The Price of Home Renovation: What People Are Spending

More and more, we see homeowners who are investing in their homes because they plan to stay there for the long haul. They want to enjoy living in their homes while they are there, and they see that the investments they make now will lead to an easier sale in the future when they decide it’s time to leave. If you fall into this category, knowing what other people are investing in their homes will help you make good decisions about what to spend on your own.

Make no mistake: cheaper is always going to look cheaper — both to you and to the future buyers of your home. And do not default to “builder beige” just because you think that will improve your home’s future value. It doesn’t. And this isn’t about resale value. It’s about investing in your property so you can enjoy it. When the time does come to sell, the people looking at your home will see a beautiful home, not just another house.

Our company works primarily in older homes in the greater metropolitan Philadelphia area, including sections of Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware County and parts of neighboring New Jersey. We see, time and time again, that homes built prior to 1950 were typically very well made, and they lasted a long time. But, by the time we are called in, we have to rebuild the rooms that kitchens and bathrooms are going into. We are not just popping in new cabinets and paint. You can see examples of full gut kitchen and bathroom remodels we typically do by tapping the “projects images tab” on our web site menu.

Renovations for most project homes we work on fall into five main categories:

1. Smaller, modest kitchens

These rooms (12′ x 12′ or less) are gutted out to the studs, rewired and re-plumbed, followed by the installation of all new floors, ceilings and walls. No walls are moved.
Typically, we will do these projects for landlords or clients with modest budgets.
We select good, hardwearing products like maple cabinets and laminate counters. No big bells and whistles on these projects, but we do try to do something special for each. Typical flooring is tile, cork or hardwood.
These projects average $45,000.

2. Mid-size kitchens

Average 16′ x 18′ or larger
Again, we strip out these old rooms to the studs and original sub-flooring, then we rewire and re-plumb the rooms because the rooms usually need many lights, a circuit breaker for each appliance, and new plumbing locations for the various appliances and sinks.
Typically, we do these rooms for homeowners who plan to stay in their house or sell in a few years.
There are many more upgrades in these kitchens, and typical finishes include stained or painted cabinets, stone or granite counters, stainless appliances, nice tile backsplashes, and high-quality cork, tile or site-finished flooring.
Average project costs $82,000

3. Large kitchens

Average 18′ x 20′ or larger
Again, a total strip out to the studs (see above)
Often, we remove load-bearing walls and create new door or window openings
High-quality cabinetry is installed (custom factory made or bespoke locally made by craftsmen). Typical finishes are stained hardwood or painted wood.
These rooms have more bells and whistles, including high-end appliances from Thermador, Wolf, Viking or Sub Zero.
Average project costs $132,000

4. New powder room additions

No plumbing, wiring or walls exist
We install tile or hardwood floors, low-flow, high-style toilets, attractive lighting and high-quality fixtures
Average $18,000

5. Main bathrooms

These are the main household bathrooms in people’s homes, the ones that get the majority of the use.
These are total tear outs, to the studs and joists, which we typically have to repair for structural damage.
These older bathrooms have a few inches of concrete on the floors and walls, under the tile.
We completely rewire and re-plumb these rooms, often replacing the large radiators with radiant floor heat
High-quality, low-flow toilets, and ceramic tubs and sinks are installed
High-quality wall and floor tiles are installed
High-quality accessories like heavy chrome towel rods and towel warmers are installed
Average $56,000

6. Master Bathrooms

These are often very small when we first see them (approx. 8′ x 6′)
To meet modern standards for a master bath, we need to increase their footprint to 8′ x 12′ or more, so we are moving walls and plumbing after we remove the concrete, plaster walls and ceilings.
These rooms get all of the bells and whistles. High-end tile, stone counters, his and hers sinks, shower, tubs, steam rooms, jetted tubs, separate toilet rooms, lots of glass.
Average $84,000 and up

Avoid These Remodeling Mistakes

We all make mistakes in life. Usually, they are minor, and we can move on with little damage to ourselves, our property and our loved ones. But renovation mistakes can harm all three. Let’s take a look at a recent call to our office that raises red flags for renovation mistakes to come.

An e-mail came in to our office from a young couple with a small 3-bedroom, 1-bathroom city house. The homeowners had lived in the house for 3 years and said they were ready to begin gutting and renovating the house. Sounded like it could be an exciting project. I asked some questions to learn some more about what was being planned. Here’s what I found:

1. They intended on living in the home while renovations were underway. (This is a recipe for discomfort, at minimum. In fact, many a marriage has crumbled under this kind of stress. Paying for a short-term rental is much easier and more comfortable for homeowners undertaking a major home renovation.)

2. The renovations would include every room of the house, including the single bathroom and their bedroom. (Where would they sleep or go to use the toilet or shower?)

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A Visual Breakdown of Kitchen Renovation Costs

I asked Dana, who is very good with the computers, to give us a simple pie chart of one of our recent kitchen projects. Here you go:

I wanted this tool because many homeowners think the most expensive stuff in their kitchen is the cabinetry and counter tops. You can see from the graph that this is not the case at all. In this case its less than 18% of our typical kitchen project.

“How come?” you ask. Let me explain;

The only way your biggest cost would be in cabinets and counters would be if you were swapping out the exact kitchen you have now; same layout, with new cabinets and a new counter top, or re-facing the kitchen you have and adding a new counter top.

Most of the people who call us want a completely new kitchen space with the room stripped to the subfloors and studs. So all the stuff that is in the walls; your pipes, wires, insulation, and often even the structural elements, doors and windows, gets moved or changed or replaced. And then we have to put in all the new stuff you do see like drywall, stone, tile, paint, cabinets floors, lights and outlets, heating and cooling and ventilation and lots of other stuff.

That’s a lot of stuff! Some of it isn’t very sexy the way cabinets and counter tops can be. But it all needs to be done if your kitchen is going to work well.