How much should a new kitchen cost?

A kitchen is by far the most difficult room in your home to design. It is also the most expensive room to equip … whether yours is a remodeling or a kitchen for a brand new house. It is for these two reasons that many people have approached a new kitchen project with a certain degree of trepidation. Many have unnecessarily delayed the undertaking, forfeiting what could have been additional months or years of family-wide enjoyment in the new space.

However, with a basic understanding of the four factors that govern the ultimate cost of a kitchen, such fears can be mitigated. When this ‘passage’ happens, the kitchen buying process will become a truly fun-filled, educational experience.

The Scope Factor

Generally speaking, kitchen remodeling can be broken down into two main categories: (1) full replacement, and (2) major remodeling. Each has its intrinsic characteristics and pitfalls where an onsite consultation with a professional kitchen designer will prove enlightening and cost-effective.

‘Full replacements’ are defined as the change-out of existing cabinetry without any major modifications to the basic kitchen layout. Usually the sink, a few appliances, and sometimes the flooring are replaced at the same time. Depending upon the quality and quantity of the new products (particularly the cabinets), such projects will cost from $10,000 to $25,000 in an average 12’ x 14’ kitchen.

Of course, a major reconfiguring of the kitchen design is possible within the four walls of the space, generating such worthwhile benefits as improved functional layout, additional storage space, and casual dining for 4 – 6 people. It’s here that a legion of professional kitchen designers enjoy fine reputations for creativity and functional problem-solving. It is not uncommon for the 12” x 14’ replacement kitchen to now double in cost to the $20,000 to $50,000 bracket.

Major remodeling is recommended when the clients’ objectives cannot be realized within existing four walls. The frequent objective of this type of undertaking is to create a “great room” where family and friends can cook, dine, relax, watch TV, and party together.

Sometimes the wall between the kitchen and a little used formal dining room is removed to create one large space. Or an adjacent porch or breezeway are annexed where the existing roof and concrete slab make it less costly to rehab than to build an addition from scratch. When the scope of the project is enlarged to include structural changes, an addition, or both, such projects may start at $35,000 and run to $125,000 or more.

Meticulous planning and documentation are mandatory to avoid surprise design considerations and costly change orders after the project is underway. The early hiring of a professional kitchen designer to comprehensively “space plan” the entire project and furnish/install the new kitchen will save you more money than these services cost. Choose a firm that has close ties with reliable remodeling contractors to insure a smooth collaboration and the greatest value. It is also wise to retain 5% of your overall budget for hidden or unknown structural contingencies.

The Design Factor

The second major factor affecting a kitchen project’s cost is the element of design. To illustrate the potential magnitude of this cost factor, picture for a moment your 12’ x 14’ kitchen with a “L-shape” layout along two walls containing 26’ of cabinetry, counters, sink, and appliances. There is a 48” diameter dining table in the opposite corner. Using a ‘popular grade’ quality of cabinetry, the replacement cost for new cabinets, laminate counters, and installation alone would be approximately $11,000. Let’s assume that your sink and appliances will be reused. This layout is Option #1.

Now picture this same space with a different design where an angled “peninsula” is added to the left leg of the original “L-shape”. This alternative represents a creative reconfiguring of the space based upon the your willingness to dine informally at the peninsula snackbar with your family. This arrangement also frees up wall space in the former dining area so a corner china hutch can be installed.

The net result of Option #2 is an extra 11’ of base cabinet storage in the peninsula, 7’ of additional counterspace, a snackbar overhang comfortably accommodating four people, and the 3’ corner china hutch. Using the same cabinet and countertop quality as in Option #1, the cost for this reconfigured design would be approximately $16,000.

In this scenario, the design factor alone impacted the final cost by 46%! So remember, creative designs can definitely add worthwhile aesthetic and functional benefits. But they also contribute heavily to the initial investment cost. Over the useful life of a new kitchen, the benefits of good design usually far outweigh the expense.

The Product Factor

A third major factor affecting costs is product quality. Since up to 60% of an average kitchen project is usually in the cost of cabinetry, this discussion will be limited to the six cabinet qualities. Here is a quick overview:

Shop-Built. Locally built in every region of the country for builders and consumers, this cabinet grade varies widely in quality. Although tagged as “custom”, most don’t measure up to the latest in finishes and accessories, lacking the capital investment in state-of-the-art machinery. Structural integrity meets minimum standards, but the lacquer finishes common to this cabinet grade have questionable durability and are frequently flawed by trapped dust particles. “Toner” stains are often used to mask the imperfections of poorer quality wood. About $300-$400 per cabinet on average – based upon a typical kitchen of 15 cabinets with fillers, panels, moldings, accessories, and freight, but not including installation.

Production. This quality grade invests most of its manufacturing dollar in a good, durable finish. It suffers from a limited number of stylings, finishes, accessories, hardware, and customization. The upside is that the product is usually in stock or available within a few days. It is perfect for investment properties or starter homes. About $350-$600 per cabinet on average.

Semi-Custom. Similar to Production grade in quality, this quality grade offers a wider selection of stylings, finishes, accessories, and hardware. Some customization from standard specifications is possible. Typical delivery is 2-4 weeks. At about $400-$700 per cabinet on average, it’s a good value.

Popular. Most of the increased manufacturing cost is put into the cabinet exterior’s good looks. This quality grade has broader range of wood species, stylings, stain/paint colors, and finishes than Semi-Custom. Suitable for ‘other room’ applications like libraries, it is ‘popularly priced’ at about $600-$900 per cabinet on average. You can expect the beauty to last for 20 or more years.

Furniture. An equivalent manufacturing dollar is invested in the interior construction, fit, and finish as in the exterior. This quality grade has the best painted finishes on wood. It also has unique stylings, excellent quality interior accessories, and first class consumer literature. This grade is perfect for built-in furniture applications in other rooms. These are mostly national manufacturers whose products are well-advertised in prestigious ‘shelter magazines’ like Architectural Digest. Furniture-priced at approximately $800-$1300 per cabinet.

Luxury. This quality grade constitutes ‘leading edge’ manufacturers, mostly from Europe, featuring bold new styles and materials. They utilize state-of-the-art hardware systems and allow very little customization due to the production/engineering methodology. These are internationally known manufacturers who build brand name awareness through extensive advertising in the most prestigious shelter magazines. Buyers of these products generally ignore the high overseas freight costs and will buy these brands to make a ‘fashion statement’. At $1300-$2600 per cabinet on average, they are a real luxury for most people.

The Services Factor

The fourth and final factor affecting cost is the number and quality of services offered to execute a kitchen remodeling or a new kitchen. This is the most critical of the four cost factors because kitchens are largely ‘intangible products’ that are built from scratch on site from a set of blueprints and literally hundreds of parts and pieces from a wide variety of suppliers. The average kitchen dealer limits his operation to planning and installation services. These two services, however, are not nearly enough.

There are 1,001 human errors that can be made in a kitchen project from any of the following sources: designer, cabinet manufacturer, shipper, appliance distributor, countertop fabricator, carpenter, plumber, electrician, and, oh yes, the client. Any one of these errors can cost the client substantial money, frustrating delays, or considerable dissatisfaction with the overall project.

The best kitchen design firms have organized themselves with value-driven product lines, a division of staff labor, a series of management systems, and the best skilled professionals in all staffing positions. Such operational procedures enable these companies to substantially reduce the risk of error in a kitchen project by furnishing greater attention to detail.


Doing a new or remodeled kitchen is little like having open heart surgery. If it’s done wrong, you may not have another chance. And no one wants to live with problems for any great length of time.

So, regardless whether your kitchen investment budget is large or small, it pays to select a kitchen design firm with the best skills and services. These intangibles may cost a little more at the contract stage, but they will save you much more money in mistakes and oversights than they cost. It is these intangibles that will assure you of receiving the quality, performance, value, and satisfaction that you should expect from such a pivotal undertaking.