April 30, 2019
Seattle Remodeling Costs in 2019
If you’re thinking about remodeling, the first question on your mind is: “what will it cost?” Most homeowners start by searching online, but finding realistic numbers can be challenging. National averages are not comparable to the hot housing market in Seattle and contractors don’t post prices online. A lack of real data is one of the primary reasons Seattle homeowners experience sticker shock when they find out the true cost to remodel. As a local contractor, we’re laying it all out there and giving actual price guidelines to help Seattle homeowners understand the true cost to remodel in our ever-evolving city this year.
Two things impact the cost of a remodel the most: the size of the company you hire and the finishes you choose. These have the ability to influence your final costs by tens of thousands. Yes, you read that right! One thing that doesn’t influence cost as much as you might think is the size of your space. Many people describe their kitchen or bathroom square footage as “small” expecting the total cost to be drastically lower. Every major kitchen or bathroom remodel requires plumbing, electrical, drywall, cabinets, tile, and more. That requires a visit from the plumber, electrician, tile setter, and a lot of carpentry hours—it’s complex no matter the size. The materials will cost less, but the labor may not be as much of a savings as expected. However, there are ways to save.
Types of Remodeling Contractors
First, remodeling costs can vary dramatically depending on the contractor you choose. You will absolutely save the most money by doing it yourself, but that can be risky with larger remodels. A bathroom remodel for $5k? A kitchen remodel for $15k? You’re going to need to DIY to stay within those budgets. If you don’t have the skills or time to DIY you have two options: hire a solo contractor or contract with a full-scale remodeling company.
What is playfully known in the industry as a “Chuck in a Truck” is a one-man or woman show with the ability to do the entire project themselves. For a remodel that requires no structural changes, these solo contractors can often provide more flexible scheduling at a lower price because they use fewer subcontractors and overhead costs are minimal. Keep in mind, you may have to spend time sourcing the materials yourself, pricing can be ambiguous and the quality is not always guaranteed.
Another category of contractor is the full-service contractor. Most of these companies have a complete team including a designer/architect, estimator, project manager and site supervisor. They employ a larger team, which means higher prices to pay employee salaries, and they often work with a number of specialized subcontractors. Some homeowners prefer a full-scale contractor because they can complete larger projects, provide detailed estimates, help with design, and may have more experience. It’s a more hands off approach, which lets the experts manage all the materials, timelines and budget. You’ll pay more for a higher level of service and warranty should an issue arise in the future.
A note about subcontractors: few companies have a crew that includes plumbers, electricians, tile setters, and other special fields—no man is an island. There are many specialties that are best handled by subcontractors who have exact and absolute knowledge of their discipline. These subcontractors may be seen as an additional line item, but rest easy knowing that the right person is doing the job. Reputable general contractors will have a long list of subcontractors to choose from and will have already properly vetted those people, or worked with them on previous projects. Subcontractors should meld seamlessly into the rest of the crew and work environment when they are needed.
Regardless of the contractor you chose, it’s important to get your project permitted and hire a person or company with a valid license. Also look for a remodeling contractor who will listen to your needs, help you find customized solutions, and be your partner throughout the entire remodeling process.
How Design Affects the Cost of Remodeling
Second, remodeling costs can vary dramatically depending on the choices you make. In these modern times, fewer homeowners are opting for laminate countertops, unpainted wood cabinets, vinyl flooring and other less expensive choices. Everything from appliances to the handles on your cabinets has a wide range of options. Sticking to the choices within your price range is half the battle. It’s easy to choose more expensive materials and fixtures, then see your total project price soar.
There’s also the less-glamorous, hard costs like: concrete, insulation, and electrical work. These are required for every project and they cost money, too. The proper framing and structures need to be the foundation (pun intended) for your beautiful floors and fixtures. While these hard costs are less negotiable, the soft costs are all up to you.
Now, let’s talk numbers. The figures we list below are averages found in Remodeling Magazine’s 2019 Cost vs. Value Report, which is a helpful guide that compares remodeling prices nationally and regionally each year. We find the numbers in this report to be truthful and a great starting point. When looking at costs in any report, remember that pricing is dependent on many interconnected factors. Remodeling an older home almost always comes with additional challenges beyond the normal scope of a project (i.e. mold, a failing furnace, etc). A contingency fund of 10% is always recommended.
Each type has a “Project Description” including the size, scope, and quality of materials. Note that quartz countertops, white cabinets, built-ins, and other standards you see in beautiful Pinterest images fall often into the “upscale” category in this report. Those are the numbers we’ve pulled from the report below, because that is what most people want when remodeling their forever home. Don’t be deterred though, the word upscale is not synonymous with high-end necessarily. A good designer will save you money by only showing you the layout and materials within your budget.
Kitchen Remodeling Costs
According to the Cost vs. Value Report, an kitchen remodel in Seattle averages $145,658. Compare that with the national average of $131,510 and you’re already going to notice the trend. Remodeling in a booming housing market like ours is going to cost more than the majority of U.S. cities. If custom cabinets, quartz countertops, hardwoods and designer fixtures is what you’re looking for, it’s going to cost you over $100,000. These materials fall under the “upscale” category in the report, but the reality is that these materials are kitchen standards in the current marketplace. Unless you simply want to swap out countertops and some cabinet hardware, you’re looking at a large investment for that Pinterest-worthy kitchen.
This Houzz article also does a great job of explaining how job scope may vary and affect the budget of a kitchen remodel. Most people fall into that secondary range or higher because they want to change the layout of their kitchen or build custom solutions for their space. If you’re already putting in the time, effort and dollars to do a remodel, it’s typical to save up for many years in order to design the kitchen of your dreams. Fine details can add up quickly though, so it’s important to be realistic about the scale of your kitchen remodel.
Bathroom Remodeling Costs
According to the Cost vs. Value Report, an upscale bathroom remodel in Seattle averages $74,198. This includes a layout change, which means plumbing fixtures and electrical are moved, plus a tiled shower and a freestanding tub. The cost is lower if you keep the existing layout, which most people do, and have a tub/shower combo. Expect your bathroom remodel to cost closer to $50,000 in that case, and even less if you’re keeping something large like the vanity.
Home Addition Costs
According to the Cost vs. Value Report, an upscale master suite addition in Seattle averages $304,522 and a mid-range one averages $150,345. We find most additions to fall somewhere in between, though 2nd story additions almost always cost more than $300,000. It’s common for other projects to get tacked on to an addition project. When you have a large construction project like an addition happening, it makes sense to check those other smaller projects off your list at the same time.
Setting Your Realistic Budget
Hopefully these ballpark figures are informative and help you determine which range your Seattle remodeling project may fall into. If you’re still thinking: “…but I saw a remodel on TV for $30,000, why does it cost twice that?” We understand your surprise. Home improvement channels can offset certain costs that the average person cannot. The figures they show you likely do not include true labor costs for their huge teams of people that work around the clock. You simply can’t compare your remodel to what you see on TV, what your best friend in a different city told you, or what you paid 5 years ago. Setting a realistic remodeling budget is best handled as a conversation with your local contractor, as no two project budgets are ever alike—we wish they were that easy too!
That being said, have a number. You know how much money you have and how much wiggle room you can give yourself. One of the best things you can do is set hard limits from the get-go. While you don’t have to disclose your cap (the absolute most you can possibly spend), you should be willing to share a rough budget with a contractor so they can give you an estimate that fits within that budget. As a general rule, expect 15-20% of your budget to go to contingencies that come up during the project. This could be anything from remediating mold to fixing poor framing. If your contractor is experienced at estimating, you won’t need all of it, but remodeling can be tricky when bringing things up to code. You don’t always know what you’ll find during demolition.
There is no doubt it is costly to remodel in this part of the country, and especially in Seattle. Before you purchase a home to remodel, or start planning an update to your current space, be sure to set your remodeling budget according to local estimates and plan within those constraints. Talk about the scope of your project with a reputable contractor to get the most accurate estimate. Every project is different, and you won’t know for sure until you ask! If you want to give yourself a ballpark before contacting a professional, the Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report is a great resource and breaks down over a dozen common remodeling projects by scope and price.
© 2019 Hanley Wood Media Inc. Complete data from the Remodeling 2019 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at www.costvsvalue.com.