Experts break down the cost of a typical home renovation, project by project

Whether your primary bathroom needs a facelift or you’re ready to gut your kitchen, renovating your home is an exciting but often stressful process. With inflation, rising labor costs and material shortages, renovations are not as smooth and straightforward as they were pre-2020. (And that’s saying something.) More than ever, you want to get the most for your money. But what exactly does a home renovation project cost?

On average, expect to spend about $175 to $200 per square foot. Architect Sarah Harper with Dallas-based Harper Design Projects shares that she mostly works in the $200 price per square foot range, though that’s just an estimate of the average costs. “For example, a bathroom or kitchen is typically higher than $200 a square foot, while new flooring, painting and electrical in a bedroom would be significantly less,” he says. And of course the final cost depends on the home’s location, the materials you choose and the scope of the project.

Interior designer April Cook with East Dallas Interiors renovated this primary bathroom with Haywood Construction to achieve an updated, soothing space.(Radically Designed Photography)

If you plan on staying in the home for a while, Harper suggests investing in your kitchen and bathrooms, considering you use those spaces the most. But she advises to wait until you can afford a decent remodel. “Sometimes a fresh coat of paint on every surface can be enough to hold [you] over until more can be done,” she said. “I’d evaluate the pain points, make a priority list, assign reasonable dollar amounts and chip away at it if needed.”

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When your goal is to sell soon, Harper recommends really considering the value of a renovation. “If the house is older, understand that not every buyer will like your remodel choices. They may even decide to tear it down and build a new one. Understanding the critical issues with the home can sometimes shed light on what’s worth doing and what’s not,” she says. “If all the electrical and the plumbing mains need to be replaced, the ceilings are only 8-feet high, the doors are hollow core and there are new builds going up on your street, I would expect a buyer is looking for more like a lot value deal.

“There’s simply too much to update for a remodel to make sense. Once you’re touching every surface in a home and having to get into some of the infrastructure as well — the insulation, electrical, plumbing, structural issues — you’re applying a blanket $200 to $250 per square foot and could build new for more like $250 to $300.”

A full kitchen renovation (like this one by April Cook of East Dallas Interiors, in partnership with Haywood Construction) makes a big impact, but make sure you’re budgeting appropriately for the project.(Radically Designed Photography)

As for a max budget, Harper advises homeowners to consult with a realtor who specializes in their area to fully understand what the market can bear for their specific situation. “There is no rule of thumb other than: ‘Don’t be the most expensive house on the block.’ Get a feel for what you can sell the home for, what you’ve put into it already and if you are willing to take a loss or how much profit you are looking to make,” she explained. “Understand that renovating only to sell needs to be very carefully evaluated. If you are keeping the original cabinets, for example, and you know that a buyer will ultimately rip them out and replace them with new — because they are in that bad shape — refrain from doing more than cleaning and possibly painting them, for listing photos only.”

Designer April Cook, owner of East Dallas Interiors, reiterated the decision to renovate and how much to spend can come down to personal enjoyment. “You have to factor in both return on investment and the cost of personal enjoyment,” she says. “For many of my clients, they understand that renovating can be for their own benefit, not necessarily for resale. How much a client wants to spend is based on personal preference and their expectations of the return on investment.”

Taking all that into consideration, we asked the experts to break down what you can accomplish with a range of budgets. Keep in mind, these are all estimates. The more you DIY and use budget-friendly materials, the lower your cost will be.

This Park Cities home project, helmed by Sarah Harper, showcases the value of curb appeal in a renovation — and curb appeal can be achieved without spending a lot.(Blake Verdroorn)

If your remodel budget is less than $10,000

Harper points out that the cost of labor right now is higher than it was before the pandemic, and that alone will eat away on a budget. But with a budget of less than $10,000, you can change out lighting fixtures or add new plumbing fixtures in a bathroom. There’s also work you can do outside of your home. “I’d probably spend that amount on something for the exterior curb appeal, such as new shrubs or beds and new porch lights,” Harper says. Michael Rodriguez, owner of RS Construction, suggests a cosmetic remodel of a secondary bathroom. “It’s not a full gut, but you could maybe replace the tub surround and the floor and paint the cabinets,” he says.

If your budget is $15,000

“You could probably get a small powder room done for this budget, with reasonable fixture and finish selections,” Harper explains. And Cook agrees — if the renovation does not include moving the plumbing, you can probably pull off a small to mid-size bathroom reno.

If your budget is $20,000 to $25,000

“A full secondary bathroom, not a primary bathroom, could be done with reasonable choices,” says Harper of this range. Cook, however, has helped clients redesign a primary bedroom with this budget — again, not moving any plumbing.

If you have the budget, a reimagined primary bathroom is a great use of your renovation dollars, says architect Sarah Harper. She updated this Park Cities bath along with builder Greg Jeffers and designer Shelley Marron.(Blake Verdoorn)

If your budget is $50,000 to $75,000

“This is a tricky range — not enough to tackle a primary bath or kitchen gut job,” Harper says. “You could do cosmetic updates in either sort of space, but it would also depend a lot on how large the spaces are and what features are included. For example, for a kitchen with two islands and two sinks, a $40,000 appliance budget obviously couldn’t be done. But a modest kitchen keeping the majority of appliances and a smaller overall footprint could be completed for around $75,000. The cabinets for a new kitchen alone would likely run anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000, depending on the functionality and design.” Rodriguez notes that custom cabinets and appliance choices can make all the difference when it comes to how much you end up spending in a kitchen.

If your budget is $100,000

All three experts we consulted say that you can start to get into total gut jobs with this budget. Cook can help design a kitchen and a large bath. Rodriguez sees this as a healthy budget to redo a few rooms as well. “You might do the kitchen and some bathrooms, and maybe even a primary bath depending on how you update it,” he says. For a mid-size home, this budget could also cover an addition, such as a primary suite or game room.

Whatever your budget, always expect the unexpected. “It’s a sliding scale,” says Harper. “Low budgets need higher contingencies.” For larger remodels, budget about 10 to 20% in overages. For a smaller project, that goes up to at least 20%. However, Cook can’t stress enough that being prepared and using a qualified general contractor and designer will help you save costs in the end. “The more prepared you are, you can lower that percentage of surprise costs,” she says. “You will not regret working with a professional to guide you through the process.”

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