Dexter Kitchen Renovation Part 3: Cost and Resources


This is part 3 of a 3 part series on the Dexter kitchen renovation.  Please see part 1, the renovation process, here and part 2, the reveal, here.  

Now that our black kitchen renovation is complete at the Dexter House, I wanted to show you guys what this project cost us.  I had Garrett empty out the truck seats and check behind the kitchen drawer for any missing receipts and logged them in my handy-dandy Excel budget tracker.  Let’s take a look, shall we…

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Kitchen Renovaiton Open Shelves

When we first toured this house, I earmarked $10,000-$15,000 for the kitchen renovation, but narrowed that number down to $12,200 after deciding on a layout and design plan.  That number doesn’t include tax or house-wide expenses like the new electrical panel or the main plumbing runs, but it does include everything you can see in this room.  Here’s how our budget turned out:

$4200 Appliances

$1500 Cabinets

$920 Countertops

$460 Hardware

$450 Skylights

$790 Sink

$275 Faucet + Pot filler

$950 Lighting

$150 Electrical

$100 Plumbing

$700 Flooring materials + refinish

$255 Shelves

$220 Backsplash

$400 Framing & Building Materials

$250 Paint

$200 Incidentals

$11,820 Total

That’s a lot of money.  But considering that the average US major kitchen remodel runs between $18k and a ton, our figure seems kinda reasonable, right?!  In truth, we’ve spent between $5k and $12k for all four of our previous kitchen remodels, so while the Dexter House kitchen remodel is cheap by US standards, it was on the high side for these DIY-ers.

We made some big splurges this time around, like the swing-arm lights, the appliances (especially the Blue Star range), the handcrafted shelf brackets (which seem to be everyone’s favorite and we still have 5 more of them…!), and the campaign hardware.  These items were all ‘big impact’ and thus justifiable, at least in my book.  Of course if I were to design this kitchen over, I’d change a couple of things.  Like I’d probably switch out the campaign hardware with something cheaper and easier to use.  I’d also consider replacing the cement tile backsplash with classic white subway tiles and extend them behind the open shelves for higher impact.  I really didn’t want to do a large tile installation after the exhausting Ravenna herringbone backsplash, but in the end, large backslashes are a crowd pleaser, so I’d probably make the effort next time around.  Hindsight is 20/20.

We did save some money in a few spots too.  Like doing all the labor ourselves.  And using open shelves instead of upper cabinets on the east wall.  And salvaging the original pie safe.  We also went with stock cabinets and painted them ourselves, which added high contrast and turned boring-looking cabinets into something a bit more high-end.

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Kitchen Remodel north

What would you guys have splurged on?  Would you have picked any of the same splurges I did?
Sources: lower cabinet paint: BM Onyx | trim and wall paint: BM Simply White | Cabinets | Sink | Faucet| Potfiller | Tile | Red Oak Floors, shelves, and countertops, Hardwood Industries | Shelf brackets | Campaign Hardware (on drawers) | cabinet knobs | Range | swing arm lights | marble pastry slab | nesting mixing bowls | cake trays (similar) |  marble utensil holder | overhead kitchen lightmudroom star light | dinner plates and bowls |



p.s. seriously digging these fold away teepees handmade in the USA!

p.p.s. When I was little, my family would go hiking every summer.  We’d pack sleeping bags and a cook stove and enough food to last two weeks into backpacks and just go.  I think that’s why I’ve never really been into the whole “glamping” movement.  Until now.

p.p.p.s. A few of my favorite pins recently: this dinner.  This bedroom.  This littles’ bedroom.  This look.  And this family.


Reader Question: Kitchen Reno Costs


I know you guys are going to be really surprised to hear this, but we’re still (STILL!) working on the backyard at the Ravenna House.  The shed is getting close-ish to being done and we’ve started planning a fence.  We’re also still waiting to hear from the lien-holders to find out if we got that mysterious new house I keep hinting at (we’ll call her fixer #4 for now).  So with nothing much by the way of progress to share, I thought it would be a good time to answer a reader question.

I received this question from Miyuki last week:

“My husband and I own a small home in LA, and are looking to remodel our kitchen.  I love what you did on the Bryant house kitchen and I’m wondering if you can tell me about how much it ran you and in general, how do you budget for a kitchen remodel? 

“We have a galley kitchen with very poor storage space.  Our cabinets are old, but I think we can salvage some of them so long as we can find a way to make the new ones match the old which is why I like what you did with the Bryant house.  Was it hard to make the cabinets somewhat match each other?

“And using butcher block is exactly what I want to do in ours too (my husband thinks I’m crazy).  Is Maple the standard wood you would go with, or would you suggest other wood qualities to consider?”

Great question, right?  Since it is such a detailed question, I’m going to split it into three parts and tackle one a day – today we’ll focus on budget.  But first let’s get reacquainted with the Bryant House kitchen reno.

The Grit and Polish - Bryant House White Kitchen Renovaiton.jpg

We completed this renovation in March 2013 when I was 6 months pregnant with Wilder.  It was a gut job besides keeping a wall of existing cabinets.  We added appliances, custom cabinetry, lighting, tile, fresh hardware, and painted everything.  You can read more about it here.  This is the finished product:

The Grit and Polish  Bryant House Kitchen Renovation with Subway Backsplash Floor to Ceiling.jpg
the Grit and Polish - White kitchen renovation with classic hardware.jpgThe Grit and Polish  Original 1926 Cabinets with New Clamshell Pulls.jpgthe Grit and Polish - kitchen renovation with built-in dining nook featuring West Elm lighting.jpg

I’ve said it before, but this kitchen/dining space is one of my favorite rooms that we’ve ever renovated.  It’s so light and bright and just plain happy.  We spent more time in this room than anywhere else at the Bryant House.  And I will always have such sweet memories of  holding 1-day-old Wilder at that table, introducing him to family and friends, as we drank coffee and ate apple cake.

Okay, now let’s get back to the topic at hand.  Money.  Luckily I kept really good records when we remodeled the Bryant House, which unfortunately is not a trend I continued at the Ravenna House.  I’m going to blame it on the birth of Wilder and the strange void which I used to call spare time.  Anyway, the Bryant House kitchen remodel cost us $9,700.  It was a 100% DIY job, so we didn’t pay for any labor.  We did get plenty of help from family, especially my father-in-law who happens to be an electrician and is cool with being paid in beer.  What is family for after all?!

Here’s what the cost breakdown looked like:

Custom Cabinets                $2,266
Appliances                           $2,875
Lighting                                $900
Vintage Table and Hutch  $640
Countertops                         $460
Tile and tool rental             $400
Electrical                               $248
Plumbing & Fixtures          $513
Building materials              $610
Misc (paint, etc)                  $788

Total                                      $9,700

The pair of sliding doors, which we installed ourself, were an additional $1,540.

Of course every renovation is unique and so is the budget.  It depends on your scope, how much work you plan to do yourself, and the level of finish.  Our budget for the Bryant House kitchen probably won’t work in 90% of kitchens.  I’ve read that the average kitchen remodel runs somewhere in the $15k-45k range.  Based on that, an average remodel breakdown would look more like this:

Cabinets                             $10,500
Labor                                  $6,000
Appliances                         $6,000
windows                             $3,000
Fixtures                              $1,500
Fittings                               $900
Other                                  $2,100

Total                                   $30,000

And then add contingency.  I usually use 10-15% of the total budget, but I’d recommend 20% for a novice renovator.  That would equal an additional $6,000, in this scenario.  If you don’t use it, great.  But I find that the unexpected always happens on an old-house remodel and it’s best to be prepared.

Back to Miyuki.  I think a $36,000 budget is a good place to start.  Yes, that’s a ton of money.  But you can subtract from there (or add if need be), based on size of the project, work you plan to do yourself and the how nice of finishes you’re planning.  Obviously we subtracted a lot in labor but didn’t have to scrimp on the finish level much (sure I’d love a pro-range, but we really didn’t need it).  Quality cabinets were really important to me, so we spent the extra money on custom shaker-style cabinets, but saved about 10% by painting them ourselves.  I also think we got a lot of “style mileage” out of the inexpensive white subway tile backsplash, installed floor to ceiling.  Renovations are about compromise, just make sure to keep your goals in tact!

What about you guys?  Any budget advice for Miyuki or feedback on our renovation?  I’d love to hear about it in the comment section below!



p.s. “Children’s menus are the death of civilization.” An interesting look into the recent history of kids and food.

p.p.s. Did you guys know the Pioneer Woman renovated a commercial property?  It’s beautiful!

p.p.p.s. Have you guys seen Jersey Ice Cream Co’s renovation work?  I’m obsessed with these guys!

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