How Much Does a Kitchen Remodel Really Cost? A Cost Analysis:

Part of my job as a designer is helping people sort out their budget, verifying costs and thinking of ways to get the best value you can get on your investment in a remodel. It’s one of the first questions I ask, “What is your budget?” I don’t ask this because I want to spend your entire budget (my services are actually a flat fee so it’s a moot point). I ask this because I am trying to figure out if you can proceed with your remodel with realistic expectations. It’s a completely free conversation that takes place before a homeowner decides to hire me.

Quite often I am told someone doesn’t really know what their budget is and that they need some guidance. A prospective client may be in the beginning phases of thinking about a remodel and collecting some figures or doing some research. In order to give people a ballpark budget I usually advise that a kitchen remodel will run about 10-15% of the house value. Now, that doesn’t mean that your kitchen remodel will even cost 10%. It also doesn’t mean you will stay under 15%, but it does give a person a realistic budget to work with.

About 50% of the budget goes to the labor. That means your general contractor, electrician, plumber, painter, tile setter, flooring installer… The other 50% goes towards materials (cabinets, countertops, backsplash, light fixtures, hardware, appliances, flooring, plumbing fixtures…). I am not sure this figure carries across all over the country, but in the greater Seattle area (where I work) it holds pretty true.

I decided to break down the costs on this “budget” remodel to give people a better understanding of where their money goes in a kitchen renovation and this kitchen in Coupeville is a great example.

The homeowners came to me and asked if I could design a kitchen for them for a $35,000 budget. Although $35,000 is a lot of money, for a kitchen remodel it is a tight fit. In my head, the first thing I thought of was, “that leaves me with $17,500 for all the materials… Can I do it”? Appliances alone can cost $7,000 and any countertop but laminate was going to require a slab. The flooring also needed to be replaced and they wanted to enlarge the scope of the kitchen. The range was crammed up against the wall by the garage and there was only 12” on either side of the range to pull off pots and pans. Could I do this?

I knew I would have to move the refrigerator. The range was already venting out of the ceiling, and in their case, it would cost more money to move the range that the fridge. There was no way around that decision if they were going to gain ample space to cook. The homeowners had already expressed that they wanted to move the glass slider down to get a little more cabinet space and they also wanted an eating bar. The countertops were being used to hold the appliances like the microwave instead of being able to be used as work surfaces. If they were going to go through the expense of a kitchen remodel, these were all issues that needed to be addressed.

Background on the homeowners:

·         They were young (in their 20’s) so I didn’t have to worry about arthritis, or bad backs or mobility issues I may have needed to address if they were older.

·         This wasn’t going to be their forever home. They had just bought the home and needed it to be functional, but they would need to recoup any remodeling costs in the resell of the house. They were probably looking at moving in the next 3 years.

·         The husband was in the navy and they had learned to “travel light”. There wasn’t 20 years of kitchen gadgets, dishes and glasses they had to plan for. These two kept it simple.

·         They planned to reuse all their appliances since they were all new to the home.

I thought that I could give them a kitchen design and remodel based on their budget knowing what I knew about them. I explained the pros and cons about every decision along the way. The decisions we made to keep costs down were as follows:

·         Full height doors everywhere except for 1 drawer bank. Drawers and roll out shelves are double the cost of a cabinet with full height doors and adjustable shelving. I would never suggest to someone that was going to be in their house long term, or who was over the age of 35 to go this route because drawers are much more functional in a kitchen. However, this couple was young, fit, didn’t have a ton of pots and pans and they would probably move within 3 years. The decision kept costs down on the cabinets. Down the road if a new homeowner buys the house, they can install roll out shelves if they want the convenience of drawers.

·         Builder grade cabinets. This particular line is Bellmont’s 1600 line. It is the only builder grade cabinet that I would actually put in my own house (because I am a fancy pants kitchen designer). Bellmont has a wonderful selection of textured melamine cabinets that are very contemporary in style and fit into the budget perfectly.

·         Countertops were a quartz manufactured for the fabricator that was priced by the square foot.

·         Wall cabinets flank the range, but we cut down on cabinet costs by installing floating shelves by Whidbey Millhouse on the sink wall. These shelves are made from reclaimed wood beams.

·         We used a vinyl floor in the kitchen.

·         All the appliances were reused, nothing new needed to be repurchased.

·         The sink and dishwasher stayed in the same location.

More expensive decisions we made that added to the design and function of the kitchen were as follows:

·         We added an extra window for light. There was already a window over the sink. The homeowners installed a new slider further over on the wall so it gave them an opportunity to put in another window to match the first.

·         The first thing you see when you enter the home used to be the sliding door and the deck. Since they were moving the slider, I wanted to first impression upon entering the home to still bring you into the outdoors. That’s why I suggested adding another window.

·         There were only 3 places for the fridge to live.

1.      Option 1- the same place next to the range. That wasn’t working for the cook.

2.      Option 2- next to the run of cabinets where the trash bin used to sit. Since the sliding door was moving down, we could have moved the fridge to that wall. I didn’t like this solution for two reasons. I didn’t want the refrigerator to be the first thing you see when you entered the house and I didn’t want the fridge to separate off the eating bar. It made sense to keep the countertop continuous.

3.      Option 3- was the winner. We recessed the fridge into the garage wall and replaced the door to the garage with a more attractive one.

Here is how the materials budget broke down:

·         Cabinets $7550.

·         Countertops $4150 (material, fabrication and installation)

·         Appliances $0 (All reused)

·         Tile & Grout $1300

·         Vinyl Flooring $300

·         Lighting $200

·          Pulls $80

·         Plumbing Fixtures $200

$13,780 approximately for materials on this kitchen remodel.

$22,000 approximately for labor on this kitchen remodel. This including plumbing, electrical, flooring and tile installation, window and door installations, recessing the fridge into the garage, appliance installation, drywall repair and paint, cabinet and shelving installation, moving the slider…


$35,780 was the approximate cost on the entire kitchen. The house is valued at $315,816 (according to Redfin). The kitchen remodel was just over 11% of the value of the home. How did we do?