How Much Does an Average Kitchen Remodel Cost?
Determining the average cost of a kitchen remodel is not an easy task. You might be surprised to learn that kitchen remodels come in all shapes in sizes. In this article, I’ve decided to go with the Olympic standard and divide kitchen remodels into three levels: Bronze, Silver and Gold.
Why Square Foot Pricing is a No-No
Before we get into the different levels of kitchen renovation, let’s talk about how they should never be budgeted for.
For goodness’ sake, DO NOT let a remodel contractor give you a “per square foot price” for your kitchen remodel. Per square foot pricing can apply in remodeling, mostly in regards to room additions or specific products like flooring where there is often an industry standard for the general construction costs and materials. In a kitchen remodel or bath remodel, however, this standard simply doesn’t apply. On high-end remodels particularly, this “per square foot” type of estimating can have a devastating effect on the budget when change orders start to pile up.
In fact, I once looked at a kitchen remodel where the client stated he would only accept proposals on per square foot basis. His reasoning was this: He felt that if he could build an entire house for $225 per s.f. (at the time), then the logical reasoning is that his 80 s.f. kitchen should then total out to $18,000.
Here’s why that approach doesn’t work. Back to the car analogy, the “engine” of the home would be contained in the kitchen and bathrooms. That’s one of the reasons you seldom hear anyone talk about remodeling their guest bedroom. The kitchen and bathrooms of your home contain the appliances, the plumbing, the major electrical, the cabinets, the countertops — all of the moving parts of the house — whereas in the other parts of the house, there is a little bit of paint and flooring to consider. No moving parts except the doors and windows, really.
Alright, with that information covered, let’s take a look-see at what you can get at the Gold level of kitchen remodeling.
The Olympic Standard
Obviously, it’s a stretch to try and compare the Olympics to a kitchen remodel, but let’s try anyway. Most clients dream of that gold level kitchen remodel. They’ve been researching cabinets, appliances, countertops and backsplashes. Simply, they’re looking for their dream kitchen. Conversations about this level of kitchen renovation can often include references to “bulldoze everything down and start from scratch.”
It’s safe to say that when you’re considering the gold level for your kitchen renovation, the sky’s the limit for your budget.
With that said, even if you already know that you want your kitchen to be “the best of the best” you should still set a budget. It doesn’t matter if a kitchen remodel budget is $30,000 or $200,000 — there is equal potential at both ends of the spectrum to exceed the budget if proper design, management and planning practices are not instituted early in the project.
Large Scale Project or Stand Alone?
Quite often an upper end kitchen remodel is associated with a larger-scale whole house remodeling project, although they are common as stand-alone projects as well. Room additions at this level are not uncommon. A design team will likely be involved to ensure that all structural and design considerations meet necessary guidelines and the client’s desires.
Time may seem to slow to a crawl as the higher-end appliances and products for this level of remodel may need to be special ordered. In a world where everything is possible, usually time and patience is all that is required to ensure getting exactly the right finish on your custom commercial range or exactly the right cabinet pull.
The scope of the kitchen portion of a whole house renovation will most likely be coordinated with tradesmen working on other portions of the build, causing an even slower rate of completion. In other words, if there is a full scale remodel going in other parts of the house, and the scope of work includes framing, electrical, plumbing and other trades that will be performed in areas beside the kitchen, then the kitchen portion will likely not progress independently of the entire project. For efficiency and budget purposes, the framers will do all of the framing at the same time, electricians will wire all portions of the house, etc., unless you’ve specifically worked out with your remodel contractor to have the kitchen portion finished on an independent schedule.
A good remodel contractor should share this information with you prior to beginning so as to properly set your expectations. Given that there are high end appliance packages from well-known manufacturers that can easily exceed $20k to $30k, custom cabinets in the $40k-$60k range, and exotic granite countertops that can equal the cost of a used car, the price tag on this spectacular level of kitchen remodeling would usually start at around $100k with, realistically, no upper limit. This is the type of project where budget takes a distant back seat to design, function and aesthetics.
How it Compares: Silver Level
Many homeowners are a bit more budget conscious regarding their renovations. They would still like the great look and functionality of a modern, updated kitchen, but are willing to forgo some of the ultra-premium options to help keep the budget manageable. Design costs on this level of kitchen renovation can also be minimized if the contractor has a good cabinet designer or in-house design professionals.
A silver level kitchen remodel can include minor re-configuring of the kitchen layout that may include some structural changes such as moving or building walls. Drywall may have to be removed to access electrical and plumbing, as well as HVAC. Flooring will almost certainly be replaced, which is okay, because there is often some underground plumbing or electrical to be addressed. The design of the kitchen is generally fairly sophisticated on the functionality side with design aspects following function.
The silver level kitchen remodel costs will usually also include new appliances and finishes. The specific types of appliance and finishes chosen by the client will have a large impact on the budget. So, too, will the labor costs. These considerations, in addition to the overall length of the project, will usually put the price of the silver level kitchen remodel in the range of $60k – 100k, allowing the silver level renovation to vastly improve a kitchen’s mojo without making the homeowners’ budget cry uncle.
The Bronze Standard
The bronze level of kitchen remodeling is often described as “R&R” or “remove and replace” in the remodel industry. In most cases, this includes replacing the cabinets, countertops, appliances, fixtures and possibly the flooring. What differentiates the bronze level kitchen remodel from the higher levels is that it usually entails no structural changes and only very minor trade work such as electrical, plumbing or drywall. At the most, some outlets may need re-locating, new lighting may be installed and new water supply lines may be added. Minor drywall patching and repair might be expected because of the removal of the old cabinets and countertops.
A Great Option for Many
This is the perfect level of kitchen remodeling for the homeowner who loves their kitchen layout but wants to update an older or worn kitchen to more modern standards. Often, this level of project will start with the homeowners discussing new appliances and perhaps a “facelift” or paint job on the cabinets and maybe some new granite or quartz countertops. The natural evolution of this discussion is to think about updating everything — why leave 30-year-old cabinets in a kitchen where everything else is new?
At the bronze level of kitchen remodeling, most of the costs will go toward the purchase of the items such as cabinets, countertops, appliances and fixtures. While there are obviously labor considerations, they will generally be very manageable at this level of renovation. Allowing for the wide range of finish materials costs, this level of kitchen remodel can range from $40k – $60k.