Kitchen Renovations by Budget: How to Get Your Money’s Worth

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

The kitchen is one of the most popular rooms people choose to remodel, and it can be a costly endeavor. In terms of dollars and cents, the average kitchen remodel runs about $18,500, making it important to know what you’ll be getting for your money. Before you start picking out cabinets and tiles, the first thing you need to consider is budget.

Many people suggest that you use your home’s current value to help determine the budget for your new kitchen. Based on that, you want to try and keep the kitchen within 15 percent of the market value of your house. Viola Park, a kitchen design company, explains how this works. The guideline given, which many remodelers use, is the 5 to 15 percent rule. If the entire project is less than 5 percent of your home’s value, you run the risk of devaluing your kitchen; anything over 15 percent could result in you overspending, and not gaining any return on investment when you sell your home later. Nationally, the average budget is about 8 percent of the home’s market value.

During the budget setting process, another factor to consider is how that budget will breakdown. HGTV outlined the National Kitchen Bath Association’s summary of how people spend their money during a kitchen renovation when professionals are involved. About one-third, 29 percent, is spent on cabinetry, and 17 percent goes toward installation. Appliances and ventilation take up 14 percent, while another 10 percent of the budget is for countertops. Flooring comes in around 7 percent, while lighting and walls and ceiling costs are 5 percent, respectively. Design fees, faucets and plumbing, and doors and windows all took up 4 percent.

This common cost guide is a good go-to, because it will help you realize what is going to eat up the greatest part of your kitchen budget. It can also help you out if you’re not ready to shell out 5 to 15 percent of your home’s value on your kitchen. If that is the case, you can start slowly, with ideas that cost relatively little, but can breathe new life into the room. Another factor to keep in mind is the cost for materials. You’ll want to pick the best quality materials available, but it is also important to be realistic within your larger budget.

Take countertops as an example. You may really want granite, but only be able to afford laminate. Houzz compiled a list of how much commonly used countertops cost per square foot, installed. At the low end was laminate, between $10 and $30 per square foot. Tile could range anywhere from $10 to $80, and granite, solid surfacing, quartz, and marble all fell within the $35 to $100 range. At the higher end, $65 to $125, are concrete, soapstone, stainless steel, and paper composite. Total costs will of course depend on where you live, and how much countertop you need to have installed. See what options exist within various price ranges, and prioritize what money will go where based on what feature of your kitchen needs redone.

Ultra-budget fixes: Ideas under $5,000

When you really want to make a change, and really don’t have the money to overhaul the space, start small. Replace hardware on cabinetry and drawers, or give the place a fresh coat of paint. The walls aren’t the only paintable updates, if your cabinets are in good shape but appear dated, painting them may just be what is needed to give your kitchen a new look. Professional painting jobs can cost over $1,000 but doing it on your own can take a lot of time you may not have. Call around for a quote to see what people in your area charge, and decide which matters more, the time or money.

Like new hardware, you can put in new faucets or lighting features to jazz up an old kitchen. You can also choose new appliances — but not all in stainless steel. Instead focus on black and white, well-made appliances to get the most bang for your buck. The backsplash is another small change that creates a big difference. Rouzita Vahhabaghai of Ita Design told HGTV that this “is where you can add a lot of style for a little cash.” Vahhabaghai listed chalkboard paint, wallpaper, laminates, and tiles as potential backsplash designs that make a big visual impact and won’t be too costly.

The countertops can be upgraded if you’re willing to use a less-expensive material. In this remodel featured on This Old House, the total kitchen costs were under $1,000, and $300 of the budget was for laminate countertop with stainless steel edging. Laminate has come a long way, Popular Mechanics explains, with styles that mimic the look of pricier options. It won’t break the budget, and if you desperately need new counters, this may be the way to go.

Around Average Renovations: Budgets between $20,000 and $30,000

Houzz evaluated what a basic remodel falling within this price range and using professional designers and workers would entail. The appliances are likely to stay in place, and the layout of the kitchen will not be altered. The appliances themselves will remain basic, meaning no built-ins or wine coolers. Ceramics, laminates, and vinyls are the materials for back splashes, countertops, and flooring that are most accommodating to this budget. Lighting also stays simple, with upgraded fixtures. Cabinets can be refurbished, and interesting design details — like glass doors — can be added.

In this renovation, featured on, the final cost was just under $26,000. The client wanted more storage, better lighting, and a 1950s vibe. The designer added a dishwasher, installed lazy Susans in the cabinets, added recessed lighting, brought in a new gas-range, and installed custom-built cabinets. The floors were vinyl, and laminate was used in the counter tops.

Better Homes and Gardens points out that at the $25,000 roughly half your budget will be spent on custom cabinets if you go that route. Saving on cabinets by using ready-to-assemble ones will allow more room in your budget to upgrade the countertops.

Mid and Upper Range Renovations: Budgets between $40,000 and $75,000

Here, Houzz says, is where you begin to see custom everything. Within this price point, you can expect the custom cabinets, professional style appliances, and much more. The hardware for your cabinetry can be designer, and wood flooring will be installed. The countertops can be made of stone, and glass backsplashes are within range. There is the potential to build custom storage solutions with your cabinets, and there is room to play with the layout of the kitchen to create a more efficient use of space.

Spending $50,000 on your kitchen is approximately half of the budget used for upscale kitchens according to Better Homes and Gardens. High quality kitchen cabinets remain your biggest expense at this point, but you can still create a luxury kitchen without spending $100,000. A commercial-grade range can be an item to splurge on, or create built-in appliance storage solutions.  

Alternatively, you may need a budget of this size because the kitchen needs to be gutted. If everything has to go, creating a tight budget for materials, save money by doing some of the labor yourself. Rip out cabinets, flooring, and old appliances on your own. When it comes time to paint, pick up the brush and paint can on your own.

At any price point, you should also set money aside in case the unexpected arises. It is also important to factor in the cost of eating out — especially when renovations are more costly, and more of your kitchen will be under construction as new flooring, counters, and sinks are installed.

More From Wall St. Cheat Sheet: