How Should I Budget for the Unexpected in my Kitchen Renovation?

Wilsonart Wednesday

Welcome to Wilsonart Wednesday! We've teamed up with the kitchen experts at Wilsonart to answer our readers' questions about kitchen renovation. We'll be posting the answers on Wilsonart Wednesdays all summer long, so ask your questions here and check back in for the answers!

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Q: We want to fully gut and remodel our kitchen and are currently saving money for the renovation. As far as planning goes, once we have an idea of what our remodel will cost, what sort of padding should we add to the budget for unexpected issues that arise? Our home is an older home and needs some electrical and plumbing redone, so I'm sure once walls come down there will be some surprises. What percent of the budget should go to miscellaneous or unforeseen expenses?

- Misty T.

A: In our experience, it's rare for a full gut-and-remodel kitchen renovation to go completely as planned, so it's best to leave a comfortable cushion in the budget for the unknown. Depending on various factors, we'd recommend including a cushion of anywhere from 10%-25%....and then adding another 2%-5% on top of that. How do you determine which end of the cushion spectrum you're on? Here are a few key factors to take into account:

First, consider the age of your home. With older homes, not only can there be unexpected findings once the walls are opened up, but more often than not, plumbing and electrical needs to be updated. You also may want to add more electrical outlets, as well as light sources, to reflect modern-day needs. Finding a contractor who is familiar with work on older homes is key to getting a good budgeting estimate.

Next, ask your neighbors for input. In many areas, homes were typically built neighborhood by neighborhood, so there most likely will be similar homes (in style, layout, and build date) in your immediate area. Do you have any neighbors who have done a similar renovation? Ask around – this is one of the best ways to get a good idea of budget, and most importantly, those unexpected issues that are hard to foresee. 

Finally, assess your real day-to-day needs. Sit down with your family and go through a typical day’s use of your kitchen. Do you eat most meals there? Is there a computer where you regularly check email, look up recipes, etc? Think about what your own needs are and what’s currently lacking. In your “renovation ideas” book, add a sheet of paper with three columns, labeled: spatial needs, electrical / lighting needs, and appliance needs. Have these mapped out when you meet with your architect or contractor so he/she is clear on what new items may be introduced into the space. And be honest with yourself: while it’s nice to have a spigot over the stove for filling up those large soup pots (a big “must have” feature in kitchen remodels these days), it requires additional plumbing and other factors that may not make sense for you in your own space.

With these questions answered, meet with your architect or contractor and share your findings with them. He/she will be able to help shed light on their experiences with unforeseen expenses on kitchen renovations similar to yours. Remember – this is a big undertaking, and you want to enjoy it (even through the dust and debris of demolition!). Don’t put yourself in a position where you end up making decisions based on the cost factor. Be sure you are comfortable with spending the full amount, or you won’t feel good about the project overall.

With a solid budget, you’ll be prepared for the day-to-day conversations you’re having with the contractor as the project moves along, and you won’t hesitate to make a decision that gets you the best overall result for your new space.

(Image: Wilsonart)