Seattle Kitchen Renovation – The first $30,000

It’s just about time for you to take on a Kitchen Renovation, but you want to stick to a strict budget. Maybe it feels like it’s not enough to get the kitchen of your dreams, but let’s face it, it’s not the end of the world if you know where to put your money. For argument’s sake, in this article, we’ll be sticking with where should the first $30,000 of your kitchen renovation budget go, and where is it going to affect you the most.

Not to shatter any dreams here, but most kitchens these days are going to cost us more than $30K for a semi-custom to custom look. You could potentially get away with a cheaper kitchen if you stick to pre-made box cabinets, cheaper appliances, and a cheaper countertop material. But even then, you’re choosing to sacrifice quality for a better price point. If this isn’t your dream home, then maybe this is the route for you; however, if this is your forever home (and let’s face it, many Seattle kitchen remodel projects are for the long-term), I’d highly recommend that you put your design budget toward a quality kitchen that won’t need to be replaced after 5-10 years, one that can stand the test of time and add more value to your home. Let me show you where to put your money!



My first recommendation is to put it into the infrastructure of the house. Have a thorough inspection done before beginning the process of renovating to ensure healthy conditions for living; most of the time, these infrastructure problems come up during the process of renovating and can delay the progress and timelines. Make sure your plumbing lines, your electrical wiring, and your flooring and walls are in solid condition. It is important to keep up to date in accordance with residential code. This can be the hardest area to spend money on because everything will be hidden under drywall or flooring, but take pride in the fact that you know that your foundation, plumbing, electrical, and other key elements are safe for years to come and prepared for your renovation.


You’ll need to plan for what permits to acquire from your local municipal authority, and figuring these things out with the professional you hire, whether it be a design service or a contractor, will be key to identify before the process starts so you have a better grasp on how much you are spending.


Another factor that in affect here is how in depth of a renovation you are envisioning for your new kitchen; is the layout being moved around, are you tearing down walls to open the space, are you adding windows or doors into the space, and so many other questions. These are all important to discuss with your design and install professionals as moving plumbing and electrical lines, as well as other systems hidden in your walls, can be costly and easily start to take a big chunk out of your budget. However, if you are simply wanting to modernize the space and keep the layout & interior workings in place, then your costs can stay much lower. These are all questions you will want to think about yourself and discuss with design and install professionals in the field to help understand the cost and complexity of such a renovation.


Your home is all up to date and in line with residential code now. Now where do you focus your budget? Well, that is going to raise an important question for you & your family to discuss. If cooking and food preparation is important to you, then I’d recommend considering what kinds of appliances you would like to use. This is somewhere that you might want to consider consulting with a design service about, but make sure you are keeping in mind how often you are going to be using these appliances. Appliances packages tend to run between $8-15K just depending on the name & quality of the product, and they are a huge component to your kitchen in which the cabinets are designed around usually.


From here, the next place to look at for budgeting reasons would be your cabinetry. Again, if this isn’t your dream home, then maybe a quick flip with pre-made cabinetry is the route for you. But if this truly is your forever home, then I’d recommend investigating a semi-custom or custom cabinet line to really maximize efficiency & use of the space. This is because no kitchen is ever the same, and positioning of appliances, water lines, and specific electrical outlets is an important factor in where your cabinets will be laid out. I’d recommend spending the money on creating a custom layout that is going to make your life easier & more efficient, and when we get into these semi-custom/ custom cabinetry, we are discussing more quality-made products. Take the time to make sure the cabinet box framing is sturdy and durable to last the years of use; so many times, we don’t recognize the kitchen being one the heaviest-used areas of our homes. Durability is important in your forever home because you don’t want to spend a crazy amount of money only to spend even more later to fix something that could have been handled in the first renovation. Think wisely about how and when you are going to remodel to not be in a constant state of renovating; make your life easier with the first project to ensure that it lasts the test of time and use.


Following in importance only slightly is your countertop material. There are plenty of choices out there in the world, from laminates to butcher block to poured concrete to natural stone to man-made stone and so on. Each has their own pros and cons, but let’s be real here; this again is another moment to think about how you are going to be using the space. If you aren’t much of a cook, do you need the countertop that is going to stand up to heat, chemical, and other factors - maybe not. Take the time to realize your kitchen needs and then make sure you apply that money to a quality countertop that effectively works for your culinary purposes. Again, also think about what is going to hold up over time and give you the look you are wanting. Engineered stone products, like Dekton & Neolith, are remarkably durable products and their cost will reflect that. They are naturally at the higher end of countertop price ranges, but their durability is incomparable. When we start getting into natural quartz, you’ll start to see some drawbacks in comparison to its higher-end competitors, but it’s still a solid product that will last the test of time with just a little more maintenance over its lifetime, such as sealing. If you take care of it, there’s no doubt it will last you a long time. Each product will have its pros & cons, so when researching, be sure to pay attention to the quality of the product, the look of the product, and that it’s in line with your kitchen use needs.


Now, this is where I begin to suggest the areas to apply some savings. When it comes to the backsplash, this isn’t something that you must tackle right away during your renovation process. In fact, it can come any time after. The world of backsplash choices is so vast and different that you can find the look you want for a cheaper price if you do the right research. Backsplashes can even be installed yourself, with some tutorials online, if you are wishing to save more money. These items tend to be anywhere from $3 to $35 per square foot, and even more for fancier tilework. Keep in mind that most tiles will function similarly, so look for the jewelry on which you want to spend.


Another area of “jewelry” will be in the cabinet hardware. Some cabinet lines can be designed in such a way to eliminate all need for exterior hardware & cabinet pulls, but this is also an area that you can save on as they can be easily replaced & changed out. Most cabinet hardware can cost a pretty penny so keep in mind that it is decorative, but also must function efficiently; quality is not necessarily as important here, but make sure you are keeping it in line with cost. It may be a situation where you want to splurge later down the road on amazing cabinet hardware, and that kind of tiny project wouldn’t set you back that far. Another area is in your lighting; while it is important to consider this part of the design early on in the process and its specific locations, keep in mind that pendants & other decorative lighting pieces are just another form of jewelry in your space. It’s a pretty solid bet that anything that can be easily swapped out or replaced is going to be an area where you can find savings in your renovation project; the jewelry of your space can be swapped out just like your personal choice of jewelry to wear for a day can easily change.

When it comes to your kitchen, make sure you identify what kind of house this will be for you and your family. Is it the forever home or is it just a temporary housing solution? From there, start defining what’s going to be important for you to consider, whether it’s the appliances first or the cabinetry or the countertops, and then start to do your research or reach out to a professional to help get some clarity to your questions/ worries. And from there, identify what’s going to be your jewelry and work to make that fit into your budget as friendly as possible, if at all. Think about how you can phase out this design possibly, and ask tons of questions! The more you know and can consider, the better off you will be in knowing where to spend your money in your Kitchen Renovation!

By: Jake Neidlinger

Image 1 - Manna House by Jeremy Levine: Used with permission via creative commons