., Chicago;
  • Carlson’s Barnwood Co., 8066 N. 1200 Ave., Cambridge, Ill.;
  • Habitat for Humanity ReStore, 2201 S. Halsted St., Chicago; for addresses of suburban
  • ReStores, visit
  • Kimball & Bean Architectural and Garden Antiques, 3606 S. Country Club Road, Woodstock;
  • Kneen & Co., 399 W. Fullerton Parkway, Chicago; kneenandco.comReBuilding Exchange, 2160 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago;
  • Salvage One, 1840 W. Hubbard St., Chicago;
  • Urban Remains, 1850 W. Grand Ave., Chicago;


This story was originally published in the Chicago Tribune on August 26, 2011 by the Chicago Tribune.  This article from Tribune Company news outlets has been republished for additional  education purposes.  Please note that this editorial content was produced by Tribune news staff who are not employed by or  by Tribune Digital Marketplaces.  This article is not affiliated with any links or products that appear on the on the same pages.  Read more about our editorial policy.


Articles Marketing Virtual Agent

Read Buyers’ Minds With These Selling Strategies

Conditions are aligning for a strong start to the spring home selling market. As you get ready to list, you can tweak the condition and positioning of your house to appeal to what buyers want right now.

And what is that? Keep reading!  Here’s the latest market research, interpreted for your selling success.

I want to own for the same cost as renting

Two trends are converging: in most markets, homes are more affordable. Prices are flat or down, and mortgage rates are low and likely to remain so, thanks to current federal policy.  And, rents are rising. The net result: In many areas, the cost of owning is about the same as the cost of buying. And that means that many renters are watching the market closely, looking for the right place at the right price. A recent national survey of homeowners and renters conducted by trade publisher Hanley Wood found that 66% of current renters wanted to buy because they “would rather build equity than pay rent.”

Help them see how buying your house is on a par, if not better, than continuing to rent. Create a “cost of ownership” sell sheet that breaks out the monthly cost of owning the house.  Use the actual cost of utilities and your current property tax bill. The sheet should include:

  • Mortgage payments (use your asking price, less a 10% down payment)
  • Homeowners’ insurance
  • Condo/HOA fees
  • Electricity
  • Gas/heating
  • Cable/internet
  • Water
  • Property taxes
  • Mortgage deduction (buyer must estimate)

Refer buyers to the Rent vs. Buy calculator at

Great house, small package

Less really is more in the 2013 home market. Buyers – first timers and repeat buyers – want manageable houses with low maintenance and carrying costs. Even if you are selling a McMansion, you can use key terms to appeal to Goldilocks buyers who want a house that is not too big, not too small, but just right.

  • Label rooms as ‘flex’ or ‘multipurpose’ space instead of ‘dining room,’  ‘media room,’ or ‘den.’. This signals an open floor plan and lets buyers identify their own use for these rooms.
  • Emphasize storage space – walk in closets, pantries, dry useable basements.
  • Sprinkle in a few descriptors like ‘cozy’ and avoid words like ‘formal.’
  • Select photos that show inviting, small-scale vignettes, such as a window seat or  two armchairs in a conversational grouping in front of a fireplace.

You can get there from here

One of the biggest selling points is a convenient location. A survey completed for CEOs for Cities confirmed that in nearly every market, houses with higher WalkScores ( a ranking of walking convenience for daily activities) snagged higher selling prices. Each one point increase in a WalkScore delivered $500 to $3,000 more in home value than comparable houses with lower WalkScores. Even houses with mixed WalkScores – close to some daily amenities but within a short drive of others – garnered higher values than those with low WalkScores.

  • Include a WalkScore sheet in your marketing package that highlights the ranking system, and your house’s WalkScore.
  • Create a map that plots your house’s location and routes to everyday amenities such as grocery stores, parks, schools, dry cleaners, coffee shops and movie theaters. Help buyers envision how easy it would be to live in your house.
  • If your house is in a location that requires driving to accomplish most errands, create a map that shows the driving time to the nearest most important amenities, such as the post office and grocery store.

Go Green to Get Green

Builders and remodelers are pushing environmentally friendly materials and building processes as a major marketing tool. According to the most recent McGraw-Hill Green Home Builders and Remodelers Study, green homes are expected to become up to 38% of the new-home market by 2016, and 35$ of remodelers will be ‘building green” by the same year. Nothing is more green than making the most of an existing home. Play up these environmentally friendly features of your house:

  • Passive solar – south and western exposures capture plenty of sun. Keep window coverings open to show buyers how solar heat streams in.
  • Energy efficient appliances – if you have to replace outdated major appliances or HVAC systems anyway, buy EnergyStar appliances and highlight that in your listing.
  • Insulate pipes – Consider upgrading the insulation around your plumbing to minimize heat loss.

Top 5 Home Features Buyers Look For
Top 5 features home buyers look for
We asked what buyers want most when they search for a new home and learned that what they really want are the following:

  1. Garage/carport
  2. A garage not only offers buyers the ability to protect their vehicle from the elements, they can also use the space as a workshop or for additional storage. More than 50% of home buyers want a 2-car garage, according to a study performed by the National Association of Home Builders.

  3. Central air conditioning
  4. Having to install window-units in every room of a house when summer rolls around and removing them for the cooler months can be a big turnoff. Buyers want to know that their new home will provide them with the freedom to control the climate inside while the mercury rises outside.

  5. Home in move-in condition
  6. Buying a home is the biggest purchase most people will ever make in their lifetime and they rightfully expect that when they move in that they won’t have to make one repair after another. Buyers want to be able to move in and settle down, not get to work fixing the plumbing or electrical.

  7. Renovated or new kitchen
  8. For many homebuyers the kitchen can make or break a sale. A recently renovated kitchen or kitchen that is brand-new can be a huge asset for sellers to entice and encourage a sale.

  9. Open floor plan or layout
  10. More and more buyers are looking for homes with an open floor plan, specifically for homes that offer a “great room” that combines the kitchen, dining, and living room into a shared space. Make sure that you highlight the great room in your home for sale if you have one to offer.

Home Improvement

Bringing Old Appliances Back to Life

A simple broken part can often signal the end of a major appliance, sending a consumer out to shop for a new refrigerator, stove, air conditioner or clothes dryer.To make matters worse, if that old appliance isn’t collected by the retailer, it’s hauled to the curb.

A Glendale Heights business, however, has a better idea.

CoreCentric Solutions remanufactures electronic and electromechanical controls, taking previously useless items and putting them back in circulation.

“We’re in the green business, the sustainability business,” said Badal Wadia, CoreCentric’s president and CEO. “We’re providing a service where there’s a need. Parts cost a lot today. And we’re keeping parts from going into landfills.”

There are several components to the 16-year-old company’s operation: It remanufactures nearly 30,000 pieces a month; it is a supplier of parts for all major brands in the appliance, fitness and heating, ventilation and air conditioning industries; it has a booming return for repair service; and last year it started an appliance recycling program that has gone national. Advances in technology are opening doors.

“Basically, you have to keep service parts alive seven years,” Wadia said. “Some expensive brands keep them alive longer. In the old days with a washer, say, the colors would change, the knobs would change, but the guts stayed the same 15 years. … Today, technology is speeding up. Things change quicker.” As manufacturers move on to products with more advanced parts, consumers will have a 4-year-old dishwasher that is outdated.

When a manufacturer can no longer supply a part, consumers, service people and third-party warranty providers turn to CoreCentric (

“It can be an economic catastrophe, global conditions or it’s just not economical for them to produce the part,” Wadia said. “We fit in. We’re between the original supply manufacturer and the consumer. From the end consumer to manufacturers to third-party service providers, we run the gamut.”

CoreCentric repairs nearly 5,000 parts, he explained. “In most cases, unless it’s broken into pieces or burned up, we can make the repairs.”

The process begins with CoreCentric’s 30-person electrical and mechanical engineering staff, which analyzes and tests each item. They then write the book, literally, on repairs, preparing a work instructions book that is used on the production floor.

“From an engineer’s perspective, (the job) is great because they get to see so many lines of products: microwaves, dishwashers, ranges, built-in ovens, all kinds of cooktops,” Wadia said. When the engineers are finished, the repair crew has a detailed road map for each product, including its specs, possible areas of trouble, how repairs should be made and how the remanufactured item should be tested. Donna Barbic, vice president of sales, said that when the engineers are done, all the questions have been answered and the issue has been debugged. Mechanical parts are torn down into individual components, then rebuilt. The finished product has essentially been remanufactured.

“We’re not just going to repair the flat,” Wadia said. “We’ll replace all four tires.”

He said that consumers are often surprised not only that CoreCentric’s service is available, but also at the cost.
Replacing a refrigerator with a decent model can cost $500 to $2,000, and a built-in range can cost from $500 to $7,000. Typically, though, a failed part can be replaced for $60 to $20. Some are a little more, of course, such as parts that are not as frequently called for. Others can run a little less.

Also impressive is the turnaround. The return-for-repair service, for example, generally takes 24 to 48 hours. And even that time frame may be a little misleading.

“Most of our repairs come in through a parcel service,” Wadia said, “so by the time they arrive and we get them into the system, a day is gone.”And with 10 employees dedicated to the return-for-repair service, some customers can wait for their part to be worked on.  We even had somebody drive from Indianapolis to get a part fixed,” Wadia said. “He called and arranged it ahead of time, and came in and waited for it.”

Wadia said that in the last two years the company has added more than 100 employees as it has expanded its offerings. (One of 2011’s successful strategies was the appliance recycling program. Recycling units were set up at six Chicago-area locations of Automatic Appliance Parts. Later, D&L Parts Co. instituted a program at locations in North and South Carolina, and Dey Distributing did the same at locations throughout the North Central U.S.)
Wadia plans to add 40 or 50 employees this year. Down the line, the company could grow more, tackling small appliances, for example. “We see that depot repair is an area where we have room for growth,” Barbic said. “Refurbishing the entire product, not just the components as we do today.”

And, she said, “We’re always asked about nonappliance items. Games, musical instruments all have electronic components. We could parlay that into depot repair as well.”

This story was originally published in the Chicago Tribune on February 12, 2012. This article from Tribune Company news outlets has been republished for additional  education purposes.  Please note that this editorial content was produced by Tribune news staff who are not employed by or  by Tribune Digital Marketplaces.  This article is not affiliated with any links or products that appear on the on the same pages.  Read more about our editorial policy.