Determining a Kitchen Remodeling Budget


It is very important to determine a budget for any home improvement project, and kitchen remodeling is no exception.

A word of caution: I spent several hours researching kitchen remodeling cost and budgeting on the internet to gather data for this article. I ran into a couple websites that gave square footage pricing for kitchen remodeling. Although I commiserate with their attempt to find a simple method to figure out remodeling pricing, this type of advice is not based in reality. Remodeling jobs in general are so specific to the conditions of the building and tastes of the homeowner that no square footage pricing will ever be realistic. I also ran into many sites that did not give you any real information about establishing a budget but basically interpreted Hanley Wood’s Remodeling Cost vs. Value report which is published each year. You are much better off visiting the Cost vs. Value report online and evaluating the results for yourself.

Like anything else in this world a kitchen remodel is going to cost more than you thought it would and the sky is the limit on what it can cost depending on your tastes. There are multiple factors that go into determining a remodeling budget.

There are several places online you can go to help you establish a basic budget number to start with. My personal recommendation is Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report which is released by region and major city each year. The really nice thing about this report is that it gives a description of the “average” project so that you can gauge if your kitchen remodel is going to fall above or below the benchmark. I also find their average pricing to be an accurate reflection of the pricing for our company, so by recommending to clients before I even meet with them that they investigate this report they are more likely to establish a realistic budget we can work within to give them a fantastic kitchen.
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Custom Hutch built with Semi-Custom Cabinets

While Remodeling Magazine’s report is very helpful, it is still a very one size fits all approach to establishing a budget. Keep reading if you’d like to try to hone your numbers a bit.

Get out a pad and paper and jot down a few notes about each factor as you go through this list:

Factor 1 Home Value- Consider not only what you think your home is worth, but also the value of similar homes in your neighborhood that already have updates. My favorite website to check home values is zillow.com, simply enter your address and you get an interactive map with home values and other information listed right on the map. Take note of which homes are of similar size to yours, have been purchased more recently, but have a higher value, then peek in their windows to see what the house looks like. Ok, seriously, I was only kidding. If you don’t know them perhaps it’s time to meet the neighbors and ask for a quick tour.

Factor 2 Wow! – This has everything to do with your goals and motivations. Write down each motivational factor which is important to you in a kitchen remodel. Here are some possible examples: Kitchen is falling apart. You love to cook and the layout doesn’t suit you. You love to entertain and want to open up the kitchen as a place to gather. You want a kitchen that wows your guests. You are getting ready to sell your home and the kitchen is a sticking point with buyers… Now that you have your list, evaluate which motivations are most important and relist them in motivational order. Imagining your budget starting in “the middle” take note of which factors might move the budget up or down…i.e. wanting to remodel to encourage a sale might move the budget down, remodeling to wow guest might max it out…etc.

Factor 3 Did someone say AGA? – List any “must haves” for a kitchen remodel to be worth it to you. Possible examples: granite counters, an island with an extra sink, a second dishwasher, a commercial quality gas range, etc.

Factor 4 Longevity- Determine to the best of your ability the length of time you plan on owning the home.

Factor 5 Size Matters- Determine what percentage of your home your kitchen encompasses. A sampling of over 100 modern home floorplans of 1000 to 3000 square foot homes revealed the average kitchen square footage to be 7% of the home’s square footage. If your kitchen is larger or smaller than this average you may need to increase or decrease your budget accordingly.

Factor 6 Layout- if you already know you’re going to want the sink moved, an island sink added, an interior wall moved and an exterior door added, then you need to add money to your budget well beyond what a basic facelift would cost.

Tricky layout: the decorative column conceals a sound wrapped drain pipe

Factor 7 Funding- Determine the maximum amount of money you could afford to spend. If you are financing your project you can calculate what a lender will likely lend you. Lenders want to see a debt to income ratio(DTI) of.36 or less. Your DTI is established by taking all your monthly debt obligations (credit card payments, auto loans, mortgage, etc.) and dividing by your monthly income. To determine your maximum safe monthly debt multiply.36 times your monthly income. Now subtract your existing monthly debt from this number and you have a monthly budget maximum. Here’s a link to a calculator that will do the math for you: mortgage calculator

Putting it All Together

The key to determining your budget is finding the percentage of your home’s value you should use as a budget guideline. While researching this article I ran across recommendations to use percentages ranging from 10% to 25% of home value. For a kitchen remodel of any substance that includes new flooring, appliances, cabinets, sink/faucet, lighting and bringing electric up to code I find anything less than 15% to be a very dubious number. I suppose on a million dollar house 10% would be a workable budget, but on a 200k house a 20k budget is marginal at best for a full blown kitchen remodel.

If resale value is important to you it is wise to keept the cost of your kitchen renovation project within 20% of the current value of your home. Staying within this range insures that a majority of the new kitchen’s cost is recouped in increased home value immediately, and the remaining cost should be recouped within 5 years as your home appreciates.

Ok, let’s run through an example. Keep in mind, there is no exact formula here. We are simply doing our best to be as informed as possible and make a wise decision about how much to spend on our kitchen remodel.

For our example let’s use my house. It’s a 50’s cape cod with a modest square footage of 1500.

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