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Kitchen Remodels: What they cost and how to stay within your budget

When you begin planning a kitchen renovation project, you may have no idea how much your ideal vision might cost.  The answer will likely depend on several factors, including the size of your space, what you will do to it, and your budget.  In the end, the price of a renovation should largely be driven by your own choices.


So- what do kitchen remodels typically cost?  

In a survey of nearly 2,500 homeowners who were renovating or had recently renovated their kitchens, about one-third of owners spent between $25,000 and $50,000.  Another one-third spent more than $50,000.  These are national averages.  The cost for you will depend on costs in your area.  Typically costs on the coasts are more expensive than in the middle part of the country.


If you plan on using a contractor, use this formula as a rough guide:

Do your research before you talk with the contractor so you know how much your stuff costs.  Be sure to specify EVERYTHING. Double that price for labor to install it all and add 1/3 more for the Contractor.  This formula will get you close to what the contractor will charge to do the job.  If the Contractor comes in lower, you’ll be happy!

If you do the research you won’t go though the sticker shock.  Nothing worth going through a remodel is cheap.

Always beware of low bidders.  Do not settle for inferior products just to get the job done.  It is stressful on all members of the family.  It seems like it lasts forever.  Do it right the first time and make it worth the effort.  Having to redo any part will far out cost any savings that occurred at the beginning of the project.  Always plan for unforeseen issues on a remodel.  Keep a few thousand set a side for any faux pas.  You may find termites, electrical issues that have to be fixed to meet code, a roof leak, etc.  If your budget for the project is 50k stash 5k away for issues.  Spend 45k on the project itself.  If there are no issues great, but, be prepared.  There is nothing worse than having to get an extra loan just to finish.



Here are some common reasons kitchen renovations go over the original budget 

The No. 1 Reason that renovation projects (all projects, not just kitchens) go over budget is owners choosing more upscale products and finishes, according to a recent survey of 120,000 homeowners.  Nearly half of those who went over their budget cited this as a reason.   About 40 percent of those who busted their budgets said finding out that products or services were more expensive than anticipated was the culprit, according to the survey.  Given that this was a such common experience, we’d like to flag some areas where costs can rack up quickly.


Custom cabinetry 

Cabinet costs range widely, largely depending on whether they come from a big-box store or are semi-custom or custom-made.  Stock cabinets typically cost $50 per linear foot, while custom cabinetry can run up to $2,000 per linear foot.

The key is to know how much the designs you want might cost before you actually start to renovate.  Keep in mind that specialty and custom items usually cost more.  For example, it may look beautiful to stretch your upper cabinets to 12 feet to balance out high ceilings.  But with this design, you’ve almost quadrupled the cost because your standard cabinet doesn’t go to 12 feet. Now you’re doing super-custom cabinets.   Ask your architect, designer or general contractor to advise you on the costs of various options early.  If you’re acting as your own general contractor and hiring individual tradespeople directly, you can discuss cost upfront with them before you finalize your plan.



Special features of cabinetry

In addition to the external features of cabinets, the innards can also increase the cost.  Examples of nice-to-have but pricey cabinetry add-ons include a magic corner, where pullout shelves provide access to a hidden portion of a cabinet that you otherwise couldn’t reach, a knife drawer, or spice or wine racks.  There are so many things you can add to cabinetry.  You can easily add $10,000 or $15,000 to the cost of basic cabinets and before you know it, your cabinetry costs significantly higher than you expected.  Before committing to a special feature, you may want to consider how much you’ll really use it.  That way, you can determine if the added functionality is worth the cost to you.



The cost for countertops ranges widely.  Plastic laminate countertops are relatively affordable at $8 to $20 per square foot. Quartz and granite typically run much higher, anywhere from $50 to $120 per square foot.



Appliances also range widely in cost, from under $1,000 to several thousand, depending on the make, model and features.  Luxury appliances like Wolf and Sub-Zero are priced on the higher end of the range, and brands like GE are more budget.  A Sub-Zero refrigerator could cost upward of $7,500, while a basic GE model from Sears could cost under $500.  A Miele gas range could run $7,000, and a premium 60-inch model from La Cornue more than twice that.  An Asko dishwasher could cost more than $1,000, whereas some LG models sell at just $450.  Do your research and find out what you get for the various cost ranges so that you can determine if the price of the features is worth the expense for your family.


Unforeseen structural issues

You might open a wall and find that termites have eaten half the studs.  Perhaps once the kitchen flooring is removed, you find that an undetected water leak has rotted the subfloor and floor joists.  Such unforeseen issues are good incentives to do pre-project due diligence.  Even so, not every problem can be caught ahead of time.  Many designers recommend reserving a 20 percent contingency in your kitchen renovation budget for unexpected surprises.


Code compliance

If a kitchen hasn’t been updated in quite some time, certain items may need to be replaced to meet current building codes.  For example, when a new gas range is a high-BTU unit, a larger gas pipe may need to be installed — which entails opening up the wall and replacing the pipe.


Changing your mind

For your contractor to accurately predict the project cost, it’s a good idea to select all your finishes before the construction work starts.  If you haven’t picked them out, invariably it will be more money.  Two, it will take more time.  And three, it will mess up the schedule — which will also cost more money.  Changing finishes or materials mid-project typically results in a change order, which can slow the timeline and increase the cost.  Even when they know making a change will add to the cost, some homeowners will still want to change the plans midway.  In fact, this was the third most common reason kitchen budgets got blown, according to the survey.


Mission creep

This is the term for what happens when your kitchen renovation is looking amazing … and suddenly you decide you want to also redo the trim on the living room and dining room, and put in all new doors.  Suddenly your mission has expanded a little bit and your budget gets blown out even more!

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