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.