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When Remodeling, Make Sure the Price Is Right

Posted on Oct 24, 2019 in:
  • Seattle Times HomeWork
  • Remodel
  • Homeowners

Remodeling clients smiling and discussing project with contractor

Q: I’m thinking of remodeling my kitchen, but I have no idea how much it’s going to set me back or how much value it will add to my home. Is there any way of knowing how much it’s going to end up costing?

A: A remodel can make your home more comfortable and add to its value. And if you plan on selling your home in the future, a remodel can offer a significant return on investment. Unfortunately, there is no truly reliable average cost per project type and remodel pricing is not based on square footage. Ultimately, the cost and value of your remodel will vary based upon several factors:

Company Size

Every remodeling firm sets pricing based on business expenses. A smaller firm or a handyman will be less expensive than a larger outfit because their staffing and overhead costs are modest. Larger remodeling companies are more expensive, but are also better equipped, more experienced, and have the manpower and resources to handle projects of all sizes.

Age and Condition

The age of Seattle-area housing stock varies a lot. Older homes require more detailed planning because they’re more complex to remodel than newer homes. If a home has been well-maintained, fewer complications and unforeseen developments are likely. Most older structures will need to be substantially reinforced and brought up to current building code, which can increase overall project costs.

Materials and Finishes

Costs vary greatly depending on your material, appliance, and fixture selections. There are so many places to shop and dozens of finishes to choose from. When you’re planning a kitchen, bathroom, or whole-home remodel, the material costs add up quickly. Many homeowners also find it confusing to navigate the myriad options.

Choosing a Design-Build Firm

A design-build firm may help control costs before construction begins. They’ll educate and work with you to offer a selection of options that fit your budget. With a handyman or contractor, you will need to hire a designer separately and/or spend your own time researching and shopping for materials—an often involved, confusing process without guidance. It pays to have a knowledgeable guide.

Regional Realities

Remodeling Magazine publishes an annual Cost vs. Value Report, which is a great way to get a sense of prices nationally and locally. According to the 2019 report, the national average cost of a kitchen upgrade was $132K. But in the Seattle area, it’s $15K higher, likely because of the added costs of operating a business here, as well as the fixtures selected—anything over “vanilla” will drive up your kitchen investment to well over $100K. According to the same report, a major upscale bathroom remodel in Seattle will cost $74K, or $10K over the national average. You can save money by selecting budget-conscious fixtures and keeping the same layout, but face it, remodeling does cost more in Seattle.

The bottom line is remodeling here is expensive and will likely cost more than you think. Being upfront about your budget with your remodeler and doing your research prior to meeting will help you and the company you hire embark on a successful project.

So how do you choose the right professional?

Do Your Homework

Research potential remodeling firms online and request referrals from friends, family members, coworkers, and neighbors. A reputable remodeler is likely to be involved in their local homebuilders association, and the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties has a convenient member directory. Also check the company’s contractor’s registration and workers’ compensation coverage with the Washington Department of Labor and Industries.

Visit Project Sites and Interview Companies

Take advantage of various home tours throughout the Seattle area, such as the upcoming Remodeled Homes Tour the weekend of October 26–27, where you have an opportunity to see work firsthand and speak directly with builders. Free and open to the public, you can tour recently remodeled homes and meet the companies behind them. Tickets and tour guide can be found at When on the tour, check out the showcased projects, their features and finishes, and feel free to ask questions about project details and costs.


Melissa Irons is co-owner of Irons Brothers Construction, a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling, or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of MBAKS’ nearly 2,800 members, write to


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