Your Kitchen Renovation Costs—and Where That Money Goes

Modern kitchen
Joel and Eric’s kitchen in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

Imagine cooking in your new kitchen for the first time…the style! The smart layout! The shiny new appliances and lovely lighting! The team at Sweeten is inspired daily by our clients’ posts describing their renovation dreams, and the best place to start the process is with a realistic budget.

The national average for a basic kitchen renovation is $20,000 and swings up to about $60,000 for a major overhaul. What if your desires exceed your bank account? Tweaking the budget so your project comes within your price range while maintaining quality begins with understanding the cost breakdown:

Design

The National Kitchen & Bath Association’s (NKBA) estimates design fees will comprise about four percent of your budget. Although this percentage could grow. For example, a kitchen designer in NYC might cost 15 percent of that budget, says Maryana, a Sweeten designer. The NKBA also found that only 22 percent of homeowners renovating a kitchen or a bathroom actually hired a designer. Instead, many chose to work closely with an experienced general contractor on their design to bring down the budget.

Just remember that your design will play a big role in the end budget. If you’re dreaming of a layout change that involves moving load-bearing walls and gas lines, take into account the additional paperwork, inspections and fees later on.

Appliances

The more you value your cooking skills, the sooner you should make your budget decisions in this category. “If the client falls in love with a 48-inch range, the designer can fit that into the design,” explains Jace Kieffer from Kieffer’s Appliances in Lansdale, PA. Your appliance and ventilation choices may impact the design, he adds.

In a starter home, a basic four-appliance kitchen set—range, fridge, microwave and dishwasher—costs around $2,000. However, if you’re renovating a kitchen, it’s likely you will want to upgrade to at least premium economy appliances. They cost between $4,000 and $5,000 and have a life expectancy of about seven years. Luxury brands will set you back at least $12,000, a cost that should be weighed against their 15-year life expectancy.

Across the country, you’re unlikely to see much variation in the cost of luxury appliances. That’s because manufacturers often put minimum price restrictions on their appliances (sorry, no Black Friday deals here). If you’re happy with a lower grade, it might be worth shopping around for a sweeter price.

Ventilation

Like appliances, it is helpful to factor ventilation into the plans early. A basic over-the-range hood that leaves room for the microwave goes for around $300. A standalone hood from a premium economy brand costs $500 or more. A luxury brand might set you back about $2,000. Customs hoods from a metal fabricator can cost upwards of $10,000, Jace said. You also need to plan for ducting, which a general contractor usually takes care of.

Cabinets

The biggest investment of your kitchen renovation will likely be cabinetry and hardware (such as handles and knobs)–this category typically makes up about 30 percent of budgets. A big factor in pricing will be your preference for custom or pre-fabricated cabinets from stores like Home Depot and IKEA. Stock cabinets average out at about $130 for a linear foot. For a custom job, the price might be as much as $2,000 a linear foot. Custom cabinets will give you greater freedom when deciding your kitchen layout and finished look. It could also get you a better warranty. Don’t forget that these cabinets must be installed and that will likely be an additional cost. See more on labor and installation below.

Countertops

This is an area where you can scrimp or splurge, depending on your priorities. Countertops can start at $5 per square foot for a butcher’s block or laminate, a synthetic material. A low-end quartz could cost about $50 a square foot and a marble around $60 a square foot. Something more pricey such as granite could cost as much as $100 a square foot. Don’t forget to factor in the backsplash, which is the wall area between the countertop and cabinets. That could range from $3 a square foot to $35.

Flooring

Flooring will represent 7 percent of an average budget, or about $1,400, according to the NKBA. Concrete or vinyl flooring are economical choices and can look cool along with being easy to clean. Stone or wood flooring are higher-end options. Keep in mind that new base cabinets that are a different depth than your original may expose old and mismatch flooring.

Lighting

This is generally a lower-spend category. In a $20,000 budget, lighting materials usually come in at about $800. Again, this will move up or down depending on your tastes. Besides ventilation, those remodeling their kitchens spent the least on lighting, according to the NKBA.

Plumbing

Like everything else in renovating, your vision and choices will have a big impact on plumbing costs. On an average remodel, plumbing materials match lighting expenses at about $800. If you’re considering that layout change then plumbing and gas lines may have to move. That will lead to the added costs in materials, labor, permitting and inspections.



Labor and Installation

Preparing the renovation site—leveling tilted floors, replacing the sheetrock, etc.—can cost a few thousand dollars. Add to that installation of appliances and cabinetry, plumbing and electrical, which could take about 17 percent of your total budget or almost $3,500 on an average kitchen renovation. It’s worth pointing out that labor costs can change based on geography. New York City is the most expensive. Chicago’s labor costs are on average about 18 percent cheaper, according to RSMeans data. Philadelphia is a few percentage points lower at about 21 percent and LA sits at more than 30 percent lower than New York. And check with your contractor if their fees cover permits. If not, that could add another $1,000 or two.

Seeing The Value of Your Investment

Setting a budget can be overwhelming with the cost of all these separate items. The good news is renovations are an investment. For example, a $62,000 investment in a kitchen could see a $40,000 increase in resale value on the home, according to Remodeling Magazine.

However, that also increases the value of your property for taxation purposes. In Philadelphia, home improvements can get a tax abatement. The value your new kitchen adds to your home will not be taxed for 10 years, said Marianne Scott from the Building Industry Association of Philadelphia. Similar programs exist in many other cities such as Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

Of course, no two renovations and their budgets are the same. Here’s how one Sweeten renovator allocated their $25,000 kitchen renovation budget:

Cost Percentage of Budget
Demolition $2,750 11 %
Plumbing $2,500 10 %
Electrical $1,800 7 %
General Construction $13,800 55%
Miscellaneous $4,170 17%

There is more than one way to set up your kitchen. Read on how cooktops can add versatility or how to maximize your cabinet storage during your space planning. 

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten