How to cut $20,000 Out of A $85,000 Kitchen Remodel

My clients in Bethesda, MD want to remodel their kitchen for $65,000.  Their remodel is not a simple cabinetry replacement or fixture & appliance upgrade.  They have a 1920’s home with a tiny, closed-off kitchen.  They want a modern, open floor plan and a large kitchen with 2 work areas.  Below is a rendering of the kitchen they want.  It had granite countertops and backsplash, stainless steel appliances, a prep sink and eating counter for 3 and bookended with the wine rack on one side and a bookshelf (only back visible) for cookbooks on the other.  The door on the right leads to a decent sized pantry.  Floating shelves in the corner and above the refrigerator are display shelves.

Dream Kitchen Remodel
Dream Kitchen Remodel

We selected this concept out of 4 concepts that I developed for them during the conceptual design stage.  The other concepts would have been more expensive requiring staged execution as they were able to finance the work.  The selected concept met all their wish-list items except for a powder room.  I warned my clients that, with all the bells and whistles they wanted, the selected concept was also likely unaffordable but that I was sure that with some compromise, we could get the costs in line with their budget.

After I did a detailed cost evaluation, the total projected cost, including a 10% contingency, came to $85,000 — $20,000 and 30% over my client’s budget.  Here are the changes we’re making to bring the costs in line with the budget.

  • Switch Cabinet Lines — My clients initially selected a line with an unusual stile design; the new cabinet line – retaining the same solid construction — offers a more traditional shaker door.    Savings:  $5,500
  • Laminate Countertops & Subway Tile – My clients wanted granite countertops and a different stone backsplash; they still have the option to upgrade their countertops at some point in the future.     Savings:  $3,000
  • Porcelain Kitchen Flooring.  My clients prefer wood floors but the rest of their wood floors are in wonderful shape.  By using a different material in the kitchen, we save the cost of refinishing the rest of the floors on the first floor.    Savings:  $3,500
  • Appliances.  My clients have a new white refrigerator that they really like.  They wanted to replace it with the same model stainless fridge and purchase other stainless appliances.  They save a lot of money by keeping the existing fridge and purchasing a white range & dishwasher.    Savings:  $2,500
  • Eliminate Prep Sink – The majority of the savings here are labor savings – reduced plumbing and construction costs.    Savings:  $5,000
  • Fixtures – Reduce the cost of individual fixtures & hardware.    Savings:  $500
  • Total Savings:  $20,000

Notice that I didn’t sacrifice the 10% contingency.  If you want to stay within your budget always include at least a 10% contingency.  No matter how good your planning, due to unforeseen items or changes in scope, the contingency is almost always used.  And I never want my clients surprised at the end of the job.

Here’s what the less expensive kitchen will look like when we’re done.  I think the biggest sacrifice is an undermount sink (which can’t be used with laminate).  Given their lifestyle the prep sink was more a luxury than a necessity.  Today’s laminates are beautiful and the staple in upscale European kitchens.  Slightly less money would have been saved by using resilient cork flooring — that’s easier on the back and feet — instead of porcelain.

Lowering the Cost of Your Kitchen Remodel
Kitchen to Be Built – $20,000 Savings Over Original Concept

For me the lesson is that you always need to start with your dream – even if from the beginning you know you can’t afford it.  If you don’t think through what’s important to you, you don’t know what compromises are worth making.  But after you dream, you need to be willing to compromise so you can fit a relatively close vision of your dream into your budget.

Your compromises will likely be different from my clients.  You might need to scale down lighting, window and door replacement, or elements of your design.  But as seen here, it’s likely that with thoughtful changes, you can come extremely close to your dream at a much reduced price tag.

I would love to hear about how you saved money in your kitchen remodel.  And if you want me to use your kitchen as a case study, just contact me through the contact link.
In case you’re curious, here’s an image of the existing kitchen.

Before & After Kitchen Remodel
Here’s the “Before” Kitchen

All images courtesy of Braitman Design/Build.

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