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Real costs of a remodel

Last month, I talked about construction drawings, and I wanted to follow up on that post with some information regarding remodel costs. This subject can be very ambiguous because there are so many variables that go into it — but at the same time, it’s so very important! Anyone who is ready to begin a remodel project is always going to first wonder about its cost, after all.

Unfortunately, any Google search will result in extremely variable answers. Remodeling costs are much more difficult to determine because you are working with your home’s existing structure, which means that each person’s circumstances are unique. For example, factors that must be considered and factored into the cost of a remodel include: the age of the home; the type and condition of the existing systems (water, electrical, sewer, heating); the presence of asbestos or lead paint; designs that need to be brought up to code; matching difficult existing conditions (molding and finishes).


The first step to move forward with a possible remodel is calling a reputable licensed contractor who can provide a detailed estimate specific to your home, as opposed to a price per square foot. This article by Model Remodel is written for the Seattle area but is very appropriate by comparison for the San Francisco Bay Area. Note that a seasoned contractor should be able to give you a ballpark quote based on similar projects in your area.


The second step as you embark on a remodeling project is to focus on the design of the space. When investing in a home remodel, most people will decide to purchase high-end materials, appliances, and finishes that will stand the test of time. This is where a designer is extremely helpful, as this individual can help you keep to your budget for such materials, appliances, and finishes, detailing the price of custom details versus stock items and much more.


Additionally, note that soft costs such as material selections are within your control. However, hard costs such as replacement of plumbing, electrical, heating conduit behind the walls are out of your control. Usually the hard costs come first in the project timeline and can eat up a healthy portion of one’s budget. With proper budget planning, you can ensure that you’ll have allocated the funds to the features you’re actually going to see! This is where a designer can really help you in the planning stages of a remodel — they will ensure that you fully understand the costs involved in all stages of the remodel, thereby ensuring you the visible/tangible outcome you so desire.


Now for some real numbers to get an idea of the ballpark budget for your type of remodel per Remodeling Magazine’s 2022 Cost vs. Value Report. They cite the average cost of kitchen remodel in SF Bay area:



Therefore, a major kitchen remodel with upscale finishes in the Bay Area is realistically going to run $150,000. If custom cabinets, quartz countertops, hardwoods, and designer fixtures are what you’re looking for, it’s going to cost you over $150,000. These materials fall under the “upscale” category in the report, but the reality is that these materials are kitchen standards in the current marketplace. Unless you simply want to swap out countertops and some cabinet hardware, you’re looking at a large investment for that Pinterest-worthy kitchen.

And there are a few factors in material selection that can really drive those averages much higher than reported. They are appliances, level of cabinetry, and plumbing fixtures. Some chef grade appliance suites can be $100,000 alone, so appliances can carry a lot of weight in the overall budget. Cabinetry is also a big ticket item, as it covers most of the area of the kitchen. The door style (designer or not), the grade of wood, and the built-ins within the cabinet all add cost to this big ticket item. Again, your designer can help you navigate these waters to find what is right for you. Any designer will present you the options that meet your functional needs and work within your budget.


I hope that I’ve helped to shed light on the costs of remodeling, while also pointing out how a designer can bring a lot of value to the client’s experience during this extensive process.





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