The kitchen may be your home’s most popular room, but that doesn’t mean it’s the most loved. Constant foot traffic means outdated features are always visible, begging to be replaced. But can you afford it?
How much you can expect to spend on your kitchen update depends on where you live, whom you hire, the materials you select and just how big a change you have planned, among other things.
Here’s how to prepare for this popular home improvement project and some tips for controlling costs.
What does a kitchen remodel cost?
The cost of a kitchen update can vary widely. Data from a Remodeling Magazine report puts a minor remodel in 2019 at about $22,500 and a major one around $66,200. But data from the National Kitchen and Bath Association shows remodels that involve a designer average from $48,000 to $90,000, depending on the kitchen’s size.
Cabinetry is the biggest expense, according to the NKBA. "Cabinets are the workhorse of the kitchen," says Tennille Wood, CEO and principal designer at Beautiful Habitat in Denver. “The entire floor plan and function of the kitchen is built on them.”
Location also plays a big role in the costs of remodeling, Cathy Norman, co-owner of Kitchen and Bath Design Center in Fort Collins, Colorado, said via email.
For example, labor and materials tend to be more expensive in bigger cities where wages and transportation costs are higher.
How to plan your kitchen remodel
Determine the goal. Start by asking "What do I do most in the kitchen?," said Christina Starmer, building contractor at CenterBeam Construction in Jacksonville, Florida, via email. How your kitchen is used should guide design choices, from adding an island to where you’ll hide the trash can.
Then ask, "Will this countertop, tile backsplash or flooring be timeless?" Starmer says. Unless it’s your forever home, avoid styles that may not be trendy in a few years.
Create a budget. Make a list of must-haves and want-to-haves, and work with a professional to price them. Prioritize the replacement of elements that waste money — like inefficient appliances — or that make your kitchen look dated, like stained flooring. Only when all the must-haves fit into your budget should you splurge on that warming drawer or built-in wine fridge.
Once you have a design and a budget, stick to the plan. Clients often want to add things when the contractor is already in the house, Norman says. Soon, what started as a simple kitchen remodel becomes a much bigger project.
“A minor kitchen remodel recoups about 80.5% of its cost in increased home value.”
Think about ROI. Keeping things simple often means more bang for your buck, especially if you’re remodeling to boost resale value.
A minor kitchen remodel, which includes refinished cabinets, new flooring and a couple of updated appliances, recouped about 80.5% of the cost, according to Remodeling Magazine. A major remodel, which can include custom cabinets and all new appliances, saw about 62.1% returned in a higher home value. With that in mind, decide how much work you need done to achieve the results you want.
Do your research. Finding the right contractor and materials requires some homework. Take the time to:
Read credible reviews of products, materials and professionals.
Get estimates from multiple contractors.
Ask about past projects, including final cost and how long they took to complete.
Contact previous customers to find out if they were satisfied with the experience.
Make sure contractors are bonded, licensed and insured (if required) by asking your local building department or state consumer protection agency before hiring them.
Tips to make your kitchen remodel more affordable
1. Retain the same layout
Don’t move any existing plumbing if possible, Starmer says. Moving a sink to the opposite wall could mean pulling up your kitchen floor to move the drain line, for example. The same goes for relocating electric or gas ranges, which often add a full day of labor.
2. Keep it simple
If new cabinets are a must-have, choose ready-to-assemble or stock models instead of custom options. And resist fancy add-ons like cabinet and drawer dividers, vertical spice racks and countertop garages. "As lovely as these things may be, they add a hefty expense when you’re on a budget," Starmer says.
Use a similar approach with appliances: Efficient, mass-market products often cost less than their professional-grade counterparts without sacrificing performance or appeal.
3. Do a little yourself
If you have the time, tools and know-how, doing parts of your kitchen remodel yourself can trim the cost. For example:
Remove old cabinets, countertops or appliances before the contractor arrives to reduce labor and disposal costs.
Pick up materials instead of having them delivered to eliminate delivery fees.
Paint walls or door and window frames on your own rather than paying someone else.
Be sure to share your DIY aspirations with potential contractors to find out if they're comfortable leaving some parts of the job to you.