Three key takeaways:
- Consulting with a design pro can help homeowners make the best choices for their budgets.
- In nearly every category, a cost-effective option exists.
- Many materials mimic more expensive ones, which cuts cost while maintaining the desired look and durability.
Often the center of the home, the kitchen garners much attention. That’s why when something’s amiss, it might be too glaring to overlook. Take, for instance, an inefficient layout, poorly functioning appliances or lack of pantry storage. Remodeling a kitchen is often a lofty goal, and it’s one of the most expensive rooms to transform.
For a mid-range revamp, Refresh Renovations puts the average price point between $28,000 and $80,000.
How much to spend often depends on how long homeowners plan to stay in the home. If it’s only for a few years, they might be content painting cabinets white and updating hardware, both of which can make a difference in how the room looks, says Jennifer Ames with Engel & Volkers real estate. Or they might go with mid-range appliances or select stock cabinets, says designer Alison Truelock of Interiors by Alison.
If the timeline is longer, however, homeowners may think spending more will be worthwhile for enjoyment and equity, Ames says. This is where they may get stuck: Figuring out how much to spend and on what is difficult sometimes, and that’s where real estate practitioners can help.
When remodeling a kitchen, homeowners have much to consider, like paint, tiles, appliances, countertops, cabinets, layout and design. Many times, a hybrid approach makes sense: Mix splurging on what they really want with affordable choices for things they care less about—what Truelock calls a “spend/save mentality.”
Input from a design professional will help people make smart choices, avoid mistakes and stay within a budget, says designer Sharon McCormick of Sharon McCormick Design. They have the knowledge and the connections to help homeowners stretch their dollars while maintaining quality.
Help homeowners streamline their remodels by prioritizing needs based on these 10 categories:
Keeping an existing layout helps keep down expenditures by minimizing new plumbing and electric work, says McCormick.
If the layout is part of the problem, however, it’s important to consult a designer to figure out the best solution. For example, to gain more room to eat may require taking down a wall. A good designer will know what other options exist, though. For instance, designer John Starck Jr. of Showcase Kitchens put a refrigerator in an adjacent mud room so that the kitchen could accommodate a peninsula island. The refrigerator was still easily accessible, and this fix prevented the need for major construction.
One quick way to change the look of a room is to paint it, but not all paint is created equal. High-end brands like Farrow & Ball have more pigment in them than many others, which makes it more costly and may necessitate a specialty painter who’s worked with the material, says McCormick.
Still, a host of other quality, affordable brands still make a room look great. Homeowners should consult with a professional to figure out which brands work best in what’s typically one of the most used rooms in the house. If a kitchen contains soffits, designer Suzan Wemlinger of Suzan J Designs suggests painting them the same color as cabinets to give the kitchen a more custom look.
Cabinetry typically accounts for 40% to 60% of the total cost of renovating a kitchen. If cabinets are sturdy and in good shape, Wemlinger recommends those with smaller budgets retain existing cabinets and paint them if they are a dated color.
Repainting requires a professional who specializes in spraying—not rolling—to get the correct finish, says designer Mary Jo Long, CID, of Decorating Den Interiors. She saved one client $15,000 to $20,000 by repainting cabinets rather than replacing them. Door fronts and hardware can be changed to update a look, and she advises clients to change hinges and drawer runners for a smoother soft close. For those who can afford to change cabinets but still are watching costs, options exist. Shaker door fronts—rather than raised panel—save money, Truelock says. Full overlay doors are also less costly than inset style doors, McCormick says. Cabinetry with doors rather than drawers also pares costs because drawers require more material, labor and hardware, she continues.
Nancy Jacobson of Kitchen Design Partners advises keeping the overall hanging height at eight feet. “As soon as you have taller ceilings and cabinet hanging heights, you add a great deal of cost,” she says.
There are many ways to save with the choices of material and detailing for countertops. So much of the price of different materials depends on where they’re from, rarity of a pattern, labor for installation and maintenance and type of edge. (A pencil or squared-off edge is less expensive than an intricate ogee edge, McCormick says.)
To save money, Starck went with quartz rather than the most expensive natural stone for one project, and another with synthesized woodgrain laminate instead of solid oak. And, these days, some less expensive choices are worth revisiting such as butcher block, and laminates, McCormick says.
Painting is less costly than installing tile along a backsplash, but if a homeowner wants tile, the range in pricing can accommodate budgets. Classic subway tiles are an affordable choice versus more unusual shapes that require more time-consuming and expensive installation. Homeowners can save by shopping closeout tile sales, McCormick says.
Thinking about appearance is important when it comes to the backsplash. One expense can prove worthwhile visually, Wemlinger says, like tiling an entire wall rather than just the lower four feet.
If a kitchen can accommodate one, an island is a popular feature in a redesign. Islands come with hefty price tags, though, especially if cabinets or drawers are part of the design. But the advantage of putting money into an island is that it offers a place to gather, which most buyers appreciate, Ames says.
If dollars are limited and an island is a must-have, some suggest putting money into the island and cutting back on changes to the room’s perimeter, which generally require more linear feet of materials. Another way to scale back is to repurpose a piece of furniture for a nice, surprising addition, McCormick says.
Integrated or built-in appliances convey a more upscale look, as do stainless steel fronts, Wemlinger says. In most cases, many quality choices function very well, even without a status label, so Truelock suggests homeowners ask themselves how much cooking they plan to do. When it comes to the refrigerator, though, Ames recommends not skimping on size since it’s the piece of equipment many homeowners find most useful.
Another way to save is to watch for manufacturers’ specials since many offer discounts if homeowners purchase a suite of pieces. Sometimes they offer a free item like a dishwasher or hood range when multiple pieces are purchased at once. Working that way offers another advantage, Truelock says—all handles and finishes match.
Ames suggests homeowners who want to work within a budget focus on having good overhead lighting in recessed cans and pendants--and forego under-cabinet and in-cabinet. Two features that McCormick says should be included are dimmers to change levels of light and smart app-controlled options. And natural light through windows or doors is another worthwhile investment.
Hardwood and engineered wood floors are popular for the warmth and the look they convey, especially if used in adjacent rooms, McCormick says. A wood product also provides more give and less wear on feet than ceramic tile. But these days certain products like luxury vinyl tile (LVT) resemble wood, are easy on feet and are easy to maintain, McCormick says. Ames suggests a linoleum-type product, Marmoleum, which is attractive and sustainable.
Decorative cabinet hardware is described as the jewelry of a room that adds personality. Possibilities come in a huge range of prices. Plumbing hardware also comes in myriad choices and can add style—and fun. Selecting a good brand with solid brass parts may also curtail repairs later, Truelock says. Other finishes that add a special look are brushed brass and polished nickel, she says.