Budget Basics: Kitchen Renovation Costs in NYC

A cost breakdown for renovating a New York City kitchen

NYC kitchen renovation costs

Dreaming of the kitchen you’ve always wanted is easy. Getting there is a little more complex. Even a small-space renovation can involve a lot of decisions and behind-the-scenes costs. Here, Sweeten, a free service matching homeowners with vetted general contractors, offers a kitchen renovation cost overview. From building requirements and permits to demolition and design, this guide will help nail down your scope and a realistic budget.

In 2017, the national average for a minor, mid-range kitchen remodel (meaning no layout changes and not moving plumbing or electrical) is $20,830. A major, mid-range renovation averaged $62,158 and an upscale kitchen renovation average cost came in at $122,991, according to Remodeling’s 2017 Cost vs. Value Report.

In New York City, these costs are higher: a minor, mid-range kitchen reno was $26,166, a major, mid-range renovation $75,398, while an upscale one weighed in at $140,820. See more info about low/mid/high-range materials in the chart below.

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APPLIANCES, MATERIALS, AND FINISHES

Take a quick walk around your kitchen, or any home appliance store, and you can start to get a feel for the obvious costs of a kitchen renovation. The chart below shows a range of pricing for various fixtures, materials, and finishes. On the low end are items sourced from big-box stores like Home Depot or IKEA. Prices increase if you choose to use their interior boxes but upgrade or customize the function or style, such as the door fronts. The middle range covers quality, longer-lasting products, and on the high end are highly customized, luxury brands, or imported items.

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A quick note about cabinetry: In high-end kitchens that feature custom millwork, the cabinetry often accounts for a high percentage of both materials and labor costs. Homeowners looking for high-end finishes tend to go in one of two directions: they opt for minimalist, sleek cabinetry with concealed hardware, or they turn to decorative cabinetry with highly custom visual details. Either way, the starting point for basic custom cabinetry is $1,000 per linear foot. Many factors can affect this number—drawers are more costly than shelves, for example, and creative solutions such as Lazy Susans, pull-out pantries, specialized compartments, and soft-close hinges all add to the budget. Since kitchen cabinetry work is very similar to custom millwork, you might want to check out this Sweeten post on built-ins for details on material and finish options for cabinetry, and how those choices affect the pricing.

Custom cabinets are not just for houses with lots of square footage; apartment owners with limited kitchen depth may also find themselves deciding to go custom on cabinetry. Cabinets with less depth can maximize tighter spaces, while more depth can accommodate larger tableware storage. These choices inherently require custom cabinet work because pre-fabricated cabinet options come in limited and fixed depth measurements. Read more about the difference between custom and pre-fab cabinets here.

BEHIND-THE-SCENES COSTS

In contrast to the predictable costs, here are some mostly unavoidable behind-the-scenes investments to keep on your radar.

Building Requirements

Building requirements can play a significant role in dictating design and budget needs for apartment owners. These requirements can range from insurance coverage minimums, which limit your ability to work with professionals who aren’t carrying high-value insurance policies, to alteration agreements that require anyone doing any work in the building to have far-reaching coverage for problems they may never encounter, like asbestos removal or explosion and collapse scenarios.

Contractors who can afford to work in buildings with more extensive requirements tend to have higher operating costs and can meet higher insurance requirements, more stringent debris removal expectations, limited noise and hours-of-work requirements, and stricter parking rules. While there is no exact figure on this, you may see this translate into higher rates overall for teams that can meet those demands.

Design

In the design stage, plan to collaborate with the experts you hire to create detailed drawings that account for all physical elements of the kitchen, including layout, plumbing, cabinetry and counter specs, lighting, and appliances. You should also select your backsplash, flooring, sink, and hardware during the design phase.

If you are considering major layout changes, such as removing walls, rerouting gas or plumbing lines, and re-wiring electrical, you are looking at spending at least $22,000 for a basic kitchen gut. If you are considering this kind of transformative work, you’ll need architectural designs from a registered architect and to plan for the cost of permits, thorough building approvals, high insurance coverage requirements, and more involved management from a general contractor overseeing the project. These “soft costs”—expenses critical to the success of the work but often invisible and unforeseen—can represent 15 to 35% of the renovation cost. Read more about layout changes here.

Demolition and Site Prep

In the site prep stage, significant behind-the-scenes labor is needed to ensure that your kitchen renovation maintains its value over time. Old materials and fixtures need to be pulled out and disposed of—this can be complicated on busy city streets with limited parking. Almost without exception, and especially in old buildings, your contractor will need to strip the walls and flooring to frame and level, respectively, before the installation phase. This step is critical and labor intensive—and can easily average $4,000. If your home is new or the sub-floor is concrete, leveling needs may be minimal, but otherwise, you probably need to account for floor leveling and new wall sheetrock or intensive plastering before any surface work can get going.

Exposing the existing conditions inside walls during this leveling and framing step will also allow your contractor to address plumbing or electrical issues before you hook up a brand new appliance. You may find it necessary to replace all horizontal plumbing work to the building’s “stack” (the main vertical lines that run throughout the building), and run new wiring to head off plumbing and electrical problems that you may have unwittingly inherited. Factor in costs that support the success and longevity of the work, including prep work to protect floors and valuables, which can add $600 to $900, and waterproofing steps, which can add $1,000. While these steps are labor- and cost-intensive, the work is critical for foundation alignment and infrastructure needed for the project, so consider them wise investments.

City Permits

Plumbing services can cost $2,000 to $3,500+ and plumbing permits (required by the City’s Department of Buildings for any plumbing work that exceeds a minor repair or a direct swap of a similar fixture) can run up to $2,000 per permit. Adding outlets or doing electrical work may call for an electrical permit, which can run close to $900. You may also need an asbestos inspection, depending on the building’s requirements and your plumbing plans, which can cost $500 to $1,000.

Installation

Last, but certainly not least, is the install. It’s essential to note that high-quality materials are only as good as the installation—if hinges are not properly aligned on drawers or cabinets, or if the shelving is not completely level, these faults will not only prevent your kitchen from aging well, they will also affect the immediate aesthetics of your space. No one wants to see slightly crooked cabinet doors on a brand new renovation! Appliances are often installed by the store where you made the purchase (as a built-in cost or an added delivery/installation fee), while countertop suppliers often also manage the installation of that product. If it is not provided as a built-in cost, installation is usually subsumed under the “general construction” or “labor” budget line and handled by your general contractor.

You have a fair amount of choice in deciding what to spend on some material aspects of a kitchen renovation, but some basic renovation costs and labor-intensive steps are instrumental to the work overall, no matter what you spend on materials. Having a good handle on the real costs involved will allow you to better align your budget, avoid surprises, and get you that much closer to your dream kitchen.

Find out how long a kitchen renovation takes—and what’s involved—in our step-by-step guide and process timeline.

Refer your renovating friends to Sweeten and you’ll both receive a $250 Visa gift card when they sign a contract with a Sweeten general contractor.

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