The costs to remodel in Philadelphia in 2020, including kitchen, bath, and whole-home, plus basements
(Above) Remodel by Coatesville-based Sweeten general contractor Brent
Thanks to Philadelphia’s long history, there’s a rich mix of historic and modern architecture, from row homes and trinities, modern properties from every era, and 200-year-old farmhouses. No matter the age of the structure, the first step in calculating the cost to remodel in Philadelphia requires comparing the renovation costs of what you want, to the amount of money you have.
The age of your property will have an impact on the overall costs to remodel in Philadelphia. You may need to replace old wiring and outdated lead pipes, and, if found, asbestos would need to be removed. Other factors to consider are your tastes and whether you plan to change the layout, especially in bathrooms and kitchens.
Sweeten, a free service matching homeowners with vetted general contractors, has compiled a general guide to costs across Philadelphia, focusing on four renovation categories: kitchen, bathroom, basement, and permits.
Here’s a breakdown of typical starting costs compiled from Sweeten renovations and Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value report.
- Full-home renovation: Starting at $75 per square foot (psf)
- Low-end kitchen remodel: $15,000—$30,000 for under 100 square feet
- Mid-range kitchen remodel: Starting at $375 psf or $37,500 for a kitchen larger than 100 square feet
- High-end kitchen remodel: Starting at $650 psf or $65,000 for a kitchen larger than 100 square feet
- Low-end bathroom remodel: $15,000—$20,000
- Mid-range bathroom remodel: Starting at $650 psf or $23,000 for a 5’x7′ bathroom
- High-end bathroom remodel: Starting at $735 psf or $46,000 for a 7’x9′ bathroom
- Basement remodel: Starting at $50 psf or $30k for a 600-square-foot basement
Keep in mind that every professional contractor will want to have a detailed conversation and inspection of your home before developing an estimate specific to your needs and wants.
What a home remodel costs per square foot
Sweeten has found that a typical full-home renovation starts at $75 psf. If you’re embarking on a gut renovation of your home, and the mechanicals are salvageable like heating, sewer lines, electrical and plumbing, a gut renovation on a budget could come in at $110 per square foot, according to Sweeten contractor Mario. This could mean choosing materials such as a laminate or Formica kitchen countertop instead of granite and shopping for fixtures from Home Depot. A mid-range gut renovation could be between $150 and $200 psf and common materials at this price point include porcelain tiles, quartz countertops, and semi-custom cabinets.
Sweeten general contractor Bobby (Robert) recently completed an extensive $100,000 renovation. The client had found a piece of property they loved, but the house was too small. “We basically built a house around the existing house,” he said. It included adding a garage and an additional living space as well as adding an extension to the back of the house to incorporate a larger kitchen.
When starting a major overhaul of your home, remember these big-ticket items which are often overlooked during budgeting:
- HVAC: A new HVAC system will likely cost around $8 psf, according to Mario, who gave the example of a $17,000 bill for an HVAC replacement in a 2,200-square-foot house. This impact on cost will be the size of your home and how intricate you want your new system. Increasingly, multi-level homes are moving towards having a thermostat on each floor, which can add a lot to the cost, Mario said.
- Insulation: New energy codes have upped insulation costs by 25 percent, Mario said. Often, outside walls need to be sprayed with an insulating foam or fiberglass batt placed inside walls.
- Windows: If you’re replacing windows during your extensive gut remodel, then that will be a big cost. But it could also help you save money on your heating and cooling bills. Higher-end windows could cost up to $400 each with lower-end windows costing $150 apiece. Replacing 10 3’x5′ double-hung windows with something that is insulated and rated low-E will cost around $20,000, according to the Cost Vs Value report from Remodeling magazine.
Note: While Sweeten contractors explore all avenues to stay competitive, the industry is affected by trade. The prices you’re quoted at any given time may not be the same six months or a year from now. Prices on labor and materials fluctuate and this will be reflected in your overall quote.
Costs to renovate a kitchen in Philadelphia
- Low-end kitchen: Sweeten kitchen remodels can start at $15,000—$30,000 for under 100 square feet with budget-friendly finishes from retailers such as Home Depot. A kitchen renovation using inexpensive materials could come in at as low as $15,000, said Sweeten general contractor Erik. At this price, you get laminate countertops, basic shaker-style cabinets, and recess lighting. Tiling needs to come in at $2 psf with a basic subway tile for the backsplash or no backsplash at all.
One trick to keeping a budget that small: consider a “rip-and-replace” remodel. For cabinets, for example, you’re swapping out a 24″ cabinet for another 24″ cabinet. Another method is keeping your appliances and sinks in the same locations to avoid changing plumbing or electrical. Finishes such as flooring, fixtures, and appliances, are a great area to save. And the best place to shop for these items is at big box stores.
- Mid-range kitchen: An average mid-range kitchen renovation is $375 psf or $37,500 for a kitchen larger than 100 square feet in the Philadelphia area. The good news is with expensive areas like New York City pushing up that average, you might find Philly kitchen renovations are a better value. “If you stay away from custom, you can really save a lot of money,” said Mario.
- High-end kitchen: Expect the typcial costs for a high-end kitchen to come in around $650 psf or $65,000 for a kitchen measuring larger than 100 square feet. The Cost vs Value report’s average price of a high-end kitchen of $144,000 for a 200-square-foot kitchen or $720 psf. This includes more expensive materials such as stone countertops, imported tile backsplash, a water filtration system, commercial-grade cooktop, and vent hood, plus a built-in microwave unit. A high-end kitchen that Mario recently completed had roller doors (think garage doors) on the custom cabinets that also concealed the fridge as well as a custom spice rack and pot and pan dividers in the cabinets.
Costs to renovate a bathroom in Philadelphia
- Low-end bathroom: Sweeten bathrooms can start at $15,000 to $20,000 for a 5’ x 8’ space with budget-friendly finishes from retailers such as Walmart or Home Depot. Bobby referred to this as a “lipstick” remodel that essentially “refreshes the area,” he said. The layout stays the same, but you swap out old for new, including toilet, vanity, tiling, and fixtures. “We would not move anything as far as plumbing is concerned,” he said.
- A mid-range bathroom: This renovation in Philadelphia will cost on average $23,000, or $650 psf for a 35-square-foot space. The example project included a recessed medicine cabinet, a standard toilet, a solid-surface vanity counter, and a porcelain-on-steel tub.
A recent bathroom that Sweeten contractor Erik worked on came in at $25,000. It involved taking space from a neighboring room and extending the bathroom by four square feet. This enabled the addition of a washer and dryer. However, it meant a full layout change, adding a lot to the cost. The bathroom had some higher features such as hexagon tiles inside the shower niche, custom shelving, and a vanity with a black granite top, which the client purchased themselves to keep the project’s budget down.
- High-end bathroom: A high-end bathroom renovation at $46,000, based on a 7’ x 9’ bathroom, worked out to be $735 psf. With older homes, bathrooms with knob-and-tube wiring (which could be a fire hazard) and lead plumbing might need to be replaced. Demolition can also be more expensive because of the difficulty in dismantling heavy materials installed using old-building techniques.
Items such as a rain shower head can send a budget soaring because often they require more water pressure and a larger pipe to funnel that water through, according to Mario. Frameless shower doors, which are very popular can cost $3,000, which is double the price of one with a frame, Mario said.
A master bathroom that Bobby is currently working on has a budget of about $285 psf. This includes a steam shower with a vanity of niches for soap and a special foot niche to make it easier to shave. The bathroom also has a floating vanity with an additional vanity just for makeup. Wall tiles were made from glass and metal, which were difficult to install adding to the overall labor costs for the project.
Costs to renovate a basement in Philadelphia
Sweeten has found that the average basement conversion in the Philadelphia area is $75,000. The project for this size budget includes a 20′ x 30′ room and a 5′ x 8′ bathroom with a shower and a bar area as well as insulation and laminate flooring. This example project works out to $117 psf. If your basement is already insulated and you’re making mostly cosmetic updates, a starting point could be closer to $50 psf or $30,000 for a 600-square-foot space.
One area that can add a major cost to your basement renovation is the second form of egress, which is required by law, other than the doorway and stairs from the main house. If there isn’t already an option such as a window then adding another way out could push the budget up by $10,000, according to our Sweeten general contractors.
A basement project that Bobby has in the works, which is part of a bigger, gut renovation, includes an ultra-modern floating bar with the exposed pipes in the ceilings that were painted a matte black to look like an industrial warehouse. There is also a gym area with wall mirrors that resembled a commercial gym. Because the basement was previously finished with drywall, electrical work, and flooring, the cost came out to about $60 psf. If those aspects needed to be completed, the cost would have increased another $20 psf.
Costs for renovation permits in Philadelphia
The cost of permits can vary greatly across Philadelphia. While the city center is typically more costly, the permit costs for smaller jobs can be a bargain with the Ezy permit system, where non-structural jobs are processed. These projects don’t involve things like moving a load-bearing wall which would typically require filing architectural plans to get permits. EZY permit applications only need a written narrative of the job.
For larger projects, Bobby usually puts a place marker in the budget for permits until the exact amount is calculated by a town’s building department. These estimates are $750 for a bathroom, $1,000 for a kitchen and $1,500 for a basement. “If the permits are less than the estimate, then we give the client a credit,” said Bobby. “If it is more, then we will require more to cover that.”
Outside of Philly’s city center, the suburbs can cost more and be more complicated. (But don’t worry, your contractor will typically handle the logistics!) Here are some examples:
- In Lower Merion, the first $2,000 in the budget will cost $87.50. From $2,001 up to $50,000 in the budget, you will get charged an additional $15 per $1,000 of planned work. From $50,000 to $300,000 in renovations, the cost is $12 per $1,000. Anything above $300,000 is $5 per $1,000 in the budget.
- In the city neighborhood of Bella Vista, the cost of building permits is linked to your square footage. A residential renovation under 500 square feet will cost $50 for one- and two-family homes and $150 for all others. A structure over 500 square feet in a one- and two-family space will cost $50 plus $40 per additional 100 square feet or any fraction above 500. All other homes cost $150 plus $40 per each additional 100 square feet or any fraction over 500.
A Rowhouse Remodel in Bella Vista
All of these facts and figures are a starting point for pulling together an initial budget for a Philadelphia renovation. Post your project on Sweeten and we’ll match you with vetted Philadelphia general contractors to provide estimates for your renovation, plus we’ll check in with you until project completion.
When Nel’s Bella Vista rowhouse experienced a major fire, she found a Sweeten general contractor to bring her home back to life. Their contractor moved to add a new code-compliant system to the small 100-year-old footprint.
The fire affected several other nearby homes, which limited parking for construction work on their small street. Deliveries were tough; roof deck and drywall materials needed to be loaded in by hand.
“This is actually our second renovation in 12 months, but our first time using Sweeten,” Nel said. “I can’t tell you how wonderful our Sweeten contractor has been. He took a very stressful situation and guided us through it with ease, and we couldn’t have been happier with how everything has turned out.”
Renovating your home in Philadelphia? Sweeten can help!
Post your project on Sweeten and we’ll match you with multiple vetted general contractors to provide estimates for your renovation. Sweeten also checks in with you until project completion
Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, and scope, helping until project completion. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.