How to create a budget for a kitchen remodel

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Remodeling a kitchen is a great project that can improve the value of a home and the room’s usability. Outdated appliances can drive up energy bills, old fixtures may be damaged and style is certainly something that evolves over the years. 

When it comes to doing a room remodel, it’s important for homeowners to set a budget and realistic expectations for a project. Perhaps not every change can be made to build the ultimate dream kitchen, but with the right prioritizing, most people will be able to at least get close.

“Set a budget and realistic expectations for a project”

Create the budget
The first step in prioritizing a budget is to figure out how much you can afford to spend, or borrow, if necessary. Then figure out how you are going to shop for your remodel. When you are contracting your own remodel, figure for an additional 20 percent contingency fund. Contracting your own remodel means that you are hiring someone to do the labor, purchasing all your own materials for the project and designing your own space. There are many variables and surprises that may arise when you undertake a project in this manner so the contingency fund will most likely be used. If you are going to have a design build firm run your project, generally your budget is set long before the job starts and includes design, materials, labor and service after the job is complete. Even though the initial quote may be higher from the a design build firm, the contingency fund can be much less, reserved only for your own choice to upgrade or add additional work. Rarely, a concealed condition may arise such as termite damage or misdirected plumbing that must be addressed during the project. 

Many people don’t think about financing a home improvement project but it makes sense. You are investing in your home and will get a return on your investment in the form of quality of life and also resale value. Most people finance a car which depreciates as soon as you drive it off the lot, but your home will retain its value, so don’t be afraid to borrow against it to upgrade. If using a home equity loan, no purchases should be made until they are sure the loan will be approved or at least sign contracts “subject to financing.”

Decide what takes priority
Is the remodel being done because the kitchen it worn out and damaged? If so, then functionality needs to take precedence over style. If the goal is to modernize the aesthetic of the room, remodelers need to decide which looks are most important to them – more expensive, higher quality wood for the cabinets or upgrading the material of the counter tops?

Once the goal of the room has been decided, the next step is to break down how much of the budget will be dedicated to which upgrade. The National Kitchen & Bath Association recommends a kitchen remodel budget breaks down as:

  • 30 percent for cabinets
  • 14 percent for appliances
  • 10 percent for counter tops
  • 5 percent for lighting
  • 4 percent for plumbing fixtures
  • 2 percent for paint
  • 1-2 percent for tiles

The rest of the budget will need to be allocated to contractors, demolish and disposal costs.

The list can be adjusted to fit the remodelers needs. If the homeowners dream of a double oven and like the existing cabinets just fine, they should allocate more of their budget to appliances. 

Once the general breakdown of the budget has been made, remodelers can get down into more specific details for what their preferences are. How much of that cabinet budget should be spent on the quality of the material versus increasing the amount of space they provide, for example. It’s not enough to simply say, “I want new tiles.” What about them will be the most important? 

Homeowners will need to decide which kitchen updates are most important to them.
Homeowners will need to decide which kitchen updates are most important to them.

Find the best supplies
It can be overwhelming to stand in a showroom trying to decide what refrigerator to get if remodelers haven’t considered what the most useful elements of that new appliance will be. After the preferences have been decided, the remodelers will be better prepared to begin shopping around for the right products.

It’s important for homeowners to use their priorities list as a guideline more than a hard-and-fast contract. Once they actually start looking at specific materials, they may find that some elements may be more important than they previously thought. Maybe the low-cost item they thought they could use doesn’t seem as practical once they actually see it. They could decide to spend more there and take something else away from another category.

At the same time, it’s important not to get distracted by trendy new renovations when preparing for the project. It can be easy to get carried away. The remodelers should be sure to check back in frequently with their list and remember what the priorities are. 

Don’t forget hidden costs
There’s more to remodeling a kitchen than just buying the products that will be used. If the whole kitchen is renovated at once, it won’t be able to be used to prepare meals in the same way. Renovators may need to factor in the cost of getting food outside of the home, or of staying in hotels if they want to be out of the house during any part of the construction. 

If a professional construction team has been hired, there will need to be some extra savings in case the work takes longer than originally estimated. If the homeowners are doing the work themselves, they may want to budget for an emergency team of professionals in case anything goes wrong.

All in all, remodelers just need to make sure they aren’t spreading themselves too thin or making impulse decisions that won’t actually improve their kitchen. By planning ahead and keeping their budget, they can change their kitchen with minimal difficulties. 

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