Kitchen Renovation: Cost Breakdown

One of my favorite things that home bloggers do is to share their cost breakdowns. For the uninitiated, renovations can be incredibly daunting and overwhelming. HGTV shows are not necessarily helpful since they toss around very large, round numbers… granularity provides the additional context for those considering their own renovations.

I find the transparency really encouraging since it allows the reader to draw their own conclusions about if a certain material or design choice is “worth it.” Let me be clear, please keep your negative opinions to yourself on this one. Feel free to judge, but this money is water under the bridge so any negative opinions are for you to think about and not send to me. Thank you, haha.

Cost Transparency

Cabinets: After shopping around to 4 or 5 places with my self-designed layout in hand, I chose Cabinets To Go because their prices were low, they were running a special, and the customer service was attentive and listened well to my wishes and concerns. $5000 for cabinets + $2142 for cabinet install.

Countertops: Wow, it was hard to find a countertop company that would special order the specific Formica I had picked out. Which was a shocker, since the design I wanted was front and center in Formica’s 2020 lookbook. Countertops 4 Less in El Cajon came out to measure, ordered the right material for me, and installed quickly. There was a problem with the first round of countertops being damaged so this was our first delay. $1650 including install.

Lighting: Doug let me have free reign with the design, but his request was to have can lights added in the ceiling and under-cabinet lighting. $2500 for materials and labor. The additional cost on top of lighting was very extensive drywall work which added another $1500.

Paint: Ceiling paint, drywall primer, and 2 gallons of wall paint came to around $250. We painted everything ourselves.

Flooring: I hadn’t originally budgeted for flooring, planning on pushing it to 2021, but after demo it became obvious that we would have to put in new floors right away. I chose a luxury vinyl plank that will hold up for a long time. We installed it ourselves and learned a lot in the process. $470, DIY installed.

Sink & Plumbing: The new, deep sink and cool faucet are one of my favorite things in the kitchen. For labor, I think I got somewhat taken for a ride by the plumbers who annoyingly insisted upon replacing my angle stops (the shut offs under the kitchen sink). I think what was there was fine, but at that point in the reno I was too tired to get a second opinion. $2300 for new sink, new angle stops, new garbage disposal, and labor.

Tile: This was my big splurge to elevate the kitchen’s look. Loving the look of handmade tiles from Zia and Fireclay, I chose something with a similar essence that was much more budget friendly from Bedrosians. Tile was our second major delay, being backordered a little bit (for the square tiles) and several weeks for the border pencil tile. $450 DIY installed.

Appliances: We saved a lot of money by reusing our stove and dishwasher, which were already white and looked great with our new white cabinets. I did select a counter-depth refrigerator to streamline the room and make the floor plan work. It was such a nice upgrade. $1284.

Budget Reflection

I think there are two things that blew the budget. The first was the under-cabinet lighting. The end result turned out fantastic, but to make it happen there was much more labor. The electrician essentially rewired the whole kitchen, which is a huge invisible value add. To add the under-cabinet lights and the cans the scope was much bigger than expected and we had to hire out extensive drywall patching.

The secondary labor cost was the plumbers. They came in at triple what I expected.As I mentioned above, they insisted on replacing my angle stops and they also wouldn’t reuse my garbage disposal (which was only a few years old and in fine working order). After 6 weeks with no kitchen sink I didn’t have a lot of fight left in me to get multiple quotes; I know with more effort I could have saved money in this spot.


All in all, taking a kitchen from 1969 original to 2020 brand new came in at approximately $17,500. This was around $5000 over my ever-shifting budget which in all is not bad for a top-to-bottom kitchen renovation. Almost all remodels come in above budget when the scope grows and splurges arise.

I had the home appraised for a refinance a couple of months after the kitchen was completed and the appraiser was very impressed and the new kitchen improved the value of the home more than $20,000. Not bad for spending $17,500 (plus 3-4 months and some blood sweat and tears). In conclusion, I think it turned out amazing and it was totally worth the whole ordeal!

What kind of Realtor doesn’t add in her own self-promotion at the end? If you are tired of your kitchen, I am available for a conversation to talk through the costs and benefits of a remodel based on my experiences and professional network. For a total change of scenery, I’d love to offer my sellers’ and buyers’ services. I work in San Diego county and southern Riverside County and I also have a deep referral network across the USA. Leave a comment here or contact me through my real estate website:


Kitchen Remodel: Completion! (w/ Photos!)

Hard to believe I was starting to put together my kitchen mood board about a year ago, and now here we are. I am not much like the DIY bloggers that I still follow closely… documentation is not the name of my game. Work has been extremely busy, which is awesome especially since the money for the kitchen reno had to come from somewhere.

Wait, how about a couple of before photos??

Vintage Dining Room Art
The Empty Kitchen

Last time, I wrote about my renovation priorities, and now on the other side of the process, I am pleased to say that I upheld most of them. Honestly I think that writing them down helped me prioritize them, even thought I did not refer back to them during the whole renovation, having thought it through at the beginning helped me align my vision and follow it.

When we began the product sourcing journey, I met with a woman at the Home Depot Design Center who wouldn’t even design with me when I told her my projected budget. She all but laughed me out of the building. While yes, I did spend more than my initial projection, I still came in under what she said the bare minimum kitchen renovation would cost, and I won’t forget the way she wrote me off. More on costs next week, though!

As for materials, most of the items I chose were on the moodboard in one form or another, however bringing home samples and laying them around the kitchen for weeks at a time really helped me hone in what I wanted. The major pivot was that the first moodboard looks a little more deep and earthy, but upon reflection, the dining room window doesn’t provide that much light to the kitchen half of the room. In particular, the green/blue tile from the first mood board were much darker in person than they were online. So, I chose a lighter pallet. As a result, the kitchen turned out brighter and fresher:

Cabinets: I decided to go with shiny white slab cabinets despite some feedback I got on facebook about the potential for scratches. The finish is excellent after 6 months; we shall see how it holds up to renters (spoiler alert, the condo is now rented).

Countertops: Honestly I have never been entranced by stone countertops, having grown up with ceramic tile in my parents’ house and some type of laminate in every rental I’ve ever had. This was an easy way to cut costs and get something that looks great and needs very little care. There is very convincing formica out there these days.

Glam it Up: The tile and the cabinet pulls were my glam moments. I picked a really pretty tile from Bedrosians made in Spain. The black grout was a style gamble that turned out really well, in my personal opinion. The gold cabinet pulls from CB2 are like jewelry on top of the whole look. I ended up not using the little black pulls from the moodboard but I think those would have also been a really cute option.

Reveal Time!

Sources: Cabinets to Go, Formica, CB2 (similar), LG, Kraus, Nucore LVP, Bedrosians

I have a budget breakdown ready to go next week so please come back to check that out! I am not promising a full-fledged return to blogging the way I used to during the blog heyday of 10 years ago, but this has been really fun to write and I’ve had a few questions from friends about the renovation so I hope this was likewise enjoyable for you to read.

Leave your questions and below and I will be happy to answer them!

Kitchen Renovation: Thoughts

Typing the words “kitchen renovation” above in the blog post title gave me chills. I’ve never undertaken a renovation of anything. I have painted, wallpapered, and built IKEA furniture all the day long, but I’ve never torn anything out to bare drywall and concrete and started from scratch.

Get ready for a huge post with lots of words and not that many pictures. Actually, maybe I should sprinkle in some inspiration pictures to keep you with me.

Photo by Grant Harder via Dwell

If you know me, you know I have a lot of thoughts on almost every topic (Virgo overthinker), and this is no exception. When it comes to kitchen renovation, the thoughts swirling around in my mind include but are not limited to:

  • Home resale value: Selling homes is my business. I know that a 1960s kitchen will not fetch top dollar when I go to sell. Does that make it less worthy of a kitchen? Have I not hosted a hundred gatherings with friends and family, and made delicious food in this kitchen for six years? Haven’t the cabinets and countertops lasted 50 amazing years? What’s the obsession Americans have with redoing their kitchen every 10 years?
  • Cost: I live in a comfortable, modest condominium in an aging complex. I don’t need to pour too much money into this renovation; over-improvement is a real problem in my price point and I may not get the return-on-investment that a four-star kitchen deserves. At the same time, the cheapest materials are, well, cheap. My current kitchen has lasted 50 years. I do not think any materials on the market today will last 50 years. (See below)
  • Sustainability: As you’ve heard me mention twice by now, I keep bumping up against the idea that Americans are obsessed with renovating things. To be honest, I feel like a European deep down in my soul… and I want to be satisfied with, and even heart-warmed by old, beat up things. Like my old, beat-up kitchen. On the other hand, I love interiors, and I do think an overhaul of my kitchen/dining room layout could function better and improve my quality of life.
Cliq Studios
  • Home rental durability: Part of my long-term plan is to move to another place and rent this condo out as an income property. After 2 advantageous refinances, we are in a place where that makes sense financially, with regards to the monthly payment. Part of my ethos is to be a socially conscious landlord who takes care of their tenants and doesn’t price gouge. So I want the kitchen to be nice but not too nice (I don’t want to be heartbroken if it collects scratches or scorch marks).
  • Style: My home was built in the 1960s, it has a ranch layout (as much as a condo can have a ranch layout) and 1960s-scaled windows, exterior, and a low, lean flow from room to room. I want the new kitchen to connect with this. I’m a strong believer in letting your home’s origin inform future renovations, not just swapping in what is currently on-trend.
  • Empathy: How can I encourage buyers I’m working with to buy the cheaper, outdated home and renovate if I haven’t also done it? I need to put my money where my mouth is and undertake a major renovation. Then I can offer empathy, recommendations, and wisdom.

If you made it through that colossal brain dump, you deserve to get something pretty out of it. Here is my working inspiration board… it’s not complete yet, but I’ve been using it to weigh out options as I hone my way towards what I really want.

Do you have any predictions as to what direction I’m leaning? In the time between when I made this mood board and when I published this post… I’ve made some big decisions!

If a kitchen reno isn’t in your wheelhouse: The myfriendstaci25 wallpaper coupon code is still good at through September 25!

If you’ve been through a kitchen renovation, please send me encouraging remarks in the comments or nuggets of wisdom you wish you’d known, going into it. Bonus points if you did if all on a serious budget! Thanks in advance!