What Is The Biggest Expense In A Kitchen Remodel?

So, you’ve finally decided to take the plunge and remodel your kitchen – exciting! But before you get carried away with design ideas and Pinterest boards, let’s address the elephant in the room: the cost. We all know that remodeling can be a pricey endeavor, but what is the biggest expense when it comes to giving your kitchen a fresh new look? Well, brace yourself, because it’s not the cabinets, appliances, or even the flooring. No, my friend, the biggest expense in a kitchen remodel is none other than… the labor. That’s right, hiring professionals to tear down walls, install new plumbing, and bring your dream kitchen to life is where the majority of your budget will be allocated. So, as you embark on this exciting journey, be sure to factor in the cost of hiring skilled workers who will turn your vision into a reality. When it comes to remodeling a kitchen, there are many factors to consider, from the overall design to the materials used. Each aspect of the remodel comes with its own costs, and it’s important to plan and budget accordingly. In this article, we will discuss the various elements of a kitchen remodel and explore the biggest expense in each category.

Planning and Design

Before beginning a kitchen remodel, it is essential to have a clear plan and design in place. Hiring a professional designer can greatly contribute to the success of the project, but it does come at a cost. Professional designers have the expertise to create a functional and aesthetically pleasing kitchen design that meets your specific needs and preferences.

In addition to the designer’s fee, it is necessary to consider the cost of architectural drawings and permits. These are often required before any construction work can begin. The fees for obtaining the necessary permits can vary depending on your location and the complexity of the project. It’s important to factor in these costs when planning your budget.

Labor costs for design and planning are another significant expense to consider. Whether you’re working with a designer or overseeing the project yourself, there will be expenses associated with the time spent developing the design, creating a timeline, and coordinating with contractors.


Cabinetry is an essential component of any kitchen remodel, and it can account for a significant portion of the budget. One important decision to make is whether to go with custom or stock cabinets. Custom cabinets provide the opportunity to have a truly unique and tailored kitchen, but they often come with a higher price tag. Stock cabinets, on the other hand, are pre-made and available in standard sizes, making them more cost-effective options.

Materials and finishes are also important considerations when it comes to cabinetry expenses. High-quality wood can be quite expensive, but it offers durability and a timeless look. There are also other material options available, such as laminate or thermofoil, which may be more budget-friendly. Similarly, the choice of finishes, such as paint or stain, can impact the overall cost.

Hardware and accessories, such as handles, knobs, and drawer slides, also contribute to the expense of cabinetry. These elements may seem small, but they can greatly affect the functionality and appearance of your kitchen. It’s important to choose hardware and accessories that are both aesthetically pleasing and durable.

What Is The Biggest Expense In A Kitchen Remodel?


Countertops are another major expense in a kitchen remodel. The material selection plays a significant role in the cost. Granite and quartz countertops tend to be on the higher end of the price spectrum, while laminate and butcher block countertops are more affordable alternatives. It’s important to consider both the aesthetics and durability of the material when making your selection.

The square footage and layout of your countertops will also impact the cost. Larger kitchens or those with complex configurations will naturally require more countertop material, leading to higher expenses. It’s important to carefully measure and plan your countertop layout to minimize waste and maximize cost-efficiency.

The edge profile and installation also contribute to the overall expense. Some edge profiles, such as bullnose or bevel, can add elegance but come at a higher cost. Additionally, the cost of professional installation should be factored into your budget, as it ensures a proper fit and finish.


Appliances are often seen as the heart of a kitchen and can significantly impact the overall cost of a remodel. The first decision to make is whether to opt for high-end or budget options. High-end appliances can offer superior performance, advanced features, and a sleek design, but they typically come with a higher price tag. Budget options, on the other hand, can still provide functionality and style at a more affordable price point.

The size and capacity of the appliances are also important considerations. Larger, more powerful appliances, such as professional-grade ranges or spacious refrigerators, tend to be more expensive. It’s important to assess your needs and the available kitchen space to determine the appropriate size and capacity for your appliances.

Energy efficiency is another factor to consider. While energy-efficient appliances may have a higher upfront cost, they can save you money in the long run by reducing your energy bills. Look for appliances with ENERGY STAR certification or other energy-efficient features to minimize your environmental impact and maximize your savings.

What Is The Biggest Expense In A Kitchen Remodel?


Selecting the right flooring for your kitchen remodel is essential for both functionality and aesthetics. Flooring costs can vary depending on the material chosen. Hardwood flooring is a popular choice for kitchens, but it tends to be more expensive. There are also more budget-friendly options available, such as laminate or vinyl flooring, which can mimic the look of hardwood at a lower cost.

Installation costs should also be taken into account. Some flooring materials require professional installation, which will add to the overall expense. On the other hand, there are options that can be installed as a DIY project, potentially saving you money.

Maintenance requirements should be considered as well. Some flooring materials may require regular sealing or refinishing, which can add to the long-term costs. It’s important to choose a flooring material that fits your lifestyle and maintenance preferences.

Electrical and Plumbing

Upgrading electrical wiring and installing new plumbing fixtures may be necessary during a kitchen remodel, especially if you’re changing the layout or adding new appliances. Hiring licensed professionals for these tasks ensures that the work is done safely and up to code. However, electrical and plumbing services come at a cost, and it’s important to budget for these expenses.

Obtaining the necessary permits and scheduling inspections can also add to the overall expense. It’s important to consult with your local building department to determine the specific requirements and fees associated with electrical and plumbing work.

What Is The Biggest Expense In A Kitchen Remodel?


Proper lighting is crucial in a kitchen, both for functionality and ambiance. Recessed lighting and fixtures are a popular choice, as they provide even illumination and can be easily integrated into the design. However, the cost of purchasing and installing recessed lighting should be taken into consideration.

Under cabinet lighting is another important aspect of kitchen lighting. It not only adds task lighting for preparing meals but also enhances the overall look of the space. Installation costs and the price of the lighting fixtures themselves should be considered.

Dimmers and switches allow for greater control over the lighting levels in your kitchen. While they may seem like minor expenses, they can greatly impact the functionality and atmosphere of the space. It’s important to budget for these items and ensure they are included in the overall electrical plan.

Backsplash and Wall Finishes

The backsplash and wall finishes contribute to the overall aesthetics of a kitchen remodel. Tile selection and installation can be a significant expense, depending on the chosen material and the complexity of the design. Subway tiles are a popular choice for kitchens due to their timeless appeal and affordability. However, intricate mosaic tiles or natural stone options may come at a higher cost.

Painting and wallpapering are more budget-friendly options for wall finishes. The cost will depend on the size of the kitchen and the materials chosen. It’s important to consider factors such as durability and ease of maintenance when selecting these finishes.

Additional waterproofing measures should also be factored into the budget if needed. This is especially important for areas around the sink and stove, where moisture is more likely to be present.

What Is The Biggest Expense In A Kitchen Remodel?

Fixtures and Hardware

Faucets and sinks are essential components of a kitchen, and the cost can vary depending on the quality and design. High-end brands often come with a higher price tag but can offer superior performance and durability. Budget-friendly options are available as well, but it’s important to ensure they meet your functional and aesthetic requirements.

Cabinet pulls and handles, as well as drawer slides and hinges, contribute to the overall look and functionality of your cabinetry. These small details may seem insignificant, but they can greatly impact the overall cost. It’s important to choose hardware that is not only visually appealing but also durable and easy to use.

Labor and Installation

Labor and installation costs are often overlooked but can have a significant impact on the overall budget. Demolition and disposal of existing materials should be factored into the cost. The time and effort required for construction and building should also be considered, as well as any contractor fees.

It’s important to obtain quotes from multiple contractors and thoroughly vet their credentials and references. While it may be tempting to choose the lowest bid, it’s crucial to ensure that you’re hiring a reputable professional who will deliver quality work within the agreed-upon budget and timeline.

In conclusion, a kitchen remodel involves various expenses, and it’s important to carefully consider each aspect when planning and budgeting. From planning and design to cabinetry, countertops, appliances, flooring, electrical and plumbing, lighting, backsplash and wall finishes, fixtures and hardware, and labor and installation, each component contributes to the overall cost. By understanding the factors that affect the expenses and making informed decisions, you can create your dream kitchen while staying within your budget.