Kitchen Remodel: Where to Spend and When to Save

Your kitchen is usually the busiest room in a home, and often a key determinant of its resale value. The cost of remodeling a kitchen can vary widely though depending on the size and scope of your project. Follow these tips to keep costs in line and avoid blowing the budget while still getting the kitchen of your dreams.

white kitchen with blue accent cabinets


At Thomas Custom Builders, we recommend using the following guidelines when making your selections. If you allocate 50% of your budget on cabinets on the front end you will most likely be well over budget in the end.

  • 30% Cabinets & hardware
  • 22% Labor
  • 15% Appliances & ventilation
  • 12% Countertops & tile
  • 10% Lighting, floors, doors & windows
  • 10% Electrical & plumbing

beautiful new white kitchen


Cabinet functionality is key: Consider going with deep drawers in the lower cabinets which are more ergonomic and provide better storage access. Adding roll out trays in a few lower cabinets, upgrading to soft close doors and drawers, and incorporating other pull out features (trash cans, spice racks, etc.) are some of the more beneficial custom options to incorporate into your new kitchen.

Second sink: Placed outside of the main cooking and cleanup areas, prep sinks make life easier in a busy kitchen. Considerably smaller than primary kitchen sinks, prep (or bar) sinks are used either for bartending operations or for supplementary food preparation.

Cabinet features: Architectural details on your hood, island and cabinet crowns make a kitchen unique. End panels give your kitchen a custom-built, furniture-like look. Open shelving or glass doors allow you to display fine dishware and special decor, especially when there are lights involved. This type of display can make your kitchen design open and inviting, which lets you and your guests feel right at home.

kitchen addition, dark cabinets 2018


Cabinet finishes: Elaborate finishes (distressed, glazed and crackled) can significantly increase cabinet costs and can start to look dated as trends evolve.

Plumbing upgrades: While a pot filler faucet allows you to fill pots right at the stove,  you still have to carry the pot of boiling water to the sink. Filtered water dispensers sound enticing but most refrigerators offer this feature.

Expensive hardware: Knobs, pulls and handles add a finishing touch but the price of hardware ranges drastically. There are many affordable options out there to get the look and functionality you desire.

new white kitchen with modern touches


If budget doesn’t allow you to create your dream kitchen in one shot, don’t compromise. If you get the “foundation” in place now you can always add the “glitz and glam” later.


Layout: A properly planned floorplan impacts your overall enjoyment of the space far more than any other element. The primary tasks in a kitchen are carried out between the cooktop, sink, and refrigerator. These three points form the work triangle. An effective work triangle keeps all of the stations within easy reach and helps minimize traffic jams.

Infrastructure: Get the framing, windows, plumbing, and electrical right or all those new finishes and appliances won’t perform as expected.

Countertops: Conventional wisdom may say to phase-in upscale countertops, but demoing the old and installing new can damage your cabinets and plumbing.


New appliances: Unless you’re changing their size or configuration, your old fridge and range will work just fine for now.

Backsplash: Paint the walls above your counter with a washable semigloss to protect them while you save up for a decorative tile backsplash. This will also give your new cabinets time to settle, preventing grout and caulk problems at the seam where the backsplash meets the counter.

Lighting: Light fixtures can be very expensive. Consider installing cheap placeholders while the electrician is on-site. You can easily replace lights yourself once the wiring’s complete.

contrasting kitchen island

A remodeled kitchen is definitely a project worth the time, money, and effort. You can avoid being overwhelmed if you fully understand the overall process before you begin.