Can You Afford a Kitchen Remodel?

It’s easy to become obsessed with creating a dream kitchen. Perhaps you spend time perusing beautiful images online, or you stop by showrooms filled with luxury projects on your lunch hour, or you eagerly absorb every detail as friends talk about their own renovations. When you are ready to start the process on your own renovation or remodel, however, it’s time to step out of the dream and come back to reality—and consider the sticky subject of budget.

When assessing your financial plan, you should ask yourself if resale is in the future, and, if so, when. For most people, thinking ahead to the next five years makes sense. If you intend to be in your home for less than five years, you should think strongly in terms of kitchen design and budget for resale purposes. If you’re thinking of staying for more than five years (or so), then you could become more creative in terms of style and allow for a more relaxed budget.

Before hiring professionals or starting to buy faucets and fixtures, do some research. Look through magazines, stop in to kitchen showrooms, skim online stores and look at design websites. But this time, instead of thinking in terms of a dream, assess your real needs. Ideally, this part of the process would happen months before starting the design process. Doing this research up front will give you a chance to develop your taste over a period of time in a low-stress, enjoyable manner and will also educate you as to what’s out there (and the various price ranges for products). That way, when you do meet with designers and contractors, you will have authentic opinions on products, materials, and costs.

Next, determine an overall budget and break it down to figure out how much you should expect to spend in the following renovation categories:

  • Cabinets
  • Countertops
  • Appliances
  • Lighting and electrical
  • Wall coverings
  • Flooring
  • Labor

With this knowledge in hand, you can customize your budget based on your project. For example, if you will not be installing flooring, simply enter a zero in that category and your budget will adjust. When in doubt about how much you want to spend in each section, look for consensus—seek out several estimates in each category to work toward accurate costs and expose estimates that seem too high or too low. Become knowledgeable in material quality differences, which can affect cost.

Cabinetry deserves its own mention when discussing budget. One of the most costly design elements in a kitchen renovation, cabinetry should be evaluated using three criteria to make sure you’re getting what you want for a price you can afford. First of all, choose a design professional with whom you want to work and select them carefully to make sure they understand your project and requirements; the National Kitchen and Bath Association website is helpful for this. Second, make sure whatever you choose from the designer’s showroom is what you truly want, rather than cabinetry you feel talked into or otherwise pressured to buy. Then, confirm that you feel comfortable with the cost of the cabinetry. It’s an important design element—but it can really add up!

With research done and costs in hand, the next phase in putting together a kitchen renovation budget is to seek out labor estimates. TheNational Association of the Remodeling Industry website is a great place to find remodeling professionals. Interview contractors via a list of questions (and refer to your list during your interviews), then provide the contractors with a detailed list of work to be performed and look over the estimates you receive closely, making sure all work asked for is included. Ask prospective contractors for proof of insurance and licenses as well as references. Make sure all fees and progress payments are fully understood. This way, you won’t be surprised by unexpected costs down the line, and you can hopefully keep your budget in check.

By planning your budget carefully using this series of well-considered steps, you’ll keep your renovation process moving at a comfortable pace and help ensure a low-stress renovation experience.