How to Get Your Dream Kitchen at Your Dream Cost
A roadmap to kitchen renovations.
Updated Oct 11, 2018 10:07 AM
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If you’re like us, you’re constantly swooning over the most stunning kitchens, whether they’re online or featured on your favorite design show. After all, the kitchen is the heart of the home, and people take great pride in creating a space that serves as both functional and aesthetically pleasing. As the place where family and friends gather, and, of course, the place where you cook your meals, the kitchen is, in many respects, the most important room in the house… not to mention the fact that a chic, updated kitchen can add hefty resale value to your home or apartment.
But before you start pinning all your dream kitchen designs and picking out countertops and cabinet pulls, you’re going to want to set up a budget that works for you. Knowing what to expect when it comes to projected costs will not only save you unnecessary stress, but also ensure your dream kitchen is coming to fruition the way you see fit. To help you plan for potentially unforseen costs, we’ve enlisted our friends at Sweeten—a free renovation matchmaking service that connects homeowners with qualified contractors—to give you the low-down on what to expect.
Like we said, this space is one of the most highly trafficked and meaningful spaces in the home, so we totally get the need for precise perfection. The sooner you map out what a kitchen renovation will look like, the sooner you can get to cooking up your favorite meal.
Start out by deciding on design.
“An older kitchen can make your home feel dated. For resale, this is an important space for buyers, so you’ll want to focus attention here,” says Jean Brownhill, Sweeten’s founder and CEO. “If you plan on living in your home for a while, upgrading your appliances or replacing old materials like tile or a kitchen cabinet can add a style boost and allow your home to grow with the way you want to live,” she says.
So of course, if you’re planning on undertaking a kitchen remodel, you have ideas on what you want that style to look like. But keep in mind that a complete gut is obviously going to cost you more than a few finish updates or appliance upgrades. For example, if you’re changing the layout, you’re going to want to consult the experts first.
Keep in mind the benchmark written in this blog post, which states that “The national average for a minor, mid-range kitchen remodel (meaning no layout changes and not moving plumbing or electrical) is $20,830. A major, mid-range renovation averaged $62,158, and an upscale kitchen renovation average cost came in at $122,991, according to Remodeling’s 2017 Cost vs. Value Report.”
Note that these are just estimates, though. Depending on your material choices, your final bill could be a bit higher or lower. So while we’re at it, let’s talk material costs: Of course, conceptualizing your new space means doing some shopping to determine what kind of materials (from countertops to cabinets), finishes, and appliances you want. Sweeten breaks down costs into three categories—the lower end items (namely big box retailers like Home Depot or Ikea), mid range products (higher quality, longer lasting) and high end, customized, or imported pieces. You’ll pay more for customization (with basic custom cabinets starting at about $1,000 per linear foot), but that doesn’t mean lower and mid range products don’t offer a great selection as well. As with anything, the more you add, the more you’ll pay—so every Lazy Susan, pull-out pantry, and soft-close hinge is going to cost you.
You can always have a baseline of what you’re willing to spend on materials, and see what options you like at every price point before you decide what you’re willing to spend a little extra on.
“I always advise splurging on anything you’ll touch on a daily basis, like a faucet or handles. If you’re looking to add pattern, wood floors are a good investment because of their versatility,” says Brownhill.
Next, factor in all the behind the scenes costs.
Unless you yourself are a licensed contractor, someone’s going to have to do all the (literal) heavy lifting to get your kitchen up and in working condition. Note that reno costs and labor intensive steps will likely be the same regardless of finish choices and materials, so you’ll want to consider these prices early on in the planning process. “These ‘soft costs’—expenses critical to the success of the work, but often invisible and unforeseen—can represent 15 to 35 percent of the renovation cost,” says Sweeten in this blog post.
Brownhill says one of the biggest ways people under-budget their renovation is by not putting enough money aside for non-visible, foundational expenses that are key to making sure all your pretty design choices last a long time. That’s why we’re breaking it down.
To begin, the demolition alone will likely run you an average of $4,000. That means stripping the walls and floors to frame and level, in order to ensure the base is sound before the installation phase can begin. Depending on the level of renovation your space requires, you may also need to factor in the cost of permits, building approvals, high insurance coverage requirements, and more management from a general contractor overseeing the project—especially if you live in an apartment building.
Moreover, waterproofing steps (which are necessary for securing the longevity and infrastructure on your project) will run about $1,000, while plumbing services can add up to $3,500.
Although these are both cost and labor intensive steps, they are necessary behind the scenes jobs if you want your dream kitchen to not only look incredible, but function properly, too.
Sweeten says, “If you are considering major layout changes, such as removing walls, rerouting gas or plumbing lines, and re-wiring electrical, you are looking to spend at least $22,000 [in total] for a basic kitchen gut.”
Finally, install and enjoy.
The installation phase is the fun part: It’s when you get to see your design choices come to life, and your dream kitchen begins to slowly take shape. But before you get ahead of yourself, remember that high-quality materials are only as good as their installation. So, pay close attention to the labor and costs involved here—you’ll want all your materials and finishes looking in their best shape.
Following the building and installation of cabinets, usually, countertop suppliers will manage the installation of the counters, as will the stores that sold you your appliances. These are typically built-in costs that come when you pick out these items. If not, Sweeten says that installation fees are usually subsumed under the “general construction” or “labor” budget line, and therefore handled by your general contractor.
Costs aside, creating a stunning kitchen should be an enjoyable experience, and watching it all come together is the most rewarding part.
Sweeten, a free renovation planning service, handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, and scope, helping until project completion. Follow the blog for renovation ideas and inspiration, and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.