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Budgeting for Your Kitchen Remodel

A kitchen renovation can add up quickly—where should you spend and where should you save?

By Tobi Fairley

There are many questions to ask yourself when deciding on a budget for your kitchen remodel, including how (and how often) you use your kitchen and what items/areas will get the most use. As we discussed in February’s column, you can usually count on $100–$200 per square foot for major home construction or renovations, but this range may change depending on where you live and how savvy you are at finding a bargain or how much you love to splurge on the latest trends and technology.

The good news about remodeling either a kitchen or a bath is these spaces often get 80 to 100 percent return on investment if you decide to sell. But to ensure a positive return, a good rule of thumb is to spend between 6 and 10 percent of the total home value on your kitchen renovation. That will give you a good market value on your kitchen without overspending. This is great for flipping homes, of course, but you also must consider quality of life for you and your family, how long you will live in this property, and what you can afford. So if you spend a bit more than the 10 percent but this is your forever home, your dream kitchen, and you can afford it, then by all means, I say go for it!

I find most full kitchen remodels range between $40,000 and $100,000 depending on the size of the kitchen and your geographic location. But, of course, the sky is the limit on fabulous kitchen splurges out on the market today, so a luxury kitchen can easily be two or three times this range if you don’t keep your choices in check.

My own kitchen remodel was between $80,000 and $100,000, and that is around 8 to 10 percent of my home value. My biggest splurge was the Thermador appliances. Because I love to cook and bake, I have a professional dual-fuel range with six burners, and a griddle and two ovens underneath. I also splurged on a steam oven in the wall. 

Think about how often you will use appliances like these. I use several of my range burners daily, and my family and I often have both ovens under the range going, especially for supper. I love the small oven because it heats up quickly and is great to make my family biscuits for breakfast or roast a few veggies for dinner. We use the griddle less often, I’d say monthly, and we use the steam oven once or twice a month for cooking veggies or meats. All three ovens are put to great use for holidays and special occasions.

One thing to keep in mind is a professional range like this one requires deeper base cabinets on the range wall (27 inches deep instead of the typical 24 inches), and it requires great ventilation from the house. I had to lose a hallway and a bit of my daughter’s closet to take the vent out through our roof so that it worked properly for a range this powerful. So keep in mind ventilation and electrical for commercial-grade appliances, especially in a renovation versus new home construction, where planning the ventilation and wiring will be easier.

Because I am a neat freak, two dishwashers were a must for me. They keep me happy because they keep the sink from piling up with dishes. Happy wife means a happy life, right? Also on my list was a microwave drawer, warming drawer, and two refrigerator drawers to keep the beverages from taking up my main refrigerator space. Oh, did I mention the 30-inch refrigerator column, 24-inch freezer column, and the 18-inch wine column? They work beautifully and look great too! A luxury appliance package like mine can easily run $25,000–$50,000 depending on the brand and the exact items you choose.

If you haven’t already checked it out, you definitely want to see my very extensive kitchen design questionnaire. It will help you zone in on what choices are right for you. For example, if you love to cook and bake like I do, you’re going to want fantastic appliances and plenty of storage for bakeware and pots and pans. If you also entertain often like I do, you may need multiple dishwashers, an ice maker, and wine storage.

What else is important to consider in a kitchen project? For almost everyone, the workhorses in a kitchen are surfaces like counters and floors. Even if you aren’t a gourmet cook, those two items will get a lot of wear and tear, so think about investing in good quality materials. Counters and cabinets are the first things most people notice about a kitchen. My choice for countertops was the very chic X-gloss by Dekton, a brand by Cosentino, in color Halo, which is a fabulous, bright white. It is quite shiny and looks like lacquer, which I love. But it is very durable. Designed for indoor and outdoor use, Dekton stands up to hot pots and is very stain-resistant. I personally love how clean it looks.

For my flooring, I chose a “marble” hexagon mosaic, perfect for the classic style and 1960s age of my home. But it’s actually not marble at all. It’s made of glass and is by the amazing company Daltile. It looks just like Carrara marble with a black flower accent, but it’s not porous like natural stone, so no staining. It’s easy to clean, and it looks extra hip and on trend, which I totally dig.

In addition to my appliances, my cabinetry (not only in the kitchen but throughout the home) was one of my biggest splurge items. I believe that with great cabinetry comes great organization, and that saves money and time! I remember my contractor telling me a typical home in Arkansas that is the size of my home (4,000 square feet) usually has about $25,000–$30,000 in cabinetry throughout, and my cabinetry bill for the home was $45,000, including the kitchen. That’s more than a 30 percent increase. But for me, more cabinetry means less furniture to purchase for storage, so it feels like a wash with the budget.

If you want to make a stylish statement in your kitchen, a decorative backsplash in stone or tile is a place to do that. I chose a beveled marble subway tile from Speartek. It’s a wonderful complement to my marble-look flooring. So set aside money for extra fun materials like these if you want your kitchen to be unique.

Other items to consider in your kitchen budget are fixtures like the faucet and pot-filler (mine are all Kohler in polished nickel), and the sink (mine is a Kohler single-bowl in ceramic, and I love it). You also want to have money for great cabinet hardware because it’s like jewelry for your kitchen. And don’t forget about the lighting, both task and decorative. I especially love the oversize Massena pendants from Hudson Valley lighting that I chose for over my island. They are a combination of white and polished nickel, and they are both gorgeous and functional. 

Once you’ve determined your must-haves for your kitchen, it will help you set your budget with your contractor. In general, a small project that includes paint, giving a facelift to existing cabinets, and maybe some new tile and plumbing will be between $10,000 and $20,000, again depending on where you live and what materials you use. At the higher end, a major renovation with new cabinets, floors, counters, and appliances can be $40,000 and up to $50,000 if you need to remove/add walls and rewire. And if you do a full dream kitchen remodel like mine, you should plan between $60,000 and $100,000 to get all the fabulous bells and whistles, not to mention beautiful design details. It’s also smart to plan for unknowns especially in a remodel, so I suggest a contingency fund of about 20 to 30 percent additional so you don’t have to panic when you run into the unexpected. Because as we all know, Murphy’s law is bound to happen.

The goal is to get a kitchen that really functions for you and how you use the space and have a budget to pay for it. So first create your wish list of things (using my kitchen questionnaire) that you really need, and use that as a jumping-off point with a contractor or designer to make all the final selections.

Happy kitchen planning!