The Kitchen Designer

Thanks for stopping by! I'm Susan Serra, certified kitchen designer, and my mission is to take kitchen design style, function and analysis to a higher level. Here's why the kitchen has the most honored place in the home - all five senses reside in the kitchen.  Best...Susan  Contact: susan@susanserraassociates.com

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The Next Kitchen Estimate Saga

Since I promised to offer "useful information", I think it's a good thing to talk about the estimate and how it unfolds in certain situations, really, any situation that I come across (well, maybe not ALL, that would be too boring, although I do have a category entitled "The Estimate")...

I went to see a new client over last weekend. Very lovely people. The husband had a number in his head as to what he wanted to spend. So, what I like to do is take my measurements, calculate my costs based on the room size and our conversation, and come up with a categorized list to plug in on my handy estimate form, which my potential clients can keep, file away, rip to shreds, or burn, as desired.

In this case, the client's number in his head was $50,000. I always ask for the client's number after I present my figures.

  • It was a smallish medium kitchen - good
  • They wanted cabinetry with a lacquer finish over an exotic wood and also a painted lacquer finish as well, elsewhere - bad
  • They wanted high end appliances - bad
  • They wanted stone countertops - bad
  • There was a couple of walls to be removed and rebuilt along with other construction - bad
















 My first estimate was, $106,000 for everything, except the floor, which they were doing separately, connected to flooring in other rooms.  This estimate included high end cabinetry (including installation)-$48,000, top appliances-$20,000, stone countertops-$10,000, construction-$20,000, and the rest was for tile and sink/faucet fixtures. It was very good that they were sitting down.

That's ok, that's an initial figure. On the estimate form, I have two figures, one for middle quality cabinetry, and one for high end cabinetry. I also have a range within both of those categories, low to high, the low, which includes less options/goodies, the high, which is more realistic and assumes a fully appointed kitchen cabinetry cost.

So, now to work these figures! There were several variables in my estimate. First, and foremost, is the cabinetry. By talking more specifically about their needs, which led us toward middle quality cabinetry, the price dropped substantially. Can they accept a glossy formica door? No. That's ok, at least we all know what is a priority. Now, if one wants to work on a particular budget, one must be flexible. So, my thought was for the appliance category, that they should choose one or two high end appliances that they really wanted, and go toward more middle pricing on the other appliances. That was received as a great option.

Another consideration was construction costs. Can I wave a wand and have my construction price be right on target? Of course not. I do have a good sense of construction costs, and usually estimate a bit too high, so as not to have to surprise people later on. In this case, I felt I could have estimated too high, based on a just completed project, so we deducted some money, probably a bit too much. Next step is to get in a contractor to narrow the costs down, and the client will make their own financial arrangements with the contractor of their choice.

The remaining category was countertops. Would the countertops be $8,000 rather than $10,000? Very possibly, and probably doable, depending on how the kitchen was designed. Let's save $2,000 there.

estimate2.jpgThe bottom line was that we saved about $35,000 off of my original "high end", "dream kitchen", estimate. The final figure was right around $70,000. But, he still wanted to be around $50,000.

OK, let's categorize $50,000:

Appliances: $15,000

Countertops: $8,000

Construction: $12,000 (demo, move 2 walls, relocate 2, patch ceiling, all new lighting, new circuits, relocate plumbing, sheetrock, patch, etc.) This figure is probably doable, I have a good/fast crew, but needs to be verified.

Tile/Sink/Faucet: $3,000 (includes labor)

This leaves $12,000 left for cabinetry. Out of that figure, take about $4,000 out for installation, which is a little low. Take another $1,500 out for freight and tax. This leaves us with $6,500 left for cabinetry.

They realized that their number of $6,500 was not a realistic number for what they want in the kitchen, especially in terms of a decent middle quality cabinet. And, I'm unable to provide a kitchen at that cost. That's ok. It's more important to understand how the numbers add up, as opposed to looking at one large number. This way, they can decide what to do next, expand the budget, rethink certain categories, etc. I can do no more, I'm only one person!


Lesson: The number that you have in your head may be based on what you'd like to spend, but, with all due respect, may not be based in reality. Secondly, be flexible, or else, nothing can happen at all. Rethink those high end appliances. Put in a less expensive countertop temporarily. Yes, you can downgrade your cabinetry as much as you want, but the quality will not hold up over time, and THAT would be a real nightmare five years down the road. The right answer will always reveal itself to you, but also, listen closely to a design professional's suggestions.



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Reader Comments (7)

Your website is fabulous. My husband and I have just started looking into renovating our 12 year old kitchen. It has been so overwhelming. I have read quite a few of your entries and feel somewhat armed to finally begin the project.

May 15, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Stark

Thank you Karen! Oh, trust me, there is a kitchen UNIVERSE, forget "world" out there. Come back, ask questions, I'll be here. Good luck...

May 16, 2007 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

We are in a similar situation in that we are finding ways to cut cost while keeping the quality. Is there a percentage of the total cost that we should consider as acceptable for the amount spent on the cabinets. Our renovation (in Canada) for a med sized kitchen is around 50,000. including new stove top, fridge, and wall oven and convection microwave. The cabinets are coming in at 20,000. of that...There is not a lot of construction work being done, no walls moved etc. no new window needed. Does that sound about right?average?

June 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterH McLaren

Yes, that sounds like a very reasonable figure for cabinets. There are different qualities of cabinets and of course different specifications for the remodel, so it's impossible to say exactly, but that sounds like an acceptable proportion with plenty of funds left for the rest of the project, I'd assume. Only a guess based on experience....

July 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

In our book The Happy Remodelers, we encourage homeowners to first find out how much they can afford, and then do a little homework and getting a rough estimate for what they want to do, so that when they contact a designer or contractor they won't get too many surprises.
Ignacio Arribas
Author, The Happy Remodelers

December 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterIgnacio Arribas

What is the best way to proceed if you are interested in keeping old cabinets? My 30 year old cabinets have could be refreshed I think, they are nicer quality than much of what is offered out there new, but it would take very skilled design to integrate successfully with things we do want replaced--such as counter tops and appliances.

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea Kearney

Andrea, if you wish to change the design, then you will have a bit of a challenge, as you will need to fill in ew spots with additional cabinetry, and that new cabinetry will never match the old...not that it has to, but do not expect it to. Sure, a skilled craftsman can often refinish old cabinetry, and you may want to have one piece refinished to see what the result might be. I would recommend that you get a designer who will be able to help you work through these details. You're right too...replacing old appliances with new will have an impact on cabinet cutouts, trim, and more. It's tricky to go this route, but not impossible.

March 30, 2010 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

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