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Kitchen Remodel Costs to Consider

US News & World Report – RE logo US News & World Report – RE 9/25/2020 Devon Thorsby

You may be planning for a major kitchen renovation, including new appliances, plumbing, countertops or cabinets. Instead, you may be aiming to spruce up the space with a smaller budget. A kitchen renovation is rarely cheap, but there are ways to save. Here's what you need to know.

How Much Does a Kitchen Remodel Cost?

Based on online estimates, home improvement resource company HomeAdvisor's reported national averages for renovation costs and expert insights, here’s how the cost of a major kitchen remodel breaks down:

  • Labor: 15% to 25%
  • Cabinets: 29%
  • Appliances and ventilation: 14%
  • Countertops: 10%
  • Lighting: 5%
  • Floors: 7%
  • Fixtures and plumbing: 4%
  • Additional finishes and budget cushion: 15% to 20%

According to HomeAdvisor, the national average for a kitchen renovation is $25,291, with a low-end remodel starting around $4,000 and a high-end project reaching $60,000 or more. The disparities between cost estimates are due to the range of options for renovations and the scale of projects. Many kitchen remodels are smaller projects – think countertop replacement rather than taking out the walls and floors.

Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that where you live, the condition of your kitchen, the materials you would like to use and the scale of the overall renovation determine your bottom line. Especially if you're planning to gut your entire kitchen, estimates for the project will likely be higher than nationally reported medians and averages.

When you're considering a kitchen overhaul, how much should you spend? “A really good rule of thumb for a kitchen project is that it should cost anywhere from 5% to 15% of the home’s value,” says Dan DiClerico, home expert and smart home strategist for HomeAdvisor.

How much you’ll spend on your kitchen renovation also depends on how much cash you've set aside or the amount of the home improvement-related loan you’ve obtained.

Full-Scale Remodel

A full-scale kitchen renovation will likely see a high price tag because you’re gutting the entire space, you’re upgrading to more luxurious materials or both.

For a complete remodel of the entire room, you can expect to address all or most of the following features:

  • Countertops.
  • Cabinets.
  • Backsplash.
  • Sink and plumbing fixtures.
  • Lighting.
  • Flooring.
  • Appliances.
  • Walls and wall color.
  • Windows.
  • Interior and exterior doors.
  • Smart tech.

With a major project like this, you will want to hire a general contractor to oversee the work. If you hire a contractor to manage the entire project, he or she will likely have licensed specialists on staff or on call. Alternately, you can hire a contractor that only oversees the main construction work, then hire additional professionals as needed. Expect the labor costs to be on the higher end of the cost spectrum as a result, but a contractor’s expertise will help reduce the chances that costly errors arise – like putting in the drywall before the plumber and electrician have completed their work.

Labor costs can rise if you incorporate the work of a designer, who would plan a cohesive look for your kitchen and charge between $65 and $250 per hour, according to HomeAdvisor. “If you’re looking to save, don’t skimp on the labor, don’t skimp on the design. Nobody ever regrets spending more on the design,” DiClerico says.

Keep in mind that "surprise" issues often come up with a remodel. You may discover water damage from an old leak that requires you to replace the subfloor, or a wall you wanted to remove turns out to be load-bearing and requires a beam or post to support the roof. By leaving a portion of your budget set aside for the unexpected, you'll reduce the chances of needing to overhaul your plans when something goes wrong.

Midscale Remodel

A midscale remodel will likely keep the layout of your kitchen the same or similar to avoid costly electrical and plumbing bills, but cabinets, fixtures and countertops will look new.

Here’s what you’re more likely to focus on with a midscale kitchen remodel:

  • Countertops.
  • Cabinets.
  • Backsplash.
  • Sink and plumbing fixtures.
  • Flooring.
  • Appliances (all or some).
  • Wall color.

In a less invasive renovation, you can also revitalize existing parts of your kitchen that aren’t worn out. If your existing cabinets still work well for you, consider refacing them, painting them a new color or simply switching out the cabinet and drawer pulls. Refacing, which maintains the structure of the original cabinets but covers the door and drawer fronts with new wood or veneer, can still be expensive because of the custom work required, says Leneiva Head, principal broker and owner of Welcome Home Realty, a real estate management company in Nashville, Tennessee. Refacing cabinets, on average, costs $6,941, according to HomeAdvisor.

You can save in other parts of the kitchen as well to lower the total cost of labor. When replacing your floor, for example, offer to take up the old floor yourself. You’ll want to make sure you don’t damage the subfloor, but that’s fairly easy to do with less-expensive surfaces like vinyl or carpet.

Where you don’t want to trust your amateur skills, however, is when it comes to plumbing and electrical hookups for fixtures and appliances. A new sink and water hookup for your refrigerator aren’t necessarily expensive, but you’ll need to enlist a licensed plumber to make sure the work is done correctly – you don’t want to use hot water to make ice, for example, or risk a leaky pipe under the sink.

Low-Scale Remodel

For a low-scale remodel, you may be looking to change only a few details or cut costs by incorporating more do-it-yourself projects. For this type of kitchen remodel, these are the most likely features you’ll be focused on:

  • Backsplash.
  • Wall color.
  • Appliances (all or some).
  • Cosmetic upgrades to cabinets or countertops.

Giving the walls a fresh coat of paint is the simplest way to refresh any room in your home for minimal cost and effort. Adding a backsplash can also be a DIY-friendly project. Additional decor changes, like curtains and barstools, cost relatively little compared to cabinets or a new fridge.

Updating your appliances will be a relatively quick process compared to a full kitchen renovation, but it can still make your experience using the kitchen much more enjoyable. Big-box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot often offer package deals when you purchase a refrigerator, oven and stovetop, dishwasher and even microwave in matching finishes. They may also offer appliance sales and discounts during holiday weekends, so “it’s not as daunting, financially, as you might think,” Head says.

For a low-scale remodel, you can still make a big impact without necessarily having to endure the demolition or cost of brand-new cabinets or countertops. Head recommends installing a granite overlay, which covers your existing countertop. While granite itself can be pricey, the labor involved for an overlay is less than new counters would require. “You didn’t have to take anything apart, you don’t have to rip anything out,” Head says.

Updating Your Kitchen Adds Value

The renovation may be big or small, but upgrading your kitchen in any way has the ability to add value to your home, whether it’s improving the layout to make the cooking experience more enjoyable, bringing the look into the current decade or adding a pop of color to appeal to homebuyers.

However, you shouldn’t expect a kitchen remodel to recoup more in added market value than you put into the renovation itself. Remodeling Magazine reports in its 2020 Cost vs. Value Report that a minor kitchen remodel, at midrange price, costing an average of $23,452 will recoup 77.6% in its resale value ($18,206).

The more you spend on your kitchen, the less likely you are to see it come back in a sale price. The Cost vs. Value Report also notes a major, upscale kitchen remodel, costing an average of $135,547, will recoup 53.9% of the cost in sale, about $72,993.

However, the price tag isn’t the only detail to consider when remodeling a kitchen. While a low-scale remodel may be best to prepare your house for the market, major and midscale kitchen renovations can make cooking easier and make your kitchen a place you want to spend time in.

Copyright 2020 U.S. News & World Report

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