This Is What People Are Splurging On In Kitchens

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

Americans spend an average of $25,800 to remodel a small to mid-sized kitchen, according to the 2018 Houzz Kitchen Trends Study. That’s for a full overhaul including all new cabinetry and appliances; upgrading a larger kitchen (more than 200 square feet) averages $42,000. Those are big numbers, and no doubt most people do their best to trim them down if possible. And yet, when you’re taking out a home equity loan or dropping a new car’s worth of cash into the heart of your home, there are some features you just have to have, no matter the cost. Here’s what people were willing to splurge on during their kitchen remodels, according to the Houzz study, and where they decided to cheap out.

(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

Splurge #1: Counters

Countertops were the most commonly updated feature, replaced in 94% of all kitchen remodels. And no wonder: Counters perform double duty, taking a daily beating during food prep and also broadcasting a new look across the entire room.

Forty-two percent of remodelers surveyed reported splurging on their counters. This isn’t too surprising, since the most popular surfaces — engineered quartz (43%) and granite (34%), along with marble (6%), quartzite (8%), and soapstone (5%) — are also among the priciest.

Less costly (and more DIY-friendly) options were less popular: 13% chose butcher block or wood, but just 5% used laminate and 2% went with ceramic tile.

(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

Splurge #2: Appliances

Like countertops, appliances are also workhorses of the kitchen – and sometimes showpieces as well. In the Houzz survey, 39% of remodelers said they splurged on all of their appliances, while another 36% said they splurged on at least one.

This doesn’t mean everyone’s dropping $10,000 on a Sub-Zero fridge or Wolf range. It’s a subjective question; I’d probably consider it a splurge if we just purchased the next model up from what we could realistically get away with — or if we’d bought the stainless steel model of our basic GE stove, which is priced $100 more for absolutely no reason beyond popular aesthetics.

(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

Splurge #3: Cabinets

There are some great-quality, low-cost kitchen cabinet options out there (namely IKEA’s), but 31% of remodelers decided it was worth splurging on cabinetry – and you can understand why.

For one thing, some layouts with funky measurements simply demand custom or semi-custom cabinets to work. Even if it’s just one odd-sized cabinet at the end of a run, once you’ve got one custom cabinet, most people are going to want to match it throughout.

And like counters and appliances, cabinets and drawers do a lot of work in the kitchen, and probably take up the most visual space, tying the entire room together. You want them to perform well and look great, too.

(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

Where Do People Skimp?

So which corners are people cutting to afford their favorite kitchen splurges? According to the Houzz survey, lighting, backsplashes, and flooring were the most common areas where people cheap out.

I’ll admit to skimping on all three (and the cabinets and counters, too) during our DIY remodel: nice lighting is pretty easy to come by if you’re not looking for a dramatic statement piece, and I did the backsplash myself with simple white subway tile. And as for the floors? We ripped up the gross vinyl and just refinished the lovely hardwoods underneath. Our biggest splurge was hiring a professional plumber and electrician, which was well worth it!

Where would (or did) you cheap out on a kitchen remodel? And what do you think is worth splurging on?