NYC Renovation Q's

Kitchen renovation guide: What you can do with a budget of $10,000 to $100,000

How close are you to the kitchen of your dreams?

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The bane of New York City homeowners is that renovations here cost more than anywhere else. (Here's why, by the way.) But since this is the city of gorgeous-but-slightly-decrepit prewar apartments, pristine-but-bland modern boxes, grand, crumbling brownstones, and funky space conversions, renovate we must. And kitchens are often top of the list of places that need fixing up, not to mention the most satisfying. According to appraiser Jonathan Miller, in the hierarchy of renovations that give you most bang for buck, kitchen renovations are "one of the highest." 

Nonetheless, renovations can get very expensive, and not everyone has the means for a total makeover. Here's how much you can do on all types of budgets. (Surprise! Ikea doesn't have to be a four-letter word!)

• The $10,000 face-lift:

With this budget, you may be able to perform several cosmetic updates, depending on the size of your kitchen. But choose those updates wisely. Ben Pitt, a remodeling consultant at My Home US, says: “At $10,000, you are talking about a partial renovation (new countertops/backsplash, new handles/faucet, new lights and maybe appliance upgrades for budget/moderate-end appliances)... and keeping existing floor and cabinets,” he says.

“At that level, you’re really looking at a facelift," says Jeff Streich, owner of Prime Renovations. "New paint job on the walls, maybe even the cabinets. You could replace the backsplash. Or maybe the floor tile. Those do make an impact. But you couldn’t do nice new countertops, and no new appliances.”

More food for thought: If you are willing and able, do (some of) it yourself and save a whole lot more money.  “It’s almost a DIY job to paint the walls and replace light fixtures,” says Streich.

• The $25,000 full renovation—with reservation:

Pitt says "$25,000 would be a good budget for a full kitchen renovation (new cabinets/floors and everything else)," with one caveat: Your choices will lean toward the more affordable end  of the spectrum, meaning stock cabinets opposed to semi-custom, for instance. "And that assumes a pretty small galley kitchen,” he adds.

Streich thinks semi-custom cabinetry is in the budget, if you're willing to go the Ikea route. “You can get mid-range appliances. GE level, for example. And for cabinets, I always recommend Ikea," he explains. "I know in the contracting business ‘Ikea’ is a four-letter word. Many contractors don’t like to work with it for whatever reasons, that’s the drawback. But I’m telling you: They are a great quality product. Their paint finishes are perfect, better even than some custom work I’ve seen. They can be customized. Not fully, obviously, but it’s almost like a semi-custom job because you can work them to fit your space however you like. The hardware holds up great. I’ve never had a single call-back or complaint about Ikea cabinets. Others, I have. Even custom jobs. Fits become loose, finishes fail. But never on Ikea. If I was renovating my own place, I would absolutely go for an Ikea kitchen.”

Don't disregard Ikea, says one contractor.

• $50,000—now you’re cooking with gas:

If a full renovation was possible on $25,000, then double the fun at double the budget. Pitt’s take: “$50,000 budget works for a higher-end kitchen renovation: electric and plumbing upgrades, skim-coating, semi-custom/higher-end cabinets, good quality appliances—and not necessarily in a tiny kitchen.

“At this level, you’re looking at custom cabinets: flat panels, maybe not shaker style. You’ll have lots of options for counters;  a nice ceaserstone would be in the budget. Very nice appliances for sure, however I don’t think you’re looking at upgrades to SubZeros yet," says Streich. "The renovation will be more in-depth, like replacing branch lines all the way back to the risers, which all buildings require now.”

• The $100,000 showstopper:

“A $100,000 budget is for a large, full kitchen renovation with professional (SubZero/Wolf) appliances, high-end semi-custom or fully-custom cabinetry (possibly lacquered or inset) with lots of accessories and assumes a larger space (perhaps a classic-six style kitchen with butler pantry)," explains Pitt. "Wine fridge, instant hot water, disposals, separate bar sink, LED under-cabinet lights are all options at a high budget."

Streich says “you can probably get anything you’d like at this point. The difference here is really in the quality of the materials and appliances you’ll be getting. This is for a showpiece kitchen. This budget will allow for custom mill work from a great shop or perhaps some imported cabinets if you like. Exotic marbles, onyx, imported floor tile. Just keep in mind it sometimes takes around four months to get imported items.” 

SubZero fridges are the Rolls Royces of kitchen appliances.

And in terms of resale value: 

"People like stainless steel appliances—even though those aren’t always more high-end than white or black appliances—but they react differently to anything that looks shiny and new," says Santiago Steele of CitiHabitats.

And, adds CitiHabitats broker Nathaniel Faust:  “It’s important to hire a reputable contractor who will do quality work that will hold up over time. When renovating on a lower budget, a good laminate or a butcher block counter might be a good substitute for granite or marble. It won’t hold up as well over the years, but it can look  great and won’t break the bank. If you’re thinking about resale value and have the budget, hire a designer so your renovation doesn’t end up too personal, but rather appeals to wider audience."

And, he suggests, "try to learn what else has been done in similar lines in your building, it’ll give you ideas for what can work and what won’t. And if at all possible, it’s usually a good idea to remove walls  and doors to  open up a kitchen, especially in smaller apartments.  An open concept living/dining area can make a space feel larger.”


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