If you've recently completed a major remodel or decoration project, where did the majority of your dollars go? Chances are, your kitchen took the lion's share. Over the last five years, nearly four in ten home improvement dollars have gone into kitchens and future spending is likely to follow the same trend, according to a recent survey by Houzz.
U.S. homeowners on average spent $28,030 to remodel their kitchens over the last five years, with costs varying widely at different budget levels. Nationwide, the average cost for a high-end kitchen was $54,942, $22,390 for a mid-range kitchen, and $7,133 for a lower-budget kitchen. Regionally, homeowners in the East South Central part of the country spent the least on their kitchen remodels (average of $19,981) while New Englanders spent the most at $35,678 on average. These numbers varied widely by market, too -- the average cost for a high-end kitchen in Washington, DC was $89,444 while a high-end kitchen in Oklahoma City, OK averaged $33,160. The average cost for a mid-range kitchen in San Francisco was $35,744 while in Jackson, MS homeowners spent $12,517 on average for a mid-range kitchen.
Given the variability in costs -- and the fact that a significant number of homeowners reported going over budget -- how do you avoid breaking the bank when you remodel your kitchen?
Set a Maximum Budget
Create a wish-list for everything you want, whether that means professional-grade appliances or built-ins. Be as detailed as possible so that professionals can give you an accurate estimate of actual costs. Allow for a few places where you'll want to splurge (like a kitchen backsplash) and a contingency -- structural problems often crop up that you may not have anticipated if you're doing major construction on your kitchen.
Keep the Same Footprint
One of the biggest cost drivers for a kitchen remodel that homeowners often under-budget and don't adequately plan for are structural issues. Changing the footprint of your kitchen in any way will bump up your budget. Moving the kitchen or building an addition, involves major construction as well as new electrical, plumbing and flooring.
Opening up to another room could require structural work and unforeseen costs if you don't have a load-bearing wall. Even relocating the sink or range would mean moving the plumbing or gas lines. Understanding that there are no standard costs for a remodel -- every home is unique because of its age, layout and construction type -- will help you be more realistic about the potential costs of your project.
Pick Your Fixtures and Finishings
This sounds easy, right? You'd be surprised how many homeowners run up costs and delay projects because they haven't thoroughly researched and picked design elements like light fixtures, cabinetry and hardware in advance. With so many options, it's easy to get overwhelmed. Granite, wood, soapstone, marble, quartz surfacing, laminate, concrete, tile -- these are just a few materials to consider for countertops alone.
Get started by researching different products online, including costs and usage (marble is susceptible to stains, for example) in order to find the product that's right for you. Before making a purchase, get a sense for how the product looks in finished spaces; there are more than 260,000 photos of real kitchens on Houzz to help you gather and refine ideas for your own space.
Contractors will need to have your finishes and fixtures in order to provide accurate, final pricing. While it's tempting to change your mind during the process, having a plan and sticking to it is the best way to keep your budget on track.
Find the Right Professional
58 percent of homeowners planning projects in the next two years plan to hire a professional, and even homeowners planning to take on a kitchen remodel themselves will likely consult with a professional at some point during the process. Finding the right professional for your project and style will make the experience much more enjoyable and help get your remodel done on time and on budget.
While referrals from friends and family can help get you started, you'll want to find a professional whose design aesthetic matches your own. Research local remodelers, and read their ratings and reviews. Personality is just as important -- more than two-thirds of homeowners in the Houzz survey cited "a personality I can work with" as an important factor when it comes to hiring a professional for their project.
Ask to meet with professionals at your home so you can assess how they work, take note of the questions they ask and who's willing to give you some rough numbers. Bring basic space, electrical, mechanical and lighting plans to your meeting to help a contractor provide you with a more accurate, initial estimate.
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