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Embarking on a kitchen renovation can be a daunting endeavor. There is the scope of your project and the layout of its design (these are the nuts and bolts of your renovation), but then dozens of selections follow, each with hundreds of options.

The Internet, magazines and model home tours are full of snazzy inspirations that can take your breath away — and your budget. Most of those beautiful photographs or showroom kitchens do not advertise their price tags, and this leads to a whole new arena to navigate: knowing how much to save and spend.

A number of homeowner questions come up on nearly every kitchen renovation project. Many companies avoid or outright refuse to answer these questions cold — which can be understandable. But that does not make it easier for homeowners to navigate the remodeling process. So in this four-part series, we answer and explain the four most common questions. Part 1 kicks off with the most universal query: cost.

When you enter a showroom and this is your first question, companies may avoid answering it at all costs (no pun intended) because of variability — and this is a fair point.

Take two identical kitchen layouts, one designed in maple cabinets with a mission-style door and no cabinetry storage accessories, and another designed in cherry cabinets with a raised-panel-door style and lots of internal bells and whistles. There could be a $20,000 price difference between these two.

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This example assumes two identical kitchen layouts, but normally when this question is asked cold, designers have no information about your needs or actual space (and clarifying that “I don’t need much; it’s small” is not as helpful as you may think).

To give a realistic price, businesses need more information. This is, in part, the reason they want to take your information and ask you many questions that can lead to a design, which they can price out for you with great specificity. This is a much more accurate method of answering the “how much will it cost” question, from a company’s perspective. However, that is a lot of time invested for a homeowner who literally has no idea if redoing the kitchen might cost $5,000 or $500,000.

With rising material costs, in suburban single-family homes on the East Coast, it is increasingly difficult to find a company to provide the design, material and installation of a full-kitchen remodel for less than $30,000. A range of $30,000 to $40,000 tends to be on the low end of the spectrum, and you can estimate incremental increases of about $20,000 from there to reach mid- and high-end.

The frequent follow-up question: Is it possible to renovate for less than that?

Of course. First, be mindful of the parameters defined upfront: “suburban,” “single-family home,” “East Coast.” Different parts of the country — even different parts of a state — and different kinds of homes are going to affect your renovation cost. (This is important to remember anytime you don’t see these defining parameters listed, but a price associated, with a remodel.) Further, most designers are savvy enough to know how to minimize costs — for instance, cabinet doors are less expensive than drawers — especially on the particular product lines they carry.

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There are also other options to consider, such as coordinating the project yourself: Hiring individual professionals is usually less expensive than going to a one-stop shop offering design, material supply and installers as a packaged deal. To be clear, this “packaged deal” is not a swindle: It takes a lot of energy to find and maintain good talent, and the extra embedded cost is directly related to the value of someone else having figured all of that out, plus managing the entire project for you.

But if you are organized, available and willing to put in the effort yourself, working with a designer on the layout and specifications and hiring separate contractors for the installation can be a money-saving opportunity. (You will first want to discuss who will order the materials, like the cabinetry — you, the designer or the contractor. Some professionals prefer or require ordering the materials themselves, which could be based on anything from liability to trades account deals.)

An additional noteworthy mention: These ballpark numbers (such as $30,000 to $40,000) usually exclude the cost of new appliances.

The reason appliances are typically not included in renovation estimates is, again, because of the variability. You can buy a new microwave for $30 or $1,500; a new refrigerator for $800 or $8,000. There is also a healthy market of used appliances worth considering, which could get you exactly what you want for a fraction of the price, especially if you purchase through a reputable source (the same can be said for many other components of a kitchen, too).

“How much will it cost” can be a difficult question to answer for any professional who is unfamiliar with your particular project. However, there are important clues to listen for and consider when you hear prices given for certain designs on renovation TV shows or from your friend across the county or country. The better question to ask a company you are considering is, “What are the typical low, medium- and high-cost ranges for your full-kitchen remodels?”

This is the first report in a four-part series answering your most burning home renovation questions — the questions companies rarely want to answer for you. Keep an eye out for Parts 2, 3 and 4.


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