/ Budget & Planning

An Introduction to Designers' Fees

The designer may charge a fee of $50 to $150 per hour or a retainer of $300 to $5,000 per job. Often the designer's payment will be taken off the total cost of the job if you end up buying your new kitchen from him or her.

According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association, most firms require a down payment of 50 percent of the total cost of the job when you sign a contract. They expect another 40 percent payment when the cabinets are delivered and the balance when the job is completed. The total cost of the job will largely depend on the type of materials you select.


Update Your Backsplash

recycled tile backsplash
Photo courtesy of Fireclay Tile

A new backsplash-particularly one that features a bright color like this green tile-breathes new life into a kitchen. Whether you are adding tile or replacing old tile, the change in color, pattern, texture and shape will give your kitchen a whole new look. This tile is also eco-friendly, created with 62 percent recycled and local materials, including waste glass and granite dust.

Tips for Managing Costs

The products and materials you choose will have the greatest impact on your new kitchen's price tag. Cabinets typically account for the biggest chunk of the budget, but depending on what kind you choose, that chunk could be $5,000 or $50,000.


Product Type

Factors Affecting Price


Construction quality; custom or stock; material type; door style; finish; interior storage accessories; hardware; trim and moldings; difficulty of installation.


Capacity; power source and output; finish; features; built-in or freestanding.


Material type and quality; thickness; difficulty of installation; edge treatment; backsplash material and design.


Material type and quality; difficulty of installation.

Sinks & Faucets

Material type; size and number of basins; finish; spout style; accessories.


If you walked into a $50,000 kitchen, you'd expect to see some materials and details that you wouldn't find in a $12,000 kitchen. So here's a general idea of what types of products your budget will buy.


Product Type

$5,000-$20,000 Budget

$20,000-$40,000 Budget

$40,000- plus Budget






Freestanding with standard features

Freestanding with paneled fronts and standard features

Built-in with professional-style features



Wood, tile or solid surface

Stainless steel, stone or solid surface


Vinyl, laminate or linoleum


Stone or hardwood

Sinks & faucets

Stainless steel, self-rimming single- or double-bowl sink

Multiple undermount, enameled cast iron or stainless steel sinks

Multiple solid surface, integral sinks and potfiller faucet

Architectural details

Painted or vinyl walls and ceilings with simple or no moldings and trim

Wood-paneled or plastered walls and ceilings with some detail work in moldings and trim

Beamed or pressed-tin ceilings, stuccoed walls, extensive moldings and trim, hand-carved accents



More in this category:Keeping Costs Down »

Find Out What Kind of Kitchen You Can Afford

Dollars don't always make sense. It can be difficult to picture how far your budget will stretch and how the products you choose will work together.

Use the kitchens by budget guide to view kitchens designed to fit a variety of financial plans. You'll find out how to meet your goals — both functional and stylistic — on any budget. Under each category, you'll learn what products were ultimately used, as well as helpful tips on where to cut corners.

Kitchen Under $30,000

Kitchens Under $40,000


$40,000 Kitchen

Kitchen Under $45,000

$45,000 Kitchen

Kitchens Under $50,000


Kitchen Under $70,000

$125,000 Kitchen



More in this category:Kitchen Under $30,000 »

Two Different Approaches to A New Kitchen

A remodeled kitchen might feel like a new kitchen, but technically speaking, new kitchens are built when new homes are built, and kitchen remodels take place in existing kitchens.

Of course, that's just the basic definition. There are several different types of remodels and various factors that go into how a new kitchen will look. Some things to consider with remodels and new kitchens include:

  • If you're buying a new home, the flexibility you have in designing your kitchen will depend on whether you are buying a custom home, a developer-built home or a spec home.

  • A kitchen remodel has to take into account many facets of your existing home. If you work within the constraints of your home, you can simply redecorate your kitchen by painting or replacing some of your old appliances.

  • For homes with outdated appliances, materials and even plumbing, a gut remodel might be your best option. And if space is an issue, then you might have to consider adding additional square footage.


For a more in-depth look at your options, explore the following sections on new kitchens and kitchen remodels.



More in this category:New Construction »

Tips and Tricks for Making the Best of a Kitchen Remodel

A kitchen in the process of a remodeling

Surviving a remodel means accepting that you'll be in kitchen limbo for a decent amount of time.

Think of a kitchen remodel the same way you would think about partaking in a weight loss program: no matter what anyone tells you, it's not happening overnight. Your patience will be tested; you'll consider cutting corners that aren't worth cutting. Weeks will go by where it seems like no progress is being made. You will find yourself missing things you never gave two thoughts to in the past.

Of course, when you've endured and survived the many weeks it will take to reach your goal, your friends, family and neighbors will be unbelievably impressed with the new look.

This section does not promise to have all the answers. Still, it will try to prepare you and help you keep your life together while taking your kitchen apart.

More in this category:What to Expect »

What You Need to Know Before Working With Professionals

With all the do-it-yourself hype surrounding home design projects, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement, grab your sledgehammer and tear out the old cabinets-all before your favorite home improvement show cuts to commercial.

But what happens behind the scenes — the meticulous planning that skilled professionals put into these projects — may be more than you bargained for. Consider hiring a professional to do some of the grunt work for you, but first get to know a few basics about designers and contractors:

  • A designer will take the hard work out of planning your kitchen while you have as much creative input as you want. You still get to dream your kitchen dream, but the designer guides you along the way, maintaining your budget, keeping the project to schedule and taking care of logistics.

  • If you're going to hire a contractor, know where to look. Starting with your friends and family's recommendations is one way to find a reliable contractor. You can also check out the Better Business Bureau for a thorough background check on the contractor you're considering.

  • Expect to pay a fee of $50 to $150 per hour or a retainer of $300 to $5,000 per job. Often the designer's payment will be taken off the total cost of the job if you end up buying your new kitchen from him or her.

  • The best way to get to know your professional is seeing his or her work. Remodeled home tours are becoming more and more popular and provide great access to see the fine details of potential professionals.

Continue browing these pages to learn more about what you need to know about hiring professionals for your kitchen project.

More in this category:Finding a Designer »

Finding a General Contractor

Asking trusted friends and family members for names of contractors they've hired is always a great way to go. If you've already hired a designer or architect, ask that individual for recommendations, too.

Professional organizations such as the National Kitchen & Bath Association, the National Association of Home Builders or the National Association of the Remodeling Industry can provide you with a list of local members.

If there's a job going on in your neighborhood, and you like the looks of the work, look for the company's job sign or ask for a name.

The Professional Locator also includes remodeling contractors as well as kitchen and bath designers, interior designers, cabinet refacers, and specialty contractors and suppliers.

Questions to Ask Potential Contractors
Once you have the names of some companies, you'll want to do an initial screening to weed out unlikely candidates. Ask the following questions:

  1. How long have you been in business?

  2. Do you have proof of general liability and worker's comp insurance? What about proof of licensing?

  3. Do you offer design services? If not, how do you work with designers or architects?

  4. What type of jobs does your company usually do?

  5. Are your workers employees or subcontractors?

  6. May I have a list of customer references?

  7. What suppliers do you use? Do you have a showroom?

  8. Do you have a brochure, Web site or other background material?

  9. How can I contact you for follow-up questions or to set up an appointment?

Checking on licensing, insurance and references is essential. None of the other questions, however, has a "right" answer. What matters most is whether the contractor has experience doing jobs like yours and if the company's approach matches the one you'd like to take.


Double Checking
Ask the contractor for copies of all relevant documents so you can call the appropriate agency as a reference.

  • Use the Better Business Bureau's online tool ( to find out how many claims were made against the company within the last three years and how they were resolved.

  • Find out if a contractor is insured against claims covering worker's compensation, property damage, and personal liability.

  • Check with state, county, or city housing authorities to be sure that a contractor meets all area licensing and bonding requirements. (Licensing requirements differ drastically across the country

The Better Business Bureau recommends that you follow this checklist before hiring a remodeling contractor:

  • Plan your project from start to finish.

  • Be specific in explaining exactly what you want.

  • Approve any architectural plans that are involved before the contract work begins.

  • Compare costs before making a financial commitment.

  • Discuss bids in detail with each contractor.

  • Ask the contractor for local references and find out if he or she is a member of a professional remodelers association.



More in this category:Remodeled Home Tours »

Avoid These Pitfalls as You Plan Your Kitchen Remodel

Gearing up to remodel? Don't start before reading our list of common kitchen mistakes.

  • Your kitchen is an island. Be sure to consider the way your kitchen's look will gel with the rest of your home. An ultra-modern kitchen in a 19th-century farmhouse will stick out like a sore thumb. Keep architectural integrity in mind.

  • You're a skin-deep thinker. Remember that selecting beautiful cabinets is only half the battle-and, in a lot of way, the less important half. Make sure you have enough storage for all those plates and pots-and the accessories like tray dividers and pull-out shelves that will make them a snap to find.

  • You think orange cabinets could be fun. While personality is important, the cabinet isn't the best place to go hog-wild. Choose fun pulls, colorful countertop appliances and unique accessories, but select a cabinet that you-and your family-can live with for the next 15 years. And if resale is in your future, be sure to favor the sound choice over the sizzling one.

  • You playing head honcho. A kitchen remodel is a massive undertaking. Unless your daytime job is as a, say, general contractor, you may want to leave this one up to the pros. Assistance from kitchen designers, contractors and architects is invaluable, but be sure to partner with licensed and insured professionals you get along well with.

  • You forget that tomorrow is another day. Sure, lowered countertop seating may be the perfect play space for your kids...but in 10 years that petite spot will be worthless. Design with the future in mind, and not just that of your kids. Ergonomic choices like raised dishwashers will keep you kitchen functional as you grow older.

  • You pooh-pooh lighting. It may not be the most thrilling part of the project, but invest some time and money in coming up with a solid lighting plan (earmark about 10 percent of your budget for it). It'll keep your kitchen safe, set the appropriate mood and keep creepy shadows from turning your honey-colored cabinets a stale shade of brown.

  • "It's My Prerogative" is your theme song. Go ahead, change your mind in the middle of the process-just be ready to handle the additional charges and delays that making that that slightly larger pantry incurs. And if your changes means other carefully measured things (like countertops or appliance panels) are altered, that cost goes way up.

  • You don't budge an inch. Sure, remodeling is about replacing that countertop and sink-but it's also the best (and only time) when you can truly play with the room's layout. If you're tired of always walking across your kitchen to get to the refrigerator then move it!

  • You've watched too much Extreme Home Makeover. Going at your old kitchen with a sledgehammer may sound like fun, but your space may not need to be entirely gutted. Do a thorough inventory to decide if anything-from your appliances to your cabinets frames-can be saved...saving you money in turn.

  • Keep those Martha Stewart dreams realistic. If you've never baked a souffle, made a plum-stuffed pork tenderloin or tackled Spanish paella, don't expect that an $8,000 range is just the thing you need to go from microwave queen to gourmand. Be realistic about your needs-professional appliances may pack more power than you need.



More in this category:« Design Phase

The Importance of Planning, Compromise and a Level Head

To keep remodeling costs in check, you must plan ahead, be willing to compromise, and keep emotions out of the financial picture. Here are some suggestions.


1. Identify affordable alternatives that look like expensive products:

  • Many laminates and solid surfaces come in colors and patterns that resemble granite and other natural stone countertops.

  • Vinyl flooring, whether tiles or sheets, offers colors and patterns that look like travertine or other stone tile floor options.

  • Laminate floors that look like wood are much cheaper than real hardwood floors.

  • Reface or refinish existing cabinets instead of buying new ones.

  • Choose stock cabinets instead of semi-custom or custom. Most stock cabinetry lines offer more material, color and accessory choices than in the past.

  • Counter-depth refrigerators look like built-ins because they don't stick out past the cabinets, but they cost nearly 50 percent less.

2. Don't change the layout much.
If you keep your appliances, sinks, faucets, and lights where they are, you can use the existing plumbing and gas lines and electrical outlets. Moving utilities can add up to a lot of labor costs. Also, any time you cut into the walls, you run the risk of uncovering a problem that must be fixed. (See #3.) Many of these problems would need to be addressed eventually; you've just moved up the timeframe.

3. Plan for the worst; hope for the best. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry recommends setting aside at least 10 percent of your budget for unforeseen costs. These may include:

  • Asbestos removal

  • Mold remediation

  • Dry rot

  • Upgrades to the electrical service panel

  • Termites or carpenter ants in the walls, floor, or windows

  • Leaks in the walls from bad plumbing

  • Structural problems that require repair

  • Rotten window frames

  • Improper insulation

  • Code upgrades required by inspectors


4. Do some of the labor yourself. Relatively easy jobs include minor demolition (removing cabinets or flooring), painting walls and ceilings, and replacing hardware.

Beware of taking on more than you can handle. It's not uncommon for a do-it-yourselfer to try tackling plumbing or electrical work to save money, then have to hire a professional for a costly fix when the job proves too challenging.

5. Save details and decorating for later. You can always add custom touches and upgrades-trim and moldings, decorative hardware, cabinet organizers, a tile backsplash-down the road. Doing the project in phases probably will cost more in the long run, but it will help you out in the short term.

6. Distinguish between needs, wants and wishes. Make a list of everything you want to do in your new kitchen, then classify each item according to the following system:

  • A need is a must-have: a functioning refrigerator, for example.

  • A want would be nice and might be achieved: say, a new stainless steel refrigerator. Most people can't afford all of their wants and will have to choose among them or wait until later.

  • Wishes are the dream items: perhaps a complete suite of commercial-grade appliances. Some folks can afford their dream kitchens; the rest of us will have to wait until we win the lottery.


Researching product prices early in the planning process can help you get a realistic feel for what is within your financial means.



More in this category:« Money Saving Ideas