How to budget for a kitchen renovation

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Brian ActonContributing WriterBrian Acton is a contributing writer at Policygenius, where he covers insurance and finance. His work has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, TIME, USA Today, MarketWatch, Inc. Magazine, and HuffPost. 

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Renovating your kitchen can have a transformative effect on your home, creating an updated space for cooking and congregating. It can also increase your home’s resale value and boost its appeal to buyers. (Read our guide to selling your house.)

But kitchen renovations can be one of the most expensive remodeling projects. According to Home Advisor, kitchen remodels cost an average $150 per square foot or $23,559 to complete once you factor in materials and labor. If you’re going high-end, that cost could easily double.

To keep costs under control, you need to set a budget and stick with it. Here’s how to budget for a kitchen renovation.

1. Determine the scope of your project

First, you need to define the scope of your renovation. Are you planning on refinishing and updating some items, like sinks and countertops, while leaving others intact? Or are you planning on ripping and replacing everything in your kitchen? The latter will be far more expensive.

Once you know what you want to accomplish, you can more accurately determine the cost of your renovation. You may want to consult with a contractor early in the project planning stage to define all the costs that will go into your remodel.

2. Create an itemized list of materials

To get a sense of your materials cost, you can build out an itemized list of supplies. For each item, list out multiple brands at different price points. This will allow you to play with the numbers and decide where to allocate your funds.

“Create an itemized list of all the appliances, fixtures, building materials and finishes that you want for your kitchen,” said John Bodrozic, co-founder of HomeZada, software that helps track, plan and manage home improvement projects. “This includes everything including base cabinets, upper cabinets, countertops, garbage disposal, fume hood, flooring, light fixtures, every appliance and more.”

Flag which items are necessities and which ones would be merely nice to have. When you’re establishing your budget, you’ll know which things you can’t budge on and which can be downgraded or lost entirely.

Keep in mind there may be hidden costs you need to factor into your project, like fixing building code issues and the costs of eating out while your kitchen is unusable. This Old House suggests setting aside 15% of your budget for hidden costs.

3. Know how much you can spend

Once you have an idea of your materials cost, it’s time to figure out how much in total you can afford to spend. Set a budget that won’t break your bank. Whether you experience a financial emergency or you just need to pay the bills, you don’t want your renovation project getting in the way. Ultimately, you may need to change the scope of your project to make it affordable.

Some people turn to loans to finance their renovation projects, especially when they have equity in their home. But unless you know your renovation will drastically increase the resale value of your home, you should try to pay out of pocket. This will motivate you to keep costs low and you won’t end up paying interest on a loan.

Read more about home improvement loans.

4. Shop around for contractor quotes

Whether you’re researching contractors online or getting recommendations from friends, get quotes from multiple contractors and pick one based on price and their ability to do the job, rather than hiring the first person you speak to. You could end up overpaying or hiring someone who’s not a great fit.

“Get at least three qualified quotes from kitchen contractors,” Bodrozic said. “Make sure you tell them what products and brands you are interested in so they can incorporate that into their bid. The big difference here is their bid will include all the labor, tools and other overhead to actually perform the project.”

5. Look for cost-cutting opportunities

To stay on budget, you can look at ways to cut costs. Anything you can do yourself, whether it’s painting the walls or replacing light fixtures, will save you money in labor. Also, look at repairing old appliances rather than replacing them outright.“The average service repair call is estimated to run homeowners between $200 and $300, which includes not only the visit but also the parts and cleaning. To replace that same appliance, such as a refrigerator, would cost the homeowner approximately $1,400 to 1,600,” said Chris Blanchette, a Mr. Appliance franchise owner. He recommends hiring a technician to diagnose and repair (when possible) any appliances under 15 years old.

6. Stick to the plan

Making changes to your renovation plan in the middle of a project can cause your budget to skyrocket. While some changes are unavoidable, try to limit any major deviations. They can cause costs to spiral out of control.

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