Consumers are remodeling their kitchens and baths with
upgrading in mind, while low-maintenance materials also remain a
priority, new research reveals.
By Janice Anne Costa
When it comes to kitchen and bath projects, designers are more
likely to find the best opportunities for high-end upgrades and
top-of-the-line products in remodeling jobs rather than new-home
projects particularly if the home buyer is not involved in the
initial building process.
Additionally, consumers remodeling their kitchens and baths have a
marked preference for low-maintenance products and materials that
are perceived as durable and long-lasting.
Such are the findings of the National Kitchen & Bath
Association’s 2003 research initiative, for which the Hackettstown,
NJ-based association partnered with the Upper Marlboro, MD-based
National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Research Center, Inc.
to collect and process data within the kitchen and bath
The survey, which polled some 41,000 consumers across the U.S.,
looked at consumer purchasing trends in such areas as plumbing
fixtures, appliances, cabinets, countertops, flooring and more, in
both new-home construction and remodeling.
Whether choosing easy-maintenance countertops or single-piece
bath shower combinations, consumers remodeling their kitchens and
baths seem to be seeking out products that are easy to clean and
maintain, the survey reports. For instance,
in the kitchen, easy-to-clean smoothtop burners have gained four
percentage points in market share over conventional ones in the
last two years, while easy-care countertop materials like solid
surface are also growing in popularity.
In the bathroom, consumers remodeling their baths are
increasingly choosing single-piece bath shower combinations over
more difficult-to-clean, site-constructed showers of stone or tile;
likewise, they are increasingly favoring easy-to-clean solid
surface or cultured marble over tile, which involves grout.
When it comes to top-of-the-line products and materials, the
survey reports that consumers are more likely to invest in upscale
products in remodeling jobs than in new-home projects. For example,
higher-end products such as solid surface or natural stone
countertops, side-by-side refrigerators, cooktop and wall oven
combinations and wood cabinets are more commonly seen in remodel
projects than in new-home ones.
According to the survey, “This reinforces the theory that
remodeling expenditures are often discretionary, and much
remodeling is done to upgrade kitchens and bathrooms, rather than
simply replacing broken or obsolete materials and fixtures with
something of equal quality.”
By comparison, the survey notes that in new-home projects,
buyers are more likely to “forego purchasing more expensive
materials so they can purchase a larger home or one sited in a more
The survey also looked at specific material trends in a variety
of product categories.
Some 94 million linear feet of
kitchen countertops were installed in homes in 2002 according to
the survey, with 36 million linear feet installed in new-home
kitchens and 58 million linear feet installed in kitchen
While laminate continues to dominate the kitchen countertop
market at the mid-to-lower end, laminate’s market share has dropped
dramatically in recent years thanks to the influx of an
ever-expanding array of countertop options along with consumers’
growing desire for upscale products at all price points. In fact,
laminate was used in only 53% of homes in 2002 compared to 72% of
homes in 1997, according to the survey.
By contrast, solid surface, engineered stone and granite have
been gaining market share as consumers increasingly seek to upgrade
their kitchen countertops. As of this report, solid surface was
used in 15% of new-home kitchens and 16% of remodeled kitchens;
granite appeared in 14% of both new-home and remodeled kitchens;
ceramic tile appeared in 8% of new home kitchens and 7% of
remodeled kitchens; butcher block appeared in 4% of remodeled
kitchens and engineered stone was used in 1% of new home kitchens
and 3% of remodeled kitchens (see Graph 2).
The bathroom countertop market is dominated by new vanity
countertop installations, rather than replacements, the survey
showed. Bathroom vanity counters constituted some 23 million linear
feet of countertop materials in 2002, with 14 million linear feet
being installed in new-home baths and 9 million linear feet
installed in remodeling jobs, according to the survey.
This suggests that, in remodeling, kitchen countertops receive
far greater attention than vanity countertops.
Again, more expensive vanity countertop materials were apparent in
remodeling projects as opposed to new construction.
For instance, while solid surface was used on bathroom vanity
countertops in only 6% of new-home projects, it appeared in a full
20% of remodeling projects in 2002, according to the survey (see
Graph 2). Likewise, marble, slate or other natural stone accounted
for only 4% of new-home vanity countertops, yet that number jumped
to 11% when looking at remodeling jobs. Additionally, granite
comprised only 2% of new-home vanity countertops, yet that
increased to 5% of vanity countertops installed during
Overall, some 54% of vanity countertops in new-home construction
were made of cultured marble, compared to 22% of vanity countertops
in remodeling jobs. Laminate comprised 27% of vanity countertops in
new-home construction and 26% of vanity countertops in remodeling
jobs; ceramic tile comprised 7% of new-home vanity countertops and
8% of remodeling vanity countertops; and engineered stone appeared
in 4% of vanity countertops in remodeling jobs, the survey
Cabinets & Vanities
Some 25 million
kitchen cabinets and 4.5 million vanity cabinets were installed in
new homes in 2002, compared to 22 million kitchen cabinets and 3
million vanity cabinets purchased for residential remodeling,
according to the survey.
Wood-finished kitchen cabinets were the most popular, with more
than 80% of all residential cabinets purchased in 2002 featuring
The survey showed face-framed cabinets maintaining their
popularity over frameless cabinets, with 80% of surveyed consumers
in both new-home and remodeling projects choosing face-framed
cabinets, compared to a mere 20% who chose frameless styles (see
In new construction, framed, flat-panel doors were more popular,
while in remodeling, frameless, flat-panel doors were more common,
the survey said.
Bath vanity trends tended to mirror kitchen cabinet trends,
according to the survey, with wood-finished, raised-panel framed
doors the most popular choice for both new-home and remodeling
In 2002, consumers purchased
some six million ranges, cooktops and ovens. By comparison,
approximately 1.7 million ranges, cooktops and ovens were installed
by new-home builders, making the replacement market for cooking
appliances more than three times the size of the new-construction
market, according to the survey.
However, the new-home market for cooking appliances is still
showing strong growth, up some two million units since 1997
attributable primarily to an increase in housing starts in recent
years, the survey noted.
Freestanding ranges remain the most popular cooking appliance,
according to the survey, claiming 60% of the new-home kitchen
market share and 53% of remodeled kitchen market share (see Graph
Slide-in ranges accounted for 18% of new-home kitchens and 20%
of remodeled kitchens, while drop-in ranges constituted 7% of
new-home jobs and 2% of remodel jobs.
The more expensive cooktop-and-wall-oven combination was evident
in 15% of new-home kitchens and that number jumps to 25% when
looking at remodeled kitchens, illustrating the growing trend
toward upgrading products during remodeling.
However, cooktop-and-wall- oven combinations have been
increasing in popularity in new homes, as well, up 2 percentage
points since 1997. This suggests that consumers at all price points
are increasingly interested in investing in their homes, and that
even those without the luxury lifestyle are more willing to spend
money to enjoy upscale amenities in the kitchen.
Conventional gas and electric burners continue to be prevalent,
maintaining a 55% market share, the survey said. However, smoothtop
burners are on the rise, making up a total of 43% of the total
residential market an increase of 4% since 2000.
In 2002, some 57% of all new homes were sold with a refrigerator
included, the survey reported, up 6% over 1997 numbers. Consumers
also purchased six million refrigerators for existing homes in 2002
in a variety of configurations.
While the “freezer on top, refrigerator below” style was the most
commonly seen style in both new construction and remodeling, the
survey also showed in increase in the popularity of side-by-side
refrigerators, with 35% of new homes containing side-by-side
refrigerators in 2002, compared to 30% in 1997 and that number
jumps to 50% when considering only new single-family detached
homes. In remodeled kitchens, side-by-side refrigerators account
for 41% of all homes, according to the survey, illustrating once
again how remodeling projects tend to include more upscale products
than new-home projects.
Surprisingly, appliances were cited by consumers surveyed as the
product they would be least likely to purchase at a big-box
retailer. In fact, only 32% of the appliances were reportedly
purchased at a big-box retailer, compared to more than 70% of
sinks, faucets and toilets, the survey showed.
However, that doesn’t mean kitchen and bath dealers are picking
up those appliance sales: Nearly 30%of appliance purchases were
reportedly from a specialty store such as an appliance dealer, and
another 18% were purchased from a hardware store or retail
establishment such as Sears.
Sinks & Faucets
Stainless steel remains
the dominant kitchen sink material, according to survey results,
with stainless steel capturing 63% of both the new-home and
residential remodeling kitchen sink market (see Graph 4). Enameled
cast iron represented another 19% of new-home kitchen sinks and 15%
of kitchen sinks used in remodeling jobs. Solid surface accounted
for 8% of kitchen sinks chosen in remodeling jobs and 6% of
new-home kitchen sinks, according to the survey, while enameled
steel accounted for 5% of kitchen sinks used in remodeling jobs and
9% of new-home kitchen sinks.
In the bathroom, 51% of new-home jobs included cultured marble
sinks, followed by vitreous china, which claimed 25% of the
bathroom sink market, enameled cast iron, which captured 7% of the
market, and solid surface, which accounted for 3% of the
In remodeling jobs, however, vitreous china was the leading sink
material, used in 44% of the bathrooms of those surveyed. Cultured
marble, at 20% of the market, and solid surface, at 11% of the
market, were also strong contenders.
The survey notes that, in recent years, vitreous china and solid
surface lavatories are increasing in popularity in remodeling,
while cultured marble and vitreous china have experienced
substantial drops in market share in new homes.
As of 2002, chrome still dominated the finish market for both
kitchen and bath faucets, claiming 61% and 59% of these,
respectively (see Graph 5). Stainless steel commanded 23% of the
kitchen faucet market and 14% of the bathroom faucet market, while
polished brass made inroads in bathroom faucets, claiming 13% of
the overall market, the survey said.
Of all the kitchen and bath products reviewed in the study, faucets
were the most likely to be purchased and installed by the home
owner. Not surprisingly, more than two-thirds (71%) of consumer
respondents reported that they purchased their faucets at a big-box