Spaces for life: How much does a kitchen remodel cost?


By Lance McCarthy

Lance McCarthy
Lance McCarthy

Q: What does it take to make a small fortune in the stock market?

A: A large fortune.

The same could be said of many kitchens. They can easily be the most expensive area of the house. The difficulty is that there is such a wide range of possible costs. Last year we did a kitchen “facelift” project for less than $10,000, while a full kitchen remodel for another client was over $100,000. These kitchens were very different, but both clients were happy with their kitchen and felt like they got what they wanted.

With that in mind, take out your pencil and paper and let’s get started.

First, write down the estimated value of your home. Next, figure out 10 percent and 30 percent of that number. This is a good starting range for a kitchen. If you are going to be there less than two years, you will be happiest at the low end of that range. If this is your forever home, you could easily end up above that range.

Warning: These budget allowances are worth as much as you are paying for them (translation: not very much). They should just be used for the very start of exploration into a kitchen project. As you move forward, the budget will become more and more accurate as you make the necessary decisions.

A Leawood kitchen remodel by ReTouch.
A Leawood kitchen remodel by ReTouch.

By Plan I mean how it is built. Surprisingly, square footage in a kitchen budget hardly matters. The important questions are: How many linear feet of cabinets? Are walls moving? Is it a facelift or a full gut? A “facelift” (meaning resurfacing all the existing stuff) would be the lower part of that 10-30 percent range. A full “to the studs” gut and remodel would be the upper half of that range.

By Product I mean what it is built with. This is the area I can give the most accurate predictions on price. In order to end up with a clean, balanced feel, the following percentages should work well:

  • Cabinets/countertops: allow 30 percent of your budget
  • Appliances: allow 20 percent of your budget
  • Countertops: allow 10 percent
  • Flooring: 10 percent
  • Everything else: 20 percent

The who of a project matters and will affect the cost, but unless you are just doing a quick facelift for re-sale, use someone with a lot of kitchen experience. This is crucial. So much of your experience in the home hinges on how well the kitchen works.

Lance’s 3rd cardinal rule of project cost:

The “who” is more important than the “what”. Kitchen design seems simple enough to DIY — until your dishwasher bumps into your island chairs. There is very little margin for error in the kitchen.  Accuracy is measured in fractions of inches, and errors have costs with three zeros. Because of this, it is important to find a team that feels like the right fit and then work with them to reach your budget. Choose the right team, and everything else will find its place.

So…how’d you do? Check out this page to figure out how you compare with your neighbors in the region.

Let’s take a break from budgets next week and spend some time asking my favorite architect some tough questions. Have a question for the architect? Add it in the comment line below. We’ll make sure to include it!

This weekly sponsored column is written by Lance McCarthy of ReTouch, a full-service, client-based contractor specializing in home remodels. For more information about their services, or to view samples of their work, visit their website.