What Is The Most Expensive Part Of A Kitchen Remodel? (Revealed)

The costs of our home renovation and extension are quite daunting, none more so than for the kitchen. So what is the most expensive part of a kitchen remodel?

Kitchen cabinets are the most expensive part of a kitchen remodel, with costs ranging from 20 to 40 percent of the budget. Then it’s a tie between flooring and appliances, each running at between 10 and 20 percent. On average, a 10 foot by 10-foot kitchen should cost around $25,000.

Let’s explore the subject of kitchen remodeling in greater detail, and discover exactly which parts we should be wary of when it comes to spending our hard-earned cash…

What Is The Most Expensive Part Of A Kitchen Remodel?

What is The Most Expensive Thing in a Kitchen Remodel?

Is your guess gorgeous granite countertops? How about that Aga you’ve been drooling over? Nope and nope. If you guessed that humble, basic necessity of all kitchens, the kitchen cabinet, you are correct.

Why? Cabinets are giant boxes made of wood. In most kitchens, there are cabinets near the floor and more cabinets hung from the walls. Lots of cabinets. Not only is wood expensive but it takes a lot of labor to put the boxes together. 

To get good budget numbers, go to your neighborhood home improvement store or kitchen design store and sit with the professional there to price out new cabinets. Bring along your basic kitchen measurements, a few photos on your phone and a solid idea of what you want. 

New cabinets in a kitchen are game-changers. Sure, they add basic storage. And realtors say that, for a nicely done kitchen remodel, you can recoup 65 to 80 percent of your return when you take your home to market.

But most importantly, a kitchen remodel can change your entire kitchen aesthetic. 

If you can’t find the bucks for all new kitchen cabinets, you have other options.

Which Kitchen Cabinets Are Most Expensive?

There are three ways to fit out your kitchen with new cabinets: stock, semi-custom order, and full custom build.

The cheapest option, stock cabinets, are cabinets in stock at your local big box home improvement store. You can install them yourself or with the help of a contractor. These pre-assembled individual cabinets come in standard sizes made of raw wood.

Another DIY stock option is to buy cabinets in flat packs. You can check out these cabinets in several large home or warehouse stores, like Ikea and Costco.

The second choice, semi-custom, are fully finished and installed cabinets ordered from a home improvement or kitchen design store. At the store, you choose which manufacturer has the options and the looks you like within your budget. 

Then, with the help of some measurements, you sit down with a professional and design your kitchen. Every manufacturer will have lots of options to choose from, like door design, cabinetry hardware, soft-closing drawers, finish color, and many more. A photo of your dream kitchen is handy to sort through the options.

The third and most expensive option is fully custom. If you have looked at manufactured styles and want something uniquely you, then this option is for you. You may need the help of an architect to help you design your custom cabinets. Then, you will need a skilled carpenter to build and install them.

Are Kitchen Cabinets or Countertops More Expensive?

Solid gold countertops aside (please – gold is too soft), the cost of kitchen cabinetry is much more than the cost of the countertops.

It’s back to all that wood. If you are thinking about a kitchen remodeling, plan on the cabinets costing between 20 and 40 percent of the total budget. Most kitchen remodelers quote cabinets on a square foot basis. 

Kitchen cabinets come in a wide range of styles and materials. Stock cabinets are the least expensive option. Installed, these cabinets vary between $100 and $300. Semi-custom cabinetry ranges between $150 and $650 per square foot. Finally, custom cabinets can vary between $500 and $1,200 per square foot.

For example, the average range of cost for a 10 foot by 10-foot kitchen with a normal amount of cabinets varies between $4,000 and $13,000. 

Kitchen countertops are quoted on a linear footage basis. Common countertop materials are quartzite, engineered stone, granite, recycled glass, Corian (aka solid surface or Formica), tile, reclaimed wood, recycled paper, butcher block and concrete.

Countertop costs are quoted per linear foot, installed. They range from the cheapest option, tile, at $35 up to granite, at $175.

Here’s a link for detailed countertop costs.

What Makes a Kitchen Remodel So Expensive?

Kitchens and bathrooms are the most expensive remodels you can do to your house because they have a perfect storm of expensive materials and expensive labor. 

Cabinets are the number one cost, for reasons already mentioned. Cabinet costs will range from 20 to 40 percent of the budget. Next up is a tie between flooring and appliances, each running between 10 and 20 percent. 

Next is the electrical work by a licensed electrician. Electrical work will cost you around 10 percent. Plumbing and appliance installation will cost between 5 and 10 percent. Additional budget items are light fixtures, windows and plumbing fixtures (like a kitchen faucet).

How Much Should You Spend On Renovating a Kitchen?

HomeAdvisor says that you should make sure to spend no less than 5 percent and not more than 15 percent of your home’s total value (before the remodel).

A recent survey of new home buyers had some surprising results: 80 percent said they thought the kitchen was in the top three most important spaces. 69 percent of the home buyers said they would have paid more if the home had new appliances. And, 55 percent of new home buyers said they would have paid more if the kitchen had granite countertops.

Is a Kitchen The Most Expensive Part of a Whole House Renovation?

Maybe. Here’s the shortlist of expensive whole house renovations: finishing a basement, finishing an attic, adding a bedroom, replacing a roof, remodeling a kitchen, adding a pool, and remodeling a bathroom.

Renovating a large basement or attic space will probably cost more than a kitchen reno. Adding a room, like a bedroom, will also cost more. Adding a pool, with landscaping, may cost about as much as a kitchen.

Renovating a kitchen costs more than most new roofs or bathrooms.

However, of the major renovations listed, the return on investment (ROI) of a kitchen reno is best, sometimes 100 percent. On average, a nice kitchen reno will return your investment between 54 percent and 80 percent.

For the best ROI, realtors say to stick to the 5/15 reno expense rule: don’t spend less than 5 percent but no more than 15 percent of the home’s value.

Kitchen remodels can be expensive

How Much Should a 10×10 Kitchen Remodel Cost?

On average, a 10 foot by 10-foot kitchen should cost around $25,000. The range starts at $5,000 and goes up to $60,000.

Can You Renovate a Kitchen For $10,000?

Yup. You’ll have to DIY some things and hopefully, you like the layout of your kitchen, because moving appliances or sinks or adding windows won’t be in the budget. Neither will new cabinets.

Choose to update your cabinets with paint, refacing, refinishing, or restaining. Replace all those outdated pulls and knobs. Then, replace your old appliances, but don’t go overboard. Check out bundles of appliances to save some money and decide if you really need stainless steel ones.

Tile the backsplashes yourself or invest in some quality stick-on ones. Paint the rest of the walls. Have pets and kids? Consider some vinyl plank flooring, which is easy to install yourself. 

Go ahead and get professional help with your countertops, because they can be tricky. Consider one of the cheaper countertop options, like tile or Corian.

Can You Renovate a Kitchen For $5,000?

Yup. No surprise, you’ll have to be a DIY type. 

No new cabinets, but new paint in your favorite colors. New appliances that you buy in a bundle in white or black and that you install yourself. Vinyl plank flooring, installed yourself.

Professionally measured and installed countertops because they are tricky.

Don’t believe it? Check out this video from Consumer Reports.


So after a lot of thought, it looks like we’ll be going for the semi-custom option when remodeling our new kitchen.

Our budget means we can spend about 10% of our home’s value before the remodel – and this is right in the safe range recommended by experts.

We’ll be able to get a really great kitchen based on this budget – not thrift store but not massively extravagant either. Looks like my wife won’t get those gold taps she’s been after though. 😉