If you’re thinking about remodeling, the first question on your mind is: “how much does it cost?” As a 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. 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. So, let’s talk about true costs and local data.
Factors That Impact Remodeling Costs
Two things impact the cost of a remodel the most: the size of the general contractor 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.
An Important Note About 2023 Construction:
While lumber and other construction supplies have started to become more readily available, when compared to the shortages of the past 6-12 months, there is still high demand for many materials. Some appliances are especially challenging to source right now because of high demand, stocking shortages and delivery delays. This Q&A with various members of the Model Remodel team about rising construction costs is still relevant if you’d like to learn how these unavoidable construction challenges could effect your project’s bottom line.
Please note: costs listed below are subject to change and are likely to increase, due to both material and labor costs, in the months to come.
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 Impacts 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 budget choices. When investing in a home remodel most people gravitate towards high-end choices, but everything from appliances to the handles on your cabinets has a wide range of options.
Custom details vs. stock items will also greatly impact cost. 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. One of the top benefits of working with an interior designer is having someone to help you stick to a budget. Professionals will only show you options you can afford.
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.
Estimating Lingo: Cost Per Square Foot vs. Average Remodeling Costs
If you’ve ever heard the term “cost per square foot” in regards to construction, you’ve probably heard it in relation to a new home. For new construction builders, it’s much easier to determine a cost per square foot calculation for building a new house with “X amount of bedrooms and X amount of bathrooms”.
Remodeling costs are not as simple. It’s much more difficult to determine a cost per square foot for remodeling projects, because every project has unique circumstances that can greatly affect cost. These include:
- The age of the home
- The type of existing systems (water, electricity, sewage, heating, etc)
- The presence of of asbestos or lead paint
- Framing style
- Designs that need to be brought up to code
- Matching difficult to find custom molding and finishes
- Land-use or lot restrictions
- Engineering modifications
Most reputable remodeling contractors will not give you a cost per square foot number. Instead, they will give you a detailed project estimate specific to your home. Be weary of any contractor who claims they can price a job per square foot or give a final estimate without visiting your home first.
Instead, a seasoned contractor can give you a “ballpark” or average cost for similar projects in similar homes within your neighborhood. That will give you a much better idea of actual costs than using an unreliable home renovation cost estimator online, or getting a cost per square foot number that will leave you with surprise costs later on. When making such a large purchase, you’ll want to have an accurate estimate from the beginning so you can determine your project’s true return on investment.
The Average Cost of Remodeling Projects in Seattle
Now, let’s talk numbers. The figures we list below are average costs found in Remodeling Magazine’s 2022 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 renovation 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 at least 10% is always recommended, though we’re recommending an even higher contingency this year as prices fluctuate uncontrollably due to the pandemic.
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 Seattle
According to the 2022 Cost vs. Value Report, the average cost of a kitchen remodel in Seattle is around $170,000. Compare that with the national average of $158,000 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 $150,000. 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 Seattle Costs
According to the 2022 Cost vs. Value Report, the average cost of an upscale bathroom remodel in Seattle is around $90,000. 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 $60,000 in that case, and even less if you’re keeping something large like the vanity.
Home Addition Seattle Costs
According to the 2022 Cost vs. Value Report, the average cost of an upscale primary suite addition in Seattle is $410,000 and a mid-range one averages around $200,000. We find most additions to fall somewhere in between. Another common project is Seattle is adding a full a 2nd story addition, which almost always cost more than $500,000. 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 a Realistic Remodeling 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.
Getting a Quote
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. The best first step you can take is talking 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—by location, which is key!
Take the first step in determining your remodeling project cost by contacting us today.