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If the phrase “kitchen renovation” has you dizzy with dollar signs, we’re right there with you. Renovating your kitchen is no small task—and no small amount of cash. Having an out-of-commission kitchen for months is a commitment, but so are long-lasting, quality materials and appliances.
Think of all you’d gain from a redo on the heart of your home: a more efficient layout, paint colors you love, and cabinets and appliances that both are beautiful and high-functioning. Plus, by redoing your kitchen you'll likely see some of that return in your home’s resale value—win/win.
Here to help us navigate the costs of a kitchen renovation is interior designer Marie Flanigan. Read on for her insight on where to spend, where to save, and ultimately how much you’ll spend.
Meet the Expert
Marie Flanigan is an interior designer and the owner of Marie Flanigan Interiors. She is a classically trained and practiced architect, and her designs can be seen in luxury homes and commercial spaces across the country.
How Much Will It Cost to Renovate a Kitchen?
The cost of a kitchen renovation varies wildly depending on the scope of your project. “If you’re just looking to repaint or switch out finishes, the cost is minimal,” Flanigan says, “but if you are looking to completely gut the space, it’s going to be more expensive.”
How expensive? That’s hard to say. Renovations can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $500,000 depending on your square footage and material selections. On average though, most homeowners will spend between $13,492 and $38,088, or $75 to $250 per square foot, according to HomeAdvisor.
A smaller project—say, painting walls, installing a tile backsplash, and refacing cabinets—will likely run between $10,000 and $15,000. For a larger renovation, which could include custom cabinetry, granite countertops, high-end appliances, and hardwood floors, you’re looking at $30,000 or more.
Flanigan says any homeowner can make a number of strategic selections for maximum design impact and minimum cost though. If you’re tight on budget, before you start knocking down walls, you could start with a small change, like changing out paint colors.
What Makes Some Kitchen Renovations More Expensive Than Others?
“There are so many factors that drive up the cost of a renovation,” Flanigan says. Among those factors: the square footage of the kitchen, the materials you select, the city you’re located in, and who your contractors and builders are.
First, determine if you’re moving walls or working with your existing square footage; that’ll be a good indicator of how to create a realistic budget. Materials—including cabinetry, countertops, fixtures, flooring, hardware, and appliances—should also be considered and accounted for in budgeting. Then comes the big-ticket items, like integrated appliances, custom-built cabinetry, layered lighting, and authentic materials like real stone or brass hardware.
“They increase the cost, but also make a big impact,” Flanigan says.
What Aspects of a Renovation Cost the Most?
The most expensive part of most renovations is perhaps the least fun: labor and installation. According to HomeAdvisor, professional labor typically ranges from 15 to 25 percent of your total budget.
“You can shop and source most necessary materials to find more economic options, but good contractors and subs are worth the investment as the result is often worth the higher cost,” Flanigan says.
Be wary of inexperienced contractors, as they’re more likely to make costly mistakes that can disrupt your budget and timeline.
How Much Should You Plan to Save for Unexpected Expenses?
Come to expect unexpected expenses. Flanigan suggests reserving 10 to 15 percent of your budget for whatever might (and will) pop up.
“Even the most seasoned contractors will not be completely accurate with their quote,” Flanigan says, so always plan a buffer in your budget for inevitable unforeseen issues.
The Easiest Way to Cut Costs on a Kitchen Renovation
The best way to shave costs is to get creative with your materials, whether that’s cabinetry, appliances, or countertops. “Instead of a calacatta marble countertop with a deep ogee edge, can you opt for a quartz that has a similar color with an eased or straight edge?” Flanigan proposes.
Cabinets are a huge expense in any kitchen renovation, so you may also want to ditch the idea of custom cabinetry, and opt for semi-custom or simply resurfacing your existing ones instead. You could also swap out upper cabinets for open shelving, which is both cost-effective and aesthetically pleasing.
Apply that same sort of shopping savviness to every decision in your reno. Say you want an island, but it’s too expensive; consider a butcher block instead. If the thought of throwing down four digits for appliances overwhelms you, shop open-box sales, where you can often get brand-new appliances for a fraction of the cost. Or if you’re looking for a specific type of countertop material, depending on how much you need, you may be able to find remnant pieces for a fraction of the price.
One line item you don’t want to nix from your budget: a reputable contractor. “If the price seems too good to be true, it likely is and could cost you more in the long run,” Flanigan says.
How to Stay on Budget When Renovating Your Kitchen
Communicate, communicate, communicate. If you’re working with contractors, designers, or architects, Flanigan stresses how important it is to communicate as much as possible. The more information you have regarding renovation costs, materials, and ongoing progress, the more you’ll be able to adapt your budget when there are changes or unexpected issues.
Another way to stick to your budget is to have most of your materials selected before the contractor quotes the project. “When you preselect your materials, you are working with actual budget numbers and not unrealistic allowances,” Flanigan says.
Does a Kitchen Renovation Help a Home’s Resale Value?
You’ve probably heard realtors say that kitchens and bathrooms sell homes. That’s oftentimes true, but not a guarantee, so make sure you’re renovating for the right reasons.
“The kitchen is the heart of the home where everyone gravitates, so it’s usually the space that is worth investing in,” Flanigan says.
HomeAdvisor lays out the numbers this way: for a kitchen renovation that costs between $35,000 to $50,000, you’ll add an average of $20,000 to $40,000 in value to your home, or 57 percent recovered cost of the project.
You should always consider what the cost of a renovation will do to your home’s resale value before you tear down any walls or rip up any flooring. If you plan to stay in a home for a while and think that the home will retain its value or appreciate, a renovation is certainly worth it. Decide what’s best for you now, for your home in the long run, and for both all the years in between.
“Learn How Much It Costs to Remodel a Kitchen.” Accessed October 13, 2021. https://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/kitchens/remodel-a-kitchen/.