When you begin planning a kitchen renovation project, you may have no idea how much your ideal vision might cost. The answer will likely depend on several factors, including the size of your space, what you will do to it, and your budget. In the end, the price of a renovation should largely be driven by your own choices.

You have two major cost categories.

 Labor and Materials. 

 Labor can be as much as 60% of the total cost of a renovation and remember that cost leaves when the job is finished.  So you should consider this when considering your return on investment and how much value this renovation will bring to the home.  Cheap labor is just that.  Hiring people that have a low skill sets can end up being a huge costly mistake.

Here’s an example: a $10/hr guy that takes 20 hours to complete a job or $200 but then the job has to be done over by a more qualified person that costs $20/hr.  So this guy has to demo the bad job, cleanup the mess and start over.   He’s in for 30 hours of labor which $600.  So now you have a $800 labor cost.  When if you had hired the $20/hr guy in the first place, he would have done it in 10/hrs and completed it correctly for $200.

Materials always choose the best for the price range of home.  In other words you put a different quality of materials into a $100,000 home verses a $600,000 home.  Do your homework, shop around, be creative, re- purpose as much as you can.

That said, there are some common reasons kitchen renovations go over the original budget.  Another is Poor Planning.  If you are doing down to the studs total gut of the kitchen, removing walls and major reconfiguration, then you better hire a structural engineer and an architect.  You’ll spend $2500 and up but it will be money well spent.  You’ll have a precise road map of the project and everyone will be on the same page.  Below are 8 more of the most common reasons renovations go over budget.

Upgraded Finishes

1. Custom cabinetry. 
Cabinet costs range widely, largely depending on whether they come from a big-box store or are semi-custom or custom-made. Stock cabinets typically cost $50 per linear foot, while custom cabinetry can run up to $2,000 per linear foot.

The key is to know how much the designs you want might cost before you actually start to renovate. Keep in mind that specialty and custom items usually cost more. For example, it may look beautiful to stretch your upper cabinets to 12 feet to balance out high ceilings. But with this design, “you’ve almost quadrupled the cost because your standard cabinet doesn’t go to 12 feet. Now you’re doing super-custom cabinets.   Ask your architect, designer or general contractor to advise you on the costs of various options early. If you’re acting as your own general contractor and hiring individual tradespeople directly, you can discuss cost upfront with them before you finalize your plan. 

Read more about different types of cabinets and their costs

The No. 1 reason that renovation projects (all projects, not just kitchens) go over budget is owners choosing more upscale products and finishes, according to a recent survey of 120,000 registered Houzz users, including 70,000 who renovated in 2015. Nearly half of those who went over their budget cited this as a reason. 

About 40 percent of those who busted their budgets said finding out that products or services were more expensive than anticipated was the culprit, according to the survey.

2. Special features. In addition to the external features of cabinets, the innards can increase the cost. Examples of nice-to-have but pricey cabinetry add-ons include a magic corner, where pullout shelves provide access to a hidden portion of a cabinet that you otherwise couldn’t reach, a knife drawer, or spice or wine racks. “There are so many things you can add to cabinetry.

Before committing to a special feature, you may want to consider how much you’ll really use it. That way, you can determine if the added functionality is worth the cost to you.

3. Countertops. The cost for countertops ranges widely. Plastic laminate countertops are relatively affordable at $8 to $20 per square foot. Quartz and granite typically run much higher, anywhere from $50 to $120 per square foot.

4. Appliances. Appliances also range widely in cost, from under $1,000 to several thousand, depending on the make, model and features. Luxury appliances like Wolf and Sub-Zero are priced on the higher end of the range, and brands like GE are more budget. A Sub-Zero refrigerator could cost upward of $7,500, while a basic GE model from Sears could cost under $500. A Miele gas range could run $7,000, and a premium 60-inch model from La Cornue more than twice that. An Asko dishwasher could cost more than $1,000, whereas some LG models sell at just $450. 

 Do your research and find out what you get for the various cost ranges so that you can determine if the price of the features is worth the expense for your family.

Beyond the costs that the owner controls by selecting finishes and materials are the costs resulting from structural problems that simply must be resolved. 

5. Unforeseen structural issues. 
You might open a wall and find that termites have eaten half the studs. Perhaps once the kitchen flooring is removed, you find that an undetected water leak has rotted the subfloor and floor joists.
Such unforeseen issues are good incentives to do pre-project due diligence. Even so, not every problem can be caught ahead of time. Many designers recommend reserving a 20 percent contingency in your kitchen renovation budget for unexpected surprises.

6. Code compliance. For example, I have seen when a new gas range is a high-BTU unit, a larger gas pipe may need to be installed — which entails opening up the wall and replacing the pipe.  I have seen plumbing vent issues when the original sink plumbing was not correctly installed. “We [have] also found ceiling joists or floor joists not built correctly and had to replace them to meet current standards and or codes.

Let’s Just Call It ‘Bloat’

The final category of reasons that kitchen renovations go over budget is basically entirely within your control. 

7. Changing your mind. 
For your contractor to accurately predict the project cost, it’s a good idea to select all your finishes before the construction work starts. “If you haven’t picked them out, invariably it will be more money. Two, it will take more time. And three, it will mess up the schedule — which will also cost more money.

Changing finishes or materials mid-project typically results in a change order, which can slow the timeline and increase the cost. It might be a configuration of an island countertop you have decided on; Homeowners may not like it and want to change it.  Those things will definitely add to the cost.” 

Even when folks know making a change will add to the cost, some homeowners will still want to change the plans midway. In fact, this was the third most common reason kitchen budgets got blown, according to the survey of registered Houzzers.

8. Mission creep. This is the term for what happens when your kitchen renovation is looking amazing … and suddenly you decide you want to also redo the trim on the living room and dining room, and put in all new doors. Suddenly your mission has expanded into the dining room and living areas.  That’s probably the No. 1 place where we see their budget get blown out more.”