In 2010–2011, the average cost of a major kitchen remodel for a middle-of-the-road project was $58,367, according to Remodeling Magazine, which publishes these figures annually. A minor remodel checked in at $21,695. At the other end of the spectrum—where, sometimes, old-house owners who like period details might find themselves—an upscale kitchen re-do cost an average of $113,464. Keep in mind that homeowners are likely to recoup only about 60 to 70 percent of the cost of a kitchen renovation when they sell the house.
There are, of course, hundreds of variables to consider in budgeting for a new kitchen, beginning with whether the kitchen project is an addition, a gut renovation, a restoration, or just a facelift. Then there is the overall size of the kitchen, and how it's fitted out: Stock cabinets from a home store, period-style cabinets customized to your space, site-specific cabinets from a boutique cabinetmaker, or simple base cabinets by a local carpenter? Will the new range be a modest all-purpose model (in white enamel—or maybe stainless steel?), a high-end commercial-grade range, or a painstakingly restored 1920s classic?
Where does the money go? A lot gets eaten up by labor costs and necessary upgrades to electrical, gas, and plumbing services. In gut renovations, simply replacing the drywall can cost $20,000 in a 16' x 16' kitchen. The rest goes to big-ticket items, including cabinets, countertops, and appliances. Finishing touches—the floor, counter backsplashes, lighting, and hardware—hike up the bill.
Budgeting for your Cabinets
Good quality, brand-name stock cabinets from a home store start at about $250 per linear foot and go up quickly from there depending on options; cabinet bases with drawers or special features like storage bins cost more, as do islands. Expect to pay at least $5,000 for a modest run of cabinets—say, 10' of base cabinets and 10' of top cabinets.
Large kitchens might have 30 to 50 linear feet of cabinets, plus islands and other built-ins. The cabinets alone could easily cost $30,000 or more before installation. That figure is the starting price for cabinetry from Crown Point Cabinetry, a company known for its period-friendly kitchens sold directly to customers. (The figure is based on a kitchen measuring about 16' x 16', says Jeff Stowell, the company’s creative director. The price does not include installation, countertops, or custom paint.)
Do-It-Yourself Custom Cabinets
Think you can save money by building your cabinets yourself? You can, provided you are a skilled carpenter and already have a workshop set up. The owner of a 1920s Colonial Revival in Connecticut equipped his 112-square-foot, galley-style kitchen with about 24 linear feet of period-inspired cabinets for $2,100. That’s less than $90 per linear foot. Adding in the cost of a fully equipped woodworking shop ($5,000) would raise the figure to $295 per linear foot. Still not a bad price for custom-built cabinets with features like flat-panel detailing, sculpted feet, and patterned ventilation holes. He estimates custom cabinets would have set him back at least $25,000.
Antiques and Architectural Salvage
Using cabinets sparingly and substituting antique pieces for storage appears to be a good way to save money—and end up with a period-look kitchen. When a consultant on Victorian restoration redid the kitchen in his turn-of-the-century town house in Galveston, he chose an 1890s Hoosier cabinet, an antique kitchen table equipped with bins and drawers, a small wall cabinet, and an old icebox rather than ordering new cabinets. Other savings came from using salvaged beadboard on the walls and simply painting the existing floor rather than replacing or sanding and refinishing it. The total cost of the kitchen was $12,000.
Similarly, a Connecticut couple who renovated a ca. 1800 Greek Revival building saved money by using continuous cabinets on just the lower half of one wall. The 9½-linear-foot run cost $2,200 from a home store—less than they paid for the soapstone countertops that top them. The owners stow their dishes in a pie safe in a small adjacent pantry, adding shelving for $450. The single upper cabinet is another antique, an old spice cabinet. The entire kitchen cost $9,000.
Splurging on Cabinets
At the other end of the old-house spectrum, homeowners in upstate New York had a trusted cabinetmaker build and install period-style cabinets in the unusually shaped 8' x 20' kitchen of their 1910 Colonial Revival. At one end is a galley-style arrangement with runs of lower and upper cabinets on either side; on the other end is a freestanding 8' buffet that measures about 50" wide, with a corner sink cabinet on the opposite wall. Made of birch plywood with maple face frames, doors, and drawers, and liberally decorated with sculptural supports and bracketed feet, the cabinets cost nearly $43,000—about $750 per linear foot.
Budgeting for Vintage Appliances
Old-house lovers have been known to splurge on restored and reproduction ranges and refrigerators. The same Connecticut renovator who saved so much with DIY cabinets spent well over $11,000 to buy and restore a six-burner Glenwood range. Another splurge, a 36" double-door Liebherr refrigerator ($5,800) cost another $1,250 when it got a period facelift, paneled to resemble a wood-clad icebox. By comparison, the owners who used salvage bought contemporary, stainless-steel LG appliances (range, range hood, dishwasher, refrigerator) for a package price of $3,200.
Countertops are another big-ticket item, especially in materials like natural stone or custom fabricated metals. Both soapstone and granite ran all of the homeowners quoted in this story more than $100 per square foot to buy and install. The Pasadena couple spent about $240 per square foot to custom-fabricate stainless-steel countertops and a sink backsplash for their classic 1920s service kitchen.