Last Updated on March 29, 2023 by Mark Ferguson
I have remodeled hundreds of homes over the years that I owned as rentals, flips, or even helped the banks sell. I was not the one doing the work but I hired the contractors and figured out what the best designs would be with some help from my project manager. One thing I have seen over and over with kitchen design is that people often pay way too much for a kitchen remodel. Some homes may deserve a $50,000 kitchen, but most houses do not need a kitchen that fancy, and the homeowners will never get their money back if they spend that much. I specialize in fixing up homes affordably as that is how I make money. In this article, I talk about how much it costs to remodel a kitchen and how to do it on a budget!
Do you need a $50,000 kitchen?
I have seen many sellers, friends, and shows on television spend tens of thousands of dollars on kitchen remodels and I cringe almost every time. A lot of contractors will tell people they need to spend that much money to have a nice kitchen and that is not true. There are many ways to save on costs and still have a great kitchen that will last many years! Another issue with spending that much on a kitchen is that styles come and go very quickly in houses, especially in the kitchen. If you spend $50,000 to remodel the kitchen it could look outdated in 5 years or less. If you spend less money it is much easier to freshen up the kitchen and make updates when you want instead of feel like you are married to that $50,000 kitchen for life! There are also many ways to make your kitchen look like a high-end remodel without spending high-end money.
You can see how much we spent on the kitchen below:
Why are kitchens so expensive?
As I said before a lot of contractors will tell you, you need to spend $50,000 to get a nice kitchen. The truth is the more money they can get you to spend, the more money they will make. There is nothing wrong with making money, but there is also nothing wrong with trying to save money as well! Kitchens can get really expensive really fast due to everything that is in the kitchen!
- Appliances: Can range from $1,000 to $20,000
- Cabinets: Can range from $2,000 to $30,000
- Counters: Can range from $500 to $20,000
- Changing the layout: Can range from $500 to $10,000
- Flooring, paint, lighting, windows, trim: Can range from $500 to $30,000
As you can see it is possible to go way over $50,000 when you remodel a kitchen and we did not even include any labor yet! However, you can see that it is also possible to spend much less than $10,000 even when you include labor. Labor can range from a couple of thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars as well. The more you change, the more you will spend and if you start moving walls around you might need an engineer and even more money!
Will you make your money back when you remodel a kitchen?
We remodel a lot of kitchens! I have from 10 to 20 flips going at once and I own quite a few rental properties as well. I do not think I have ever spent $50,000 on a kitchen but we have spent $30,000. We move a wall, installed all new cabinets, quartz counters, moved plumbing, changed the layout, and bought nicer appliances. Was it worth it? Maybe, but I don’t think we got our money back from everything we spent. I could have spent $15,000 and probably sold the house for just about the same price. You can see the house below:
When you remodel a kitchen and the bathrooms, you usually get you the most bang for your buck as far as resale value goes as long as you don’t get crazy. A $50,000 kitchen in a $300,000 house may help it sell fast and may even help it sell for more money than a $15,000 kitchen, but it might add $5,000 or maybe $10,000 in value. A high-end kitchen will not pay for itself unless it is in a high-end house. We almost always install medium to low range kitchens and our houses still sell and look great. When we spend $5,000 to $10,000 on a kitchen we usually get our money back when we are replacing an old and very dated kitchen. However, if the kitchen is decent and just a little outdated we may not get our money back replacing it, even with a cheaper kitchen.
As a real estate professional, I have learned that most buyers don’t care how fancy their kitchen is. They care that it is decent looking, that the appliances work, and that they have enough space.
How can you remodel a kitchen affordably?
So how can you actually spend less money to remodel a kitchen? We can look at each item in the kitchen to see where we can save money.
We buy almost all of our supplies at Home Depot. We have a managed pro account which saves us a ton on supplies but most contractors you use should have access to pro accounts at Home Depot as well. We can get cabinets for a 10 x 10 kitchen for $2,500 and these are not 1990s honey oak cabinets, but white shaker cabinets, grey, blue, etc. If you have a bigger kitchen it might cost a little more, but not a ton more. These cabinets will not have all the fancy drawers and pull-outs, but you can get those cabinets for a little more and certainly less than $5,000. If you go to a custom cabinet shop you might be spending $20,000 for similar cabinets. They might be slightly higher quality, but you have to ask yourself if that is worth it.
If the cabinets are decent in a house but ugly, we will also paint them. I am not talking about resurfacing them with custom doors as that tends to cost more than new cabinets but just paint. They make special paint for cabinets and if they are prepped right will last a long time.
We also buy our counters at Home Depot, which are usually laminate in stock counters. We could buy granite or quartz for all of our houses but we don’t need to. Our houses sell just fine with laminate unless they are higher-end homes. We can pay $500 to $1,000 for laminate counters after installation when granite will cost us $1,500 to $3,000 with quartz being even more. This is for the entry-level granite, not the fancy stuff! When we use granite we also have to get a more expensive under-mount sink, it takes more time to get them measured and ordered, and we usually have to install a backsplash as well which all costs more money. Is laminate as nice? No, not at all, and I prefer to have granite but you have to decide if it is worth the extra money when remodeling a kitchen.
Again, we buy our appliances at Home Depot and usually get entry-level products, but not the absolute cheapest. We go a step up on the dishwasher, the stove, and the microwave. We have found the very cheapest appliances do not last very long, are noisy, and have other issues. We make sure we get a flat top stove not the old coils as they do still sell those. Appliance prices have been increasing significantly lately and they may go back down but for a stove, microwave, and dishwasher we usually pay around $1,200. When I flip houses to sell I also do not include a fridge in most cases. If you are remodeling a kitchen where you live you obviously need a fridge but if you are selling you may not need one. In our market, 80% of buyers bring their own or realize they need to buy one. A fridge can add $1,000 to $2,500 to the appliance costs depending on the model.
You could also buy the high-end appliances and pay $10,000 or more for just a stove or fridge! The question comes down to do you really need these items and how expensive will your home be? if it is a high-end home, yes you may need better appliances but probably not the most expensive you can find. If it is a lower to mid-range valued home you can get away with the more affordable package.
The basics of the kitchen can add up quickly but so can other changes and repairs. Whenever you move walls or change the layout, the costs can be much more than you think. If you move a wall or take down a wall it may be supporting the structure of the home which means you need to get an engineer to make sure the new layout has the proper support. If you change where the sink is or the dishwasher you will have to move plumbing and if you move the stove you will have to move the electric or gas line as well. This may all seem pretty simple but that is on top of the actual demo, tear down, rebuild, and other costs. Removing a wall can add $1,000 to $5,000 to the costs and changing the layout can add that much in costs as well. before you decide to go with a completely different kitchen design or location remember it will cost a lot of money to do so.
The same goes for other changes in remodeling a kitchen. Flooring, paint, lighting, all may seem like easy quick ways to improve the kitchen but it adds up and can be very expensive if you use expensive materials and expensive labor. When we remodel kitchens we try to keep the general layout as close to what it was when we bought the property as we can.
Another huge cost can be labor. It is important to know that not all contractors are the same as far as quality or cost. Just because a contractor is very expensive does not mean they are better than a more affordable contractor. We work very hard to find very good and affordable people to work on our houses. This will be the tough part for many people remodeling their kitchen because they are not used to finding or hiring contractors. Some contractors may charge $20 an hour and some more than $100 an hour. Some may have huge crews and some may be a one-man show. The more expensive contractors may also push people into the more expensive kitchens when it may not be best although that can happen with any contractor. Before you hire a contractor always get references, check their reviews on Facebook, Google, and Yelp, and get a written bid with the cost for labor written out. It is also important to ask if they mark up the materials and take profit on those as well.
What about my personal house?
Many of you are thinking this sounds great for a house we are selling and trying to make the most money on but what about a house I live in where I want all of the fancy stuff! You may also be thinking what about the house I live in, what is it like? To be honest, I have fancy cabinets, fancy counters, very expensive appliances, and a lot of appliances. I have two sub-zero fridges, three dishwashers, another cooler, double ovens, a fancy gas stove, and 2 sinks all in my one kitchen. However, I did not install any of it, I bought the house with all of these things. If I were to buy a new house or remodel a house I would not spend as much money as the old buyers did on this kitchen. I would make sure the new house already had a fancy kitchen or go with less expensive materials.
You can see my house below:
What if you want a fancy kitchen but don’t want to spend the money?
Finally, many people want a kitchen like what I have but don’t have the money to spend on a crazy kitchen or don’t think it is a wise decision. You can do what I did! You can find a house where the owners already spent the money to remodel the kitchen and let them take the hit on the resale value. Even though our kitchen was very expensive it was outdated within 10 years of the house being built. The house is 15 years old now and my wife decided to paint our cabinets to freshen it up. if you spend the money on a crazy kitchen remember you may not be happy with it forever no matter how awesome it is now!
Remodeling a kitchen can be quite the process and very expensive but it does not have to be. There are many ways to save on materials and labor and keeping things simple may not be the most exciting thing to do but it is the most affordable thing to do and will get you the most money back if you decided to sell in most cases.