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1 Kitchen, 3 Budgets

1 Kitchen, 3 Budgets
Kitchen costs depend on the level of finish and grade of applian
You’re getting ready to build a new house and you’ve selected the plan and fine-tuned the layout to get it to be what you want.  It’s now time to get into the detail of the new house and you’re ready to turn your attention to the kitchen. You’ve visited some kitchen showrooms and appliance stores and you’ve looked into what you should budget for a typical kitchen.  But all you’re getting is confused as some folks tell you $30,000 or less for a kitchen and some tell you north of $100,000 and some just don’t tell you anything.

The numbers will be all over the place because each will be talking a different kitchen.  Are there high end appliances or not?  Custom cabinetry or not?  Stone counters or not?  What about the flooring, backsplashes, cabinet accessories, etc.? It’s just that there’s so much that goes into a kitchen (it’s what I like to refer to as a dense space) that without a detailed design the pricing will be all over.

Let’s see how this actually can happen.  Using the kitchen from Plan 454-12, let’s budget the kitchen using three scenarios: low-end, mid-range, high end. The kitchen has about 24 lineal feet of base cabinet, about the same for wall cabinetry, about 8 lineal feet of base cabinetry at the island with seating on one side.  There’s about 75 square feet of countertop and a standard array of appliances; sink, cooktop, wall ovens, refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave, ventilation and a garbage disposal.  There’s one sink, a double bowl with a faucet with spray function.  So here are the three rough budgets -- and please note that these costs don’t for the most part include labor:

                                                                            Low-end          Mid-range          High-end
Appliances:                                                         $3,500              $10,000             $22,000

Plumbing Fixtures:                                             $500                $1,500                $2,500

Cabinets:                                                              $11,000           $17,400             $30,000

Counters:                                                              $2,500             $6,000               $6,000

Backsplashes:                                                      $250                $2,500               $5,000

Totals:                                                                  $18,250           $38,250             $67,000

So what are the differences between these three kitchens?  Is that high end kitchen, at roughly triple the cost of the low-end kitchen, worth the extra?

From efficiency to longevity, from ease of use to precision control, appliances run the gamut.  Our low-end kitchen will have appliances that may not last but a few years and will likely not have precise controls so that the temperature settings in, say, the oven will vary widely.  These appliances may well not be Energy Star nor Water Sense-rated which, means they will consume higher amounts of electricity and water to do the job. These appliances will be serviceable, but they may not offer some of the features that, if you enjoy cooking and baking, you might like.

At the mid-range the appliances will be a bit better.  For example, the refrigerator may be counter depth and have both ice and water dispensers.  The ventilation may be stronger and ducted to the outside and the dishwasher a bit quieter.  And all of the appliances will be efficient and have better controls.

But what if you really enjoy cooking and baking and want your appliances to be the most efficient, quietest and precise available? You want an oven that, when you set the temperature to 350 degrees, it stays at 350 degrees with little variation.  In this case you’ll be looking at the higher end of the cost spectrum with manufacturers like Sub-Zero, Wolf, Gaggenau and the like.

Plumbing fixtures
Size, material, finish and features all will make a difference in the cost of the kitchen sink and faucet.  While a lighter gauge stainless steel drop-in sink will cost only a few hundred dollars, a heavier gauge undermount sink will likely cost close to a thousand dollars. The same for a farmhouse style sink, costing around $750 at the lower end and as much as a few thousand dollars at the upper end. Ditto for faucets, with costs from below a hundred dollars to much, much more if you want a touchless operation in a specialty finish. And there could be other plumbing items in the kitchen. Maybe you want a pot filler by the cooktop or a hot water dispenser at the sink. These extra features will, no doubt, add to the cost of the kitchen both for the fixtures as well as the labor to install them. 

There are so many possibilities with cabinetry that it’s like having the universe to choose from. Our low-end kitchen is with all standard sizes, simple frameless construction and limited door styles and finishes (think Ikea).  While these cabinets will get you a nice kitchen, what happens when you need a cabinet that’s just a little bigger or smaller than a standard size? Or what happens when you want the cabinets to be finished more like a piece of furniture?  In this case, a semi-custom cabinetry line is more what you’d like.  While your finish, style and size options won’t be unlimited, at least you’ll have the option of eliminating the need for fillers (pieces of cabinetry to fill the gaps in) and getting more of a furniture look.

But what if you want the cabinetry to match a piece of antique furniture you have? Or you really want to customize the size and accessories of each cabinet? In this case, you’ll likely get the cabinetry from a custom cabinet maker who will make it all to you exact specifications. And these cabinets will likely be made of better materials with better joinery.  The cabinet box won’t simply be pieces of particle board glued and stapled together but may well be marine grade plywood with dovetail joints. The drawer glides will be smoother and less likely to stick and the doors won’t be really thin pieces of wood that rattle when the door is closed but have the feel of something solid.

A low-end kitchen is likely to have plastic laminate counters; the mid-range and high end kitchen will likely have granite, quartz or solid surface. The big difference in these materials will be longevity. While a plastic laminate counter can look used and worn in a short amount of time, the other materials should look new even after ten or more years of use.  And a nice money saving trick that I’ve seen high end kitchen designers use in their own homes is to have less costly, Ikea cabinetry with granite countertops.

[The images in this post are from Plan 454-12 by Sarah Susanka]

From a simple 3 or 4 inch-high piece of plastic laminate protecting the wall from kitchen splashes to fields of tumbled marble and glass tile, a kitchen backsplash can cost almost nothing to tens of thousands of dollars.  What you shouldn’t lose sight of is that the backsplash is going to be a dominate visual feature so perhaps warrants something more than just a small piece of laminate or stone.  And you can keep the cost in check by having something special in one area, say at the cooktop, and then something quite simple, straightforward and economical elsewhere.

So the answer to that original question is: Yes. it's worth it if that's what you really want.

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