Step 1: Scope It Out
Determining the scope of your kitchen remodeling project is the best place to start when forming a budget. At the low end of the budget range, a cosmetic facelift -- painting or refinishing existing cabinets, installing new laminate countertops and vinyl flooring, changing out an appliance or two, and replacing a faucet and hardware -- could be done for as little as a few thousand dollars.
At the high end of the budget range, a complete redesign -- including top-of-the-line appliances, cabinetry, and surfaces, as well as changes to walls, plumbing, wiring, and ductwork -- could cost $50,000-$100,000.
Step 2: Shop Around
Once you know the extent of your project, get an idea of the actual budget by visiting showrooms, home improvement centers, and Web sites and pricing individual elements. Focus your research on the big-ticket categories: cabinets, appliances, surfaces, and plumbing fixtures. Total costs for those categories give you a ballpark materials budget. But that's not the total cost of the project. When you factor in design, labor, and installation costs, you could end up spending twice what you paid for materials.
Step 3: Think Long Term
As you crunch numbers, consider your home's value, your neighborhood's future, how long you plan to live there, and the importance resale has to you. A popular rule of thumb says that the budget for a new kitchen should be approximately 15 percent of the assessed value of your home. However, if you plan to move from a $200,000 home in a few years, it may not make sense to invest $30,000 in kitchen renovations. But if you plan to stay in that same home for many years, you may feel comfortable spending twice that.
Step 4: Slice the Pie
Cabinetry, appliances, and labor/installation costs usually gobble up the biggest pieces of the budget pie. Cabinetry alone may eat 40-60 percent. But it depends on what's most important to you. If professional-grade appliances are a must, then you may spend more on those. If you are adding on or moving walls -- and your home is older and holds unpleasant surprises behind its walls -- labor and installation could become your budget's biggest line item.
Step 5: Set Priorities
Knowing what's important to you -- and what's not -- helps cut costs. For example, if solid-wood cabinetry is not important, you can save money with units that contain medium-density fiberboard doors and laminate interiors, then apply the savings to what really matters to you, be it granite countertops or high-end appliances. But if fine cabinets are a priority, you can pair them with more economical countertops and appliances and still have a great-looking kitchen. Just don't scrimp on any one area so much that it interferes with good function.
Step 6: Go With A Pro
Working with a design professional is one of the best ways to get the most for your money. And it doesn't have to be costly. Many showrooms and home centers offer free design services, and some designers will do an initial in-home consultation and budget estimate at no cost. Even if a designer charges an initial fee, it usually pales in comparison to the total cost of a project.
If nothing else, designers also have access to resources and products that may not be available to you on your own. Their novel kitchen remodeling ideas may save you money. Besides, going it alone can be risky. Do-it-yourself design, labor and installation by friends and family, and products and materials from unproven sources invite problems that outweigh any cost savings.