The Kitchen: Renovate Or New Build?

Wad of cash in front of a kitchen remodel design

Completely renovating a kitchen, especially in an older home, can at times be a daunting task. Considerations for structural integrity have to be maintained, and you are never really sure of what you will run in to when you start knocking out walls. Older homes especially can have unseen problems, such as water damage leading to mold behind walls removed, rotted flooring caused by an unseen or neglected leak and sub-standard wiring can be found.

When planning a renovation, city codes and regulations have to be adhered to, often leading to further expense. Remember, when you are finished with your project, you are stuck with it, and there is no turning back. The focus of this article will be on whether to renovate or do a new build. We will discuss considerations, options and typical costs of both renovation and new build.

The Cost Of Renovation

The cost of renovating a kitchen is dependent on a lot of factors. It depends on where you live, the age of your home, and is of course constrained by your budget. There is no absolute figure per square foot for kitchen renovation. However, the ballpark figures from research show that you can expect to pay between $125 to $225 per square foot.

Freddie Mac determines the cost of reno to be $8,000 and up. If you live in Chicago, plan to pay more than if you live in a small town in Nebraska. If you have serviceable appliances that you like the features of, and are capable of doing a lot of the work yourself, then the cost can be lowered appreciably.

What Needs To be Done

man assembling kitchen cabinet

In a renovation, especially if the house was built before 1950, there are specific issues that you may have to deal with. First, you must rent a large container for waste removal, adding to cost. In an interview with a builder for this article, he informed me that not only plumbing and wiring must be upgraded to code, but you may run into asbestos wrapped pipes. If so, a HazMat company is required to deal with asbestos, raising the cost. Although wiring and plumbing only needs to be replaced in the actual room you are working in, wiring must be upgraded from the electrical box to the kitchen. A competent builder will assess the infrastructure by cutting holes in certain areas to inspect for water damage. He will not just begin tearing out walls without doing this first. Lead pipe will need to be removed. Water damage and any sign of mold must be properly dealt with, raising the cost.

The Cost Of New Build

In the mid-Michigan area where I live, new build costs vary. Prices range from $75 to $130 depending on which contractor you talk to. Here is where you need to get the calculator out and make some decisions. You would quickly think the contractor offering to build at $75 per square foot is the best option. Not necessarily so! It is the old saw "you get what you pay for" and is truer in new construction than anywhere else. Builder A charges $75 per square foot, builder B $130. Builder A will work strictly to code and nothing else, so you end up with the bare minimum required by law. Builder B, however, will add extra insulation, run electrical plugs and outlets to your satisfaction, and will work with you on special needs, such as green building. In the long run, builder B is the best bet. You not only get what you want, but get special attention to specific needs.

Other Consideration On A New Build

modern kitchen

On a new build, you will have the expense of new electrical installation, and new plumbing will need to be run. Building codes require that these runs be made from the source. You can't simply splice into old wiring to make it work, nor do the same with plumbing. In newer homes this is not much of a problem.

In older homes, however, the builder may run into difficulty with old construction and older plumbing and wiring. GFCI plugs and grounding wires need to be used in your new kitchen. There are specific ways they must be installed, and require a licensed electrician for installation.

What About The Old Kitchen?

You have determined that a new build is cheaper and will give you what you want. The old kitchen, however, must be dealt with after the new is finished. Countertop level plugs must be moved down to 16 inches from the floor to meet code. The process will require new wiring, also. For walls, it is a simple matter of installing 3/8" drywall, taping and mudding, and then repainting.

Do your due diligence, and enjoy your new kitchen!