The 5 to 15% rule is widely held as the gold standard in helping homeowners estimate and budget the correct amount for remodels. This rule holds that the entire remodel should cost no less than 5% of the current value of the home — and no more than 15%. This is because spending less than 5% may result in a lesser home value, while a homeowner is unlikely to recoup an investment of more than 15% in a resale.
Some other tips to follow when budgeting and estimating for a kitchen remodel include:
Consult with the remodeler about how your costs will be separated among projects. Keep in mind that labor will take up 20% to 35% of the budget.
20% of your budget needs to be set aside for unexpected costs.
Prioritize what you want done during the remodel, in case the funds run out.
Figure out how you are going to pay for this remodel. There are various options for financing a remodel, including loans, credit cards and cash out of hand.
Decide where you are going to live while the remodel is going on. If you live at home, it’s going to be noisy and messy. If you will stay in a hotel, factor that additional cost into your budget.
Consider doing some of the smaller projects in the kitchen yourself to save money. It can go towards other projects.
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Kitchen Cabinet Costs and Considerations
Percent of budget: 30%
Cabinets make the kitchen’s first impression, and dated kitchen cabinets can detract from the aesthetic appeal of the room. Fortunately, you can change the color, look and feel of your cabinets without tearing through your bank account. Every square foot of the kitchen is potential work or storage area, so adequate cabinet space is a huge plus.
The first decision to make is whether to go standard or custom. Going custom offers more flexibility. With custom cabinets, you can create something that will fit both your space and your taste; however, custom work is significantly more expensive. Standard cabinets are the more affordable option, though standard issue does limit your options in terms of size and depth. You can also compromise by installing pull-out shelves and lazy susans in standard cabinets to maximize their storage space.
Whether you decide to go standard or custom, you’ll want to decide on the right material as well. Wood, natural or painted, is the most popular choice. It’s long lasting and durable — and you’ll find a huge variety of types and prices within the wood family. Less expensive alternatives are also available, such as composites, laminates and even metal or glass.
If hardwood cabinets are out of the question, or if your old cabinets just need a new look, cabinet refacing or resurfacing can be an affordable option. By leaving the location of your cabinets unchanged and simply refacing the existing cabinetry, you will negate the need for demolition and new installation. Your project costs will therefore be considerably lower than if you were to tear out the old kitchen cabinets and replace them with new.
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Kitchen Countertop Choices
Percent of budget: 10%
Whether serving as table tops for kitchen islands or covering your lower cabinets, countertops for kitchens play a significant role in both the feel and functionality of your kitchen. Size and quality of materials tend to be the largest factors that affect cost.
The options can make your head spin: stone, tile, concrete, marble, butcher block, stainless steel, recycled glass, Formica, Corian–the list goes on and on. Commonly used kitchen countertop materials range from low to moderately priced laminate and Formica, to higher priced granite or quartz, to solid surfaces such as Corian. Stainless steel and butcher block are also popular higher-priced kitchen countertop options.
Choose a material based on what’s going to look and function best for you. Seamless kitchen countertop materials, such as Corian and granite, tend to be more durable but are generally more expensive. Formica and concrete tend to be cheaper, but add less value to the home. Tile can be pretty, but you can expect quite a bit of maintenance down the road. Within each category of material, you’ll find huge price swings, depending on quality of the kitchen countertop material. When making these decisions, keep in mind the huge role that countertops play in the look and usability of your kitchen.
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Kitchen Flooring Options: Which is Best?
Percent of budget: 2-5% (depending on material)
The factors contributing most to the cost of new kitchen flooring are the square footage needed and the material you choose. You must also be sure to factor in installation, which, depending on the materials used, can be your biggest flooring expense.
Unfortunately, the most affordable flooring options generally add little or nothing to the value of your kitchen. That said, the cheapest way to get something under your feet is to go with vinyl or linoleum. Sheet flooring is less expensive, not only because the materials are cheaper, but also because the installation is simple and you can easily do it yourself.
Tile, stone, slate and hardwood flooring are beautiful, but more expensive, options that will help to increase the value of your home. These kitchen floors are longer lasting than vinyl or linoleum and are also considered a better buy in terms of long-term value. However, the more expensive kitchen flooring options can also be the most difficult to maintain. Kitchens can be volatile work stations — and damage from stains, grease, heat and moisture can be as common as Sunday pancakes. So, if you can’t keep up with the cleaning and maintenance, the more expensive kitchen flooring options may not be for you.
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Kitchen Appliances: Is Bigger Better?
Percent of budget: 14%
The quality of the appliances in your kitchen will affect price as well as the perceived value of the room. Expensive kitchen appliances are often longer lasting and more dependable than their cheaper counterparts; however, you must also take into consideration energy ratings, brand names and warranties. Appliances that cost less but have better energy ratings may end up saving you large amounts of money in electricity or water bills over time. In that same vein, high-priced appliances may carry a lifetime warranty that will also save you money on repairs in the long-term. Be sure to research what is really behind the price of your kitchen appliances before making the investment.
Investing in a quality stove, dishwasher and refrigerator can drive up your costs, but if your objective is to improve your kitchen’s value, skimping here can prove self-defeating. We recommend buying the best appliances you can afford — and if you can’t afford them, consider delaying the project until you can. Not only will better appliances pay off in higher resale home prices, they can also last longer, provide better warranties and save you money on utility bills.
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Kitchen Plumbing: Keep the Pipes Intact
Percent of budget: 4-5%
If you want to have your kitchen renovated but aren’t sure if you can afford it, one way to lower costs is to keep the kitchen plumbing elements in the same location. Sink plumbing is especially expensive to move, so make sure you try to design a floor plan that keeps it in the same location to cut down costs. If you want new appliances, countertops and cabinetry and simply replace what you have with newer, more attractive versions, then you won’t have the added expense of moving your sink pipes to a new location. If you design a new floor plan that means moving pipes, you’re going to multiply the labor costs.
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Kitchen Electrical Plan: Don’t Cross the Wires
Percent of budget: 5%
Kitchen electrical wiring shouldn’t be done incrementally. The time to do electrical work is when your room is torn up for a kitchen remodel. Have you been considering adding new lighting? Do it while there are gaping holes in your walls and floors. Another important consideration involving your electrical system is whether you have enough existing power or whether you need to upgrade your electrical board to accommodate new kitchen appliances. Once you install new appliances, you’ve changed all the equations. So make sure you have an electrician to guide you before you plug everything in.
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Kitchen Budget Considerations
A lot of factors can and will affect the cost of your kitchen remodel: materials, location, labor, unforeseen problems, etc. Materials, for example, will be one of the biggest factors in the total cost of the remodel. In many cases, more expensive materials require special installation, which increases labor and time expenses. Installing less expensive materials yourself will decrease the total cost of your remodel, so choose your kitchen remodel materials carefully.
If you want to stick with a small kitchen in the $5,000 range, the best course of action in most cases is to spend a lot of money on the materials and do the work yourself. If you have a budget large enough to do a remodel in the $20,000 range, it’s more feasible to split your money among professionals, materials and any additional labor or unforeseen costs. According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association, cabinetry is one of the biggest-ticket items to prepare for in your budget, followed by:
Lighting, plumbing, doors and windows, walls and ceilings (5% or less)
If you want to cut the cost of each of these materials, consider going for less expensive alternatives. This means choosing stock cabinetry, laminate countertops and tile flooring and doing some of the painting or staining yourself.
As for the other factors that impact costs — labor, location, economy, etc. — you can do only so much of the work yourself before the remodel becomes a mess. Never approach plumbing, electrical or structural projects as DIY projects, or you could have major repairs on your hands. Prices for projects will vary by your location, so be sure to get several quotes from contractors before choosing one. You should also do remodels in the off-season if you can (i.e., fall or winter) because contractors are usually getting fewer jobs during that time and may charge less for their services.
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Cheap Kitchen Renovation Ideas
If you don’t have a budget big enough to hire a professional for your kitchen remodel, a few cheap and inexpensive projects will revitalize your kitchen. These projects include:
Move smaller appliances: Avoid moving any appliances with gas or plumbing hook-ups (i.e., oven, range, sink, etc.). But do consider moving some of your smaller appliances in a feng shui rearrangement around the kitchen.
Install stock cabinetry: Stock kitchen cabinets are an inexpensive option for homeowners who want new cabinets. You can go to any home improvement store and buy stock cabinets to match your kitchen. You can hire a cabinetry professional or handyman to install them for less than the cost of custom cabinetry.
Refinish kitchen cabinets: If your wood kitchen cabinets are in good shape and just need a facelift, you can take off the doors and refinish them on the cheap. This involves sanding them down and then staining or painting them to look almost brand new.
Invest in under cabinet lighting: To make your cabinets and countertops stand out at night, you can buy lights that attach underneath and plug into the wall outlets. It’s an inexpensive way to brighten up your kitchen space without having to hire an electrician.
Paint wall and ceilings: Go to a home improvement store, buy a few gallons of paint and cover any fingerprints or pawprints with a new coat of paint in the kitchen. Just be sure to caulk any holes before you go to work.
Install tile flooring: If your kitchen flooring looks particularly worn out and scratched up, you can pull up the flooring and lay down tile. Ceramic tiles are relatively inexpensive, and you can consult with a tiling professional ahead of time about how to lay them.
Create a backsplash: Akin to installing tiles on the floor, you can also put a backsplash over your oven wall or in an area above your countertops that attracts the eye when walking into the kitchen. Tiles come in many styles and colors to match any kitchen design.