What Does it Cost to Renovate a Kitchen?
Find out how to break down the cost of a luxury kitchen vs. a modest reno.
The kitchen is one of the most-used spaces in any home – just one of the reasons to make it your own with a great kitchen renovation. It’s hard to overlook the costs involved with even a modest reno, whether you DIY or hire a pro, but as you read through this overview on kitchen renovation costs, we urge you to remember that depending on your home’s market, you may be able to reap much of your investment upon resale.
Open Contemporary Kitchen and Dining Room With Large White Countertop Island, Full Wall Cabinetry and Neutral Color Scheme
Space between the large island and the wood dining table creates a natural separation of the space while still leaving the design open and connected. Full wall cabinets with frosted glass doors on top allow for organized and concealed storage keeping the countertops clear for a clean finish. Natural light bounces off the white countertops for a bright look to the room.
Jason + Anna Photography
Let’s start with the luxe kitchen renovation and then review a modest alternative, and help you get a sense of what to expect when you’re renovating your kitchen. Keep reading to learn more about:
- Advantages and disadvantages of a kitchen renovation at any budget
- The big costs
- Hidden costs
- And where you might save money by DIYing components of your renovation
What Does a Luxe Kitchen Renovation Cost?
You’ve either been saving for it for awhile, or acquired a loan in order to have the kitchen of your dreams. For the best chance at getting a return on your investment, experts suggest spending no more than 6-10% of your home’s value on your kitchen renovation. It isn’t a hard rule, especially because if you’re willing to undertake a big renovation it also suggests that you’re going to be living in your home for years to come. Consider the 6-10% guideline to be a reality-check on what you might get out of your investment.
It’s good to have a positive mindset when you’re embarking on a major renovation, especially one in which you’re spending a lot of money. With a higher budget, you can achieve a great new floor plan yielding a better kitchen workspace. Everything you’re working with is going to be shiny, clean, and new. If the space is completely gutted, you’re probably going to be upgrading the plumbing, HVAC, and electrical, which also means those systems will be up to code and will require little to no maintenance in the immediate future. Most importantly, this is the kitchen of your dreams, and it will increase your home’s value.
Cost is an obvious disadvantage, but time spent is an important consideration too. You’ll need to be prepared with a makeshift kitchen, a spot in the bathroom in which you can wash dishes, and especially if you have kids at home, a plan to be out of the house when the work crews are at their noisiest. Be prepared for delays in construction, imperfections that need to be addressed and corrected, and other inevitable frustrations that go hand-in-hand with a major kitchen renovation.
Where do the costs lie?
Home designer and contractor Paul Randazzese of Roost Builders weighed in on the biggest expenditures that a homeowner might expect to see during a kitchen renovation. “[In general,] high quality kitchen cabinetry is the single most expensive aspect of a kitchen renovation. Flooring and countertops are typically less than half of the direct cost of the cabinets themselves. However, much of this depends on the amount of reworking/reframing, or adding to the existing layout of the home. Though any single aspect of this may not outpace cabinetry, the cumulative and necessary costs of framing, electrical and heating work, insulating, dry-walling, trimming, and painting associated with a new layout can add up to more than the cost of the cabinets alone. So, in planning a kitchen renovation, though the cabinets are the single most expensive aspect, it is important to remember all of the other work associated with layout changes, particularly if they involve exterior walls with windows and doors, opening up structural walls, or moving plumbing on the interior.”
Updated Modern Kitchen
This view accentuates the open design and how natural light fills the kitchen. The original layout of the kitchen blocked off the window, limiting both outside views and natural lighting.
- Cabinetry: $10,000-$75,000 (variance is attributed to quality and craftsmanship)
- Countertops: $50-$100/sq. ft. installed (based on high-end marble and granite pricing)
- Flooring: $20-$40/sq.ft. installed
- Appliances: $15,000-$25,000
Other big costs:
- New windows or skylights
- New sink
- Structural changes (if you’re removing walls)
- Built-in technology (surround sound, built-in TV, home automation systems)
Randazzese advises his clients to reserve 5% of the total budget for unexpected findings mid-renovation, and another 5% as an overage allowance so that homeowners can have more flexibility during construction to make some changes to their original plan or afford special upgrades.
- Rot: The joists and framing beneath the existing floor and drywall may require repairs from water damage.
- Roofing or siding expenses: I happen to know that when we have our 1950s kitchen renovated, we’re going to incur roofing and siding costs to update the exhaust through the exterior of our home.
- Accidental demo: If you and your crew aren’t on the same page, something that was supposed to be saved might get the sledgehammer. Be aware of what electrical and plumbing is staying intact before you begin demolition.
Worthwhile Splurges to Consider for a Luxe Kitchen Renovation:
I also asked Randazzese for his point of view in kitchen upgrades. In short, his advice was to splurge on cabinetry, describing it as the “crown jewel” of the kitchen with unique, practical, and useful features “that can make the cabinetry exceptionally convenient and a joy to use.” However, with budgets in mind he advises that homeowners should prioritize splurges to find “a compromise between all finishes: Cabinets, appliances, trim-work, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, flooring” adding, “I have always believed in scaling back the size of a project if it means being able to put more budget into high quality finishes… there should be some continuity in the quality of the finishes rather than one or two things being very high quality and the rest remaining mediocre… Fully custom cabinets can be made to order for the very specific dimensions and layout of a particular space, thereby maximizing and optimizing the space available. ”
Floor plan: A luxe renovation budget ought to take into account what the best, most functional floor plan is for your home and family’s lifestyle. You may know what you want, but also get a second opinion from someone who is a kitchen design professional. They might have specific insight into the proximity of the fridge to the range, and can help you find a way to get the flow you want with minimal sacrifice.
Flooring: If you’re going through the trouble of putting in a new floor and subfloor, get a product that is going to hold up a long, long time. In the kitchen, it’s important to have something that will clean easily, and stand up to lots of traffic.
Storage: If you’re considering a kitchen renovation, chances are you’ve navigated your way through some amazing show rooms. To reiterate what expert Paul Randazzese said above about indulging in perfect cabinetry, it’s likely that you appreciate the little touches too, such as those slow-close drawers in showrooms, walk-in pantries, and no doubt that you’ve ogled at creative storage accessories that you never knew existed. Put them in your own home too.
And Where You Might Be Able to Save Money in a Luxe Renovation:
Paint: If you have the patience and a good ladder, save a bit of money by painting the new kitchen yourself.
Appliances: Most manufacturers have amazing products at a range of prices. Before you buy a $7,000 refrigerator, peek at the $2,000 versions and see if it has the right aesthetic.
Countertops: Let’s face it, as pretty as it is, high-end countertops aren’t for every home, and often the less expensive options can look just as good. Have a store associate pull a selection for you blindly, so that you can compare samples by look and feel rather than walking in and veering directly for a certain high-end material.
Light fixtures: Costs for fixtures run the gamut, and there are some stellar options at every single price point. And lots of the $200 fixtures look as great as the $2,000 fixtures. Trust me. Look around. In addition to choosing less expensive fixtures, you might realize that you can install them yourself too. Tell the contractor that once the room is painted, to keep the lighting boxes in the ceiling exposed and you can connect the fixture yourself. Learn how to install a pendant light here.
Buy things yourself: Let’s assume that your contractor is cool with you sourcing some of your own materials; we like to position it as “you won’t get a markup on the price but it’ll save you a lot of work.” Choose and purchase your own appliances in advance of construction, such as during a Black Friday Bonanza. Order your own light fixtures when you see a 40% off coupon code, source the backsplash tile you want (most manufacturers will give you samples to help you make the right decision), and buy faucet hardware in advance too – just store it until the crew needs to install the item.
What Are You Going to Do in The Room?
Finishes, fixtures and appliance aren’t the only things you need to consider when designing a kitchen. Cabinetmaker/kitchen designer John McGilvray shares some planning tips and storage options to make your kitchen not only beautiful, but functional. "First thing you need to do create a list of how you will use the room, not just how it will look," says McGilvray. For these homeowners, the number-one wish on their list was a large center island on one level with plenty of seating and work surface where the whole family can eat and cook together. This island and its single slab of marble provides space for five stools, plenty of storage, plus a full-size sink.
How Will It All Line Up?
“Layout is usually the most common issue and there are a lot of considerations many people often overlook,” says McGilvray. "Make sure there is ample room to move around the space freely and that there is enough distance between the center island and the wall cabinets so two people can walk by each other comfortably especially when carrying food, knives and hot cookware. Also, if you plan on centering the sink on an island that is across from a cooktop, this will dictate the size of your island because you're probably going to want to center the sink on the island as well as across from the stove."
Group Functions Together
"The homeowners didn't want the freezer in the kitchen. They felt it would take up too much precious space so they put it in the garage instead," explains McGilvray. A drink station/wet bar was created with the main refrigerator (left), an ice maker (center, bottom) and the clear-door fridge just for drinks. The mini fridge provides easy access for the kids to get juice boxes and water bottles. A microwave, oven and warming drawer are stacked up in between the drink station and double pantry doors.
The kitchen island is full of hidden surprises. The garbage and recycle bins are in the cabinet left of the sink. Even though there’s a big handle, the cabinet will open just by bumping the center of it with your knee. This way if your hands are all messy, you don’t have to get the cabinets all messy too. “This mechanism was new to the market. I showed it to the homeowners knowing they have small children and like to cook a lot. They had never seen this feature before and we're thrilled to incorporate it into their design,” says McGilvray.
The double-drawer dishwasher is also housed in the kitchen island. “Consider your daily activities; locate the dishes you use every day close to the dishwasher. You don't want to put dishwasher on the left side of the island if your everyday dishes are on the right side of the wall,” advises McGilvray. “Also, it sounds simple, but people don't always consider how appliances line up, like making sure the dishwasher isn't across from the oven.”
Paper Towel Drawer
“This may sound like a small feature, but it was important for the homeowners to have the paper towel holder easily accessible but mostly hidden, probably because they have small children,” says McGilvray. “So I created this open-face drawer with a built-in paper towel dispenser.” The kids can easily reach it but it doesn’t have to be an obvious part of the kitchen. (Click the next slide to see the drawer open.)
What Costs Should Be Considered in an Inexpensive Renovation?
You can make big changes to your kitchen even with a small budget. Inexpensive is relative, but let’s assume that a modest kitchen renovation is less than $5,000.
Emily Fazio, 2016
Lower budgets have their benefits, in that you might just select a renovation that you can tackle with minimal hired assistance.
You’ll be able to make some modest-but-significant updates during an inexpensive renovation, and maybe that’s enough to turn a space into your dream kitchen without it falling into the “luxe” category with high-end finishes and brand-new everything. If you’re doing the project DIY-style, time is going to be a disadvantage for you personally; if you’re doing the renovation on top of doing a full-time job, you’ll be sacrificing lots of evenings and weekends for the betterment of your home.
Where are the costs?
How you classify big expenses in a modest renovation depends on where you’re putting your money. Like with a major renovation, brand new cabinets are going to be one of the biggest expenses. If you want a new look without draining your budget on new cabinets, here are a few examples of pricy “modest” upgrades:
- Cabinet doors: $10-$40/sq. ft. based on materials chosen and whether the products are pre-manufactured or custom. This allows you to keep the same floor plan and base cabinetry, but update the look of the cabinets.
- Countertop: $15-30/sq. ft. Installed. I upgraded an old linoleum countertop for a solid surface countertop. It was the biggest expense when I did my own modest DIY renovation, and had a price tag of $2,000.
- Flooring: $3-$8/sq. ft. You can find some great products in the $3-$8/sq. ft. range. Consider groutable peel-and-stick vinyl tiles like these used in my home for a great look with a low cost.
- Appliances: Updating technology goes a long way in visually updating your space. A new range, range hood, refrigerator, or installing a built-in microwave can have a great impact. Budget may not allow you to upgrade all, but replace those most in need of an update, and you can chip away at updating the rest as needed.
Other big costs:
- New windows or skylights
- New sink
Much like a luxe renovation, hidden costs might include rotting joists, water damage, and accidental demolition. In addition, with renovations on a tighter budget you’re inclined to have a narrower cushion for the unexpected costs. If something goes awry in one aspect of the renovation, you might be required to take concessions in another area to keep the project on budget.
Worthwhile Splurges to Consider for a Low-Budget Kitchen Renovation:
Drywall: If you’re hanging drywall, a few ideas: rent a dolly that will help you hoist and lift the drywall into position, and/or hire someone to do the finishing work. If you’ve ever tried to install ceiling drywall by yourself, you know how hard it is. If you prefer to skip DIY drywall installation altogether, the right crew will save you a lot of time. A seasoned drywall pro will be able to hang, tape, and install perfect compound in no time at all. They’ll know just how much to sand off so that when you’re ready to prime and paint, the surface is in mint condition.
Electrical/HVAC/Plumbing/Gas lines: I’m including these in the splurge category due in part to the fact that the professionals can do it with accuracy, up to code, and maybe much more quickly than you can do yourself.
Emily Fazio, 2012
And Where You Might Be Able to Save Money in a Modest Renovation:
Demolition: Any amount of demo that you can do yourself, should be done.
Paint: You can do that yourself with the right brushes and rollers. I’m not just talking about the walls and ceiling either; painting the cabinets or applying a gel stain can go a long, long way in completely overhauling the look of your kitchen. In this related article, here are 25 tips for painting kitchen cabinets.
Install appliances: Most stores will deliver, install, and take away the old appliances. But you can also reserve the old appliances and get a few dollars back by selling them online if they’re still in fair condition.
Finally, if you’re looking to do a remodel somewhere in-between low-budget and luxe, reserve the same kitchen floor plan but consider these upgrades:
- Updated high-efficiency windows
- New cabinet doors, or remove several upper cabinets and replace with open shelves
- New cabinet storage accessories, such as organizational products like these.
- New high-efficiency appliances
- New countertop
- New faucet and dish soap accessories
- Fresh paint on walls and trim
- New lighting
- New outlets and switches
A 1940s Home's Original Hardwood
This kitchen was totally overhauled, the only thing that was kept from the original space was the solid wood floors, they needed just a slight refinishing. As seen on DIY Network's I Hate My Kitchen.
This slate floor tile was laid out in a Versailles pattern. It combines four different sizes of tile replicated over and over to give the finished floor a random look. As seen on DIY Network's I Hate My Kitchen.
Modern Residential Loft
This modern kitchen was once a commericial office space that was turned into a luxurious loft-style home. The hardwood floor just needed to be sanded and refinished in order to make it shine. As seen on DIY Network's Million Dollar Contractor.
Colorful Farmhouse Kitchen
Vinyl plank flooring was installed right over the existing linoleum flooring. The new flooring was extended into the adjacent living room to give the space continuity. As seen on DIY Network's I Hate My Kitchen.
This inexpensive floor is made from particle-board plywood joined with aluminum seams and covered in a thick coat of oil-based polyurethane. The floor is very durable and the plywood's pattern helps hide dirt. As seen on DIY Network's I Hate My Kitchen.
This kitchen features new custom cabinets, a colorful backsplash tile and travertine-tile flooring. The poured-concrete countertops, new stainless-steel appliances and tech-friendly accessories finish off the kitchen. As seen on DIY Network's I Hate My Kitchen.
Beautiful Terra Cotta
This kitchen was totally remodeled, except the beautiful Saltillo floor tile. The homeowners loved the flooring so much, they built the new kitchen around it. As seen on DIY Network's Kitchen Crashers.
This Spanish-inspired kitchen was resurfaced with authentic Saltillo tiles in a high-gloss finish. Knotty alder cabinets and vibrant-colored countertops complete the rich and rustic look. As seen on DIY Network's House Crashers.
Able to Use What They Got
This kitchen was completely remodeled in a French-country style with a few modern-design elements sprinkled in. Fortunately for the homeowners, their gorgeous hardwood floor didn't need to be redone, and it fit in perfectly with the new space. As seen on DIY Network's House Crashers.