Why A Kitchen Renovation Goes Over Budget

Reasons why a kitchen renovation project goes over budget

Why A Kitchen Renovation Goes Over Budget

As you begin planning a kitchen renovation project, pre-construction due diligence and thorough preparation can lead to time and money saved. It can also cut down on the emotional extremes that come with living in a home under construction, like the extended loss of kitchen access.

At this point, you probably have no idea how much your dream kitchen will cost. A crucial step with a remodeling project is to work with your kitchen designer to develop a comprehensive plan that includes the budget.

Of course, setting a budget and sticking to it are two different things.

There are a number of reasons that kitchen remodeling projects can go over budget. Some are due to your contractor; others are due to choices and decisions you make.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons for a kitchen remodel to go over budget, and what you can do to make sure it doesn’t happen with your project.

  • You decided to buy more expensive products or materials
  • The products or services cost more than expected
  • You decided to change the scope of the project
  • The project turned out to be more complex than expected
  • Unexpected construction-related issues were discovered

The “Big 3” Reasons Projects Go Over Budget

  1. The No. 1 reason that a kitchen renovation project goes over budget is you chose more expensive products and finishes than were originally budgeted for.  
  2. The unexpected discovery of construction-related problems that must be resolved.
  3. You change plans midway through the project.

Choosing Upscale Upgrades for your Kitchen Renovation

Your dream kitchen has Carrera marble countertops, a Viking stove and a SubZero fridge surrounded by luxurious custom cabinets. Do you know what these luxuries cost? The key is to know how much the items you want might cost before you actually start to renovate.

Custom Cabinets

Cabinet costs vary, and the costs are largely dependent on whether they come from a big-box store, are semi-custom or full custom. Cabinetry costs fluctuate depending on the materials used, finishes selected, and special features that you add into the cabinets.  Obviously, the more you add, the higher the price tag can get.
It goes pretty much without saying that custom items cost more. But not everyone knows what “custom” can mean.  An example: You want to extend your upper cabinets to 12 feet to balance out high ceilings. Your designer says “sure, we can do that.” However, by doing this, you’ve almost quadrupled the cost because standard cabinets don’t go to 12 feet. Now you’re into the super-custom cabinets category.

Special Features

The choices you make for interior cabinet storage features can increase their cost. A few nice-to-have but pricey cabinet add-ons can include:

  • a Magic Corner, where pullout, swing-out shelves give you access to a blind corner that you otherwise couldn’t reach
  • a knife drawer
  • specialty spice storage
  • wine racks
The cost of a Magic Corner may put your renovation over budget

Before committing to purchase a special feature, consider how much you’ll really use it. Then you can determine if the added functionality is worth the cost to you.


The cost for countertops varies widely. Formica countertops are relatively affordable at $25 per square foot on average. (This price does not include installation.)

Have your heart set on granite? That’s fine, but does it fit into your budget?  According to House Beautiful, granite countertops cost around $40 to $60 per square foot, with the total price for installation and materials coming in between $2,000 to $4,500.

To stay within your budget, experts advise that when you go to the stone yard, don’t even look at any slabs above and beyond your price range. You’ll certainly find something you like, and you won’t be coerced into choosing something that’s a few thousand dollars above what you’d safely budgeted.

Marble costs around $75 to $250 per square foot, with the average cost around $75. Quartz comes in around $55 per square foot, concrete at $70, and butcher block at $55.

If you haven’t purchased a countertop in 20 years, be sure to look into the cost of the various options. There are plenty of beautiful options besides granite that look just as luxurious.


 If you’re a serious cook and/or entertain often, it makes sense to buy the best appliances on the market. If you’re neither of those, don’t be tempted to splurge on luxury appliances that you don’t need. There are plenty of efficient, high-quality options that will save you thousands of dollars and still look great.

Appliances can be hard to plan for in the budget since price ranges of appliances vary so much, from under $1,000 to several thousands, depending on the make, model and features. 

Luxury appliances, like Wolf and Sub-Zero, are priced on the high end of the price range, while brands like GE are more affordable.

These prices are examples only, with the point being that the prices of appliances vary widely. Do your research and find out how much appliance you get at the various price points so that you can determine if the price of the features is worth the expense.

2. Unavoidable Hidden Costs Discovered during Kitchen Renovation

The second most common reason renovation projects go over budget is due to unexpected and unfortunate surprises that appear. This is a cost you can’t control. Even after your pre-project due diligence, not every problem can be caught ahead of time.

  • You might open a wall and find that termites have eaten half the studs
  • When the kitchen flooring is removed, you find that an undetected water leak has rotted the subfloor and floor joists
  • A wall is opened only to find mold or structural rot
  • The wall you planned to remove turns out to be load bearing.
  • Outdated plumbing and electrical must be stripped out and replaced

Many designers recommend reserving a 20 percent contingency in your kitchen renovation budget for unexpected emergencies. These “unpredictable happenstances” can easily cost several thousand dollars.

3. Change Orders Made During Kitchen Renovation

The third category of reasons that kitchen renovations go over budget is entirely within your control, and this is changing your mind.

After you’ve settled on a plan and a price, changing your mind will cost you. In fact, change orders midway into a project can increase your budget by as much as ten percent. On a $60,000 remodeling project, that means an additional $6000 bill when you’re through.

Your contractor will issue a charge for every change you make to the agreed-upon plan.

What to avoid? Moving the sink or gas stove. While it might seem minor, re-routing infrastructure like plumbing and gas lines can kill your budget.

Good advice from the experts is to be confident in your choices, and always work with a reputable professional. 

Miscellaneous Reasons Your Reno Could Go Over Budget

1. Choosing a contractor based on the lowest bid.

It’s important to speak to several contractors before settling on one to do your project. Choose your contractor based on reputation, references and your positive impressions of their customer service. Building it right the first time is significantly cheaper than paying someone to come in and fix shoddy workmanship.

If the person who gives you the lowest bid seems difficult and you pick his bid, remember that difficult-to-work-with person will be in your house for the next three weeks/months.

Make sure anyone you choose to work with is reputable, detail oriented and comes with plenty of references. Don’t settle on the lowest price only to find out that the estimate didn’t include “extras” that sneak in along the way.

2. Not working through the budget with your kitchen designer.

Starting any home project can be scary, but especially a full-scale kitchen renovation. There are so many decisions to be made and most people don’t know how to plan out their remodeling budget.

The overall budget for any kitchen project will depend on three main factors:

  1. The size of the space
  2. The scope of the project (new everything or total gut)
  3. Your selections

Always work through your project with a budget-minded kitchen designer whose experience and expertise will guide you through the process.

3. Adding to the scope of the original project.

Your kitchen renovation is looking so good that you decide to also redo the trim on the living room and dining room and put in all new doors. Or, you decide that you want wainscoting in the dining area. These additions to the original project scope will cause your contractor to buy additional materials and reschedule subcontractors, increasing costs.

4. Not Including “Little Things”.  

Those little things add up. Did your quote include light fixtures? Outlet cover plates? Faucets? Cabinet knobs? These may not seem like much taken individually, but when you get your final bill, you don’t want to see extra costs for items that weren’t included in the original quote.  


  • Be aware of every decision you make before and during the kitchen remodeling process.
  • Do your research
  • Ask your kitchen designer and contractor lots of questions

The choices you make, and the details you overlook can have a huge impact on the final cost of your project. By educating yourself, staying on top of the details, and working with an experienced kitchen designer and reputable contractor, you can avoid these mistakes and end up with the kitchen of your dreams, on time and on budget.

KDP exists to offer insight and advice about all things related to kitchen remodeling. Our goal is to connect homeowners with talented, experienced kitchen designers who live and work in their communities. We are a serious resource for anyone preparing to remodel their kitchen so they can make the best possible choices about designers, contractors and products.