Budgeting for a Kitchen Remodel

Learn to make a spending plan so your renovation won't be a wallet buster

CI_David_Duncan_Livingston-kitchen-island_s4x3 David Duncan Livingston

Setting a budget for your project involves much more than crunching numbers. Before you reach for the calculator, do your research. Find out what’s available in the market today by visiting showrooms, reading magazines, checking out trade shows and searching online resources. Dream up your wish list, then revise that into a “reality list” with price tags.

It’s a good idea to choose Plan A and Plan B options for appliances, countertops, tile—just about everything. If you keep a running list of alternatives, a designer can add or delete items to meet your budget. “If you can stay flexible about the final choices, you’ll have maneuvering space if unexpected costs arise, such as replacing rotted lumber or non-code-compliant electrical wiring,” adds Mary Jo Peterson, principal, Mary Jo Peterson Inc.

Do your homework. The more research you do before making decisions, the less likely you are to change your mind. And those last-minute change orders can really pump up the cost of your kitchen project if you aren’t careful.

“Most times, unless there is an unforeseen structural, plumbing or electrical problem, material and finish changes are the biggest cause of cost overruns,” says Roberta Bauer-Kravette, LEED AP, AKBD and director of Nieuw Amsterdam Kitchens. “And those costs are controlled mostly by the homeowner. Beware: Last-minute design changes or an incomplete design at the onset of the renovation guarantees cost overruns.”

For example, cabinets that are estimated in a paint-grade maple and changed at the last minute to Ceruse oak will add a huge cost to the budget. Same goes for deciding to include eight drawers in your island rather than two, or adding recessed puck lights under wall cabinets instead of a simple light strip.

Don’t wait until later to plan your backsplash. “Tile is not just tile,” Bauer-Kravette reminds. “The size, pattern and material all impact installation cost.”

Set limits. How much can you really spend on this kitchen? “You can have a wish list,” says Daniel Steinkoler of Superior Home Services in Washington, D.C. “But the important thing is to be honest with (your contractor) and we can value engineer a project to fit your budget.” Get an idea of where your money goes so can plan appropriately. Download the Kitchen Budget Worksheet to help you manage your costs.

Depending on the scale of your project, you can plan to spend between 6 and 10 percent of your home value for the best return-on-investment. “If a house is worth $1 million and you put in a $50,000 kitchen, it probably isn’t good enough,” says Brad Burgin, Burgin Construction Inc. in North Tustin, Calif. On the other hand, if you drop $60,000 on a kitchen for a $300,000 home, you’re doing it for love—not the money you’ll get back when you sell.

Expect the unexpected. You never know what you’ll find during demolition. Homes constructed in the 1970s and earlier can contain lead or asbestos. Testing and removal can cost thousands. A home built 50 or more years ago could require electrical upgrades in the kitchen to support new appliances and lighting. Plan for a contingency of about 10 to 20 percent to cover hidden conditions, substitutions and other surprises. “It will cost more than you think,” Peterson says. “And the corollary: It’s unlikely to cost less than they say.”

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