Kitchen renovations: Save or splurge?

by Contributor21 Mar 2018

In its ideal state, the kitchen is a vital room in any home – a comfortable, welcoming space to cook, eat, make plans, share ideas, do homework, communicate with family and socialize with friends. However, when kitchens are poorly laid out, make inefficient use of space or are unattractively outdated, they become less the heart of the home and more the heartache. Because kitchens are one of the most expensive and disruptive construction projects to undertake, it makes sense to carefully plan each aspect of a kitchen renovation well in advance to maximize future enjoyment and return on investment.

Start with a plan and a budget
Before contacting a kitchen designer or contractor, determine what’s wrong with the current space. A makeover that increases the function and efficiency of the kitchen will not only make living in the space more satisfying, it will also add the most value to the property. This might mean changing the layout by repositioning appliances, fixtures or eating areas to maximize flow, or creating a work triangle between the sink, fridge and stove to increase the efficiency of meal preparation. If the room is too small, building an addition will not only increase the square footage of the home, but also expand the design possibilities for the kitchen.

Take the time to sketch out various design solutions. Having a plan on paper will make it easier to visualize the new space and help convey your ideas to the professionals you hire to bring the project to life.

Kitchen renovation costs can run from a few thousand dollars for minor cosmetic changes to tens of thousands of dollars (or more) for large-scale additions, depending on the scope of work and the condition of the property. A good rule of thumb is to budget between 4% and 8% of the value of the property for the total project. Within that budget, plan to spend:

• 30% on cabinetry and hardware

• 15% on installation

• 15% on appliances

• 10% on countertops

• 6% on flooring

• 6% on windows and doors

• 5% on ceilings and walls

• 5% on lighting

• 4% on plumbing

Also reserve 4% of the total budget as a contingency for unexpected issues that will inevitably come up during the renovation.

Splurge or save?
The must-have elements in a kitchen are subjective; what will be important to one person might not be to another. For example, those who love to cook would splurge on professional-grade appliances, whereas busy families might care more about having extra storage and seating in a kitchen. To maximize ROI, the most successful investors know where to save money and where to splurge, choosing elements with wide appeal and avoiding extremes.
Splurge: Nothing beats the beauty and durability of custom-made cabinets. These luxurious showpieces are available in an endless variety of sizes, colours and finishes. From crown moulding to ingenious storage solutions, custom design is all about personalizing the details you can’t get anywhere else – with a price tag to match.

Save: Choose flat-pack cabinets, available at most big box stores. These easily cost 35% to 45% less than custom-designed cabinets. Available in standard sizes, they come in many different styles and colours, making them an attractive alternative. Adding matching panelled cabinet ends, soft-close drawers and modern hardware can boost the overall appeal without breaking the budget.

Splurge: Kitchens filled with the latest and greatest appliances, gadgets and custom built-ins are sure to impress everyone, whether they can cook or not. The price tag for a fully loaded commercial-grade kitchen using brands like Miele, Gaggenau or La Cornue is between $40,000 and $150,000 – possibly more.
Save: Ditch the fancy sink faucet, pot filler tap, wine fridge and extras like built-in coffee makers. None of these have a good ROI. Choose good quality mid-range appliances over their top-of-the-line counterparts. Brands like GE, KitchenAid and Frigidaire have excellent warranties and start around $3,500 for a fridge, stove and dishwasher package. To boost the kitchen appeal, opt for stainless steel models, which will complement any cabinet style and offer a healthy ROI for resale.
Splurge: Granite counters are a staple in any luxury kitchen because they’re gorgeous, almost impossible to damage and available in a never-ending assortment of colours. The natural minerals found in granite add depth and dimension that’s impossible to replicate, making each counter truly unique. Prices range from $45 to more than $300 per square foot, including installation.
Save: Solid surfaces like Corian or engineered quartz are great alternatives to granite, offering durability and style starting around $35 per square foot. Another cost-effective option is laminate, which is easy to install, is heat- and stain resistant, and comes in a huge variety of colours and textures. With prices ranging between $10 and $40 per square foot, laminate offers a terrific ROI. Butcher block is a hot new trend that can give your kitchen an affordable wow factor; wood is versatile, adding natural warmth and beauty to any space, starting around $20 per square foot.

There is a kitchen renovation to suit every budget. When the fundamentals of function, efficiency, style and longevity are properly implemented, a kitchen can last 20 years or more and add substantial value to a property.

Vanessa Roman is a licensed real estate agent in BC, property columnist and the host of HGTV’s Reno vs Relocate. Find out more at

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