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Ask Madelaine...What do I need to know before I renovate my NYC kitchen (Part 2)?

Dear Madelaine,

I live in New York City and I am thinking about renovating my kitchen. I’ve heard there are a lot of technical code requirements, and that sometimes you need a permit while other times you don’t. I’ve also heard about huge ranges in construction costs - What do I need to know to make the best choices for my home?


In Part 1 of this post, I talked about code minimums, permit types, and other technical requirements. In this post, we're going to dive into the elements that comprise kitchen renovations and their associated pricing.

Photograph of Kitchen Design

There are 3 primary factors that will determine the cost of your renovation:

Size: This is pretty intuitive; the larger your kitchen is, the more it will cost to renovate (provided other factors are equal). Kitchen sizes can generally be grouped into the following categories:

  • Micro/Kitchenette: Under 50 sf, these are the tiny square or one wall kitchens popular in studio and small 1 bedrooms apartments. They have a sink, narrow range, and either a narrow or under-counter refrigerator with minimal storage and counter space.

  • Small: Between 50 and 80 sf, these are often galley or corner kitchens found in larger studios and 1 bedroom apartments. They have a sink, standard range, standard refrigerator, and depending on the apartment, a microwave and/or dishwasher. There is sufficient storage and generally enough counterspace for 1 person cooking.

  • Medium: Between 80 and 120 sf, these are often "L" or "U" shaped kitchens with an island or peninsula and found in 1 and 2 bedroom apartments. They have a sink, standard range, standard refrigerator, microwave and dishwasher. There is ample storage and generally enough counterspace and maneuvering room for 2 people cooking.

  • Large: Between 120 and 200 sf, these are often "L" or "U" shaped kitchens with an island/peninsula and small dining area. They are usually found in 2 and 3 bedroom apartments. They have a large single or double sink, 6 burner range, wide refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher, and depending on the apartment a wine refrigerator or warming drawers. There is abundant storage, usually including a pantry, and enough counter space and maneuvering room for several people cooking/entertaining.

  • Extra Large: Over 200 sf, these are spacious kitchens with separate spaces for food storage, preparation, dining, and entertaining. They are usually found in 3+ bedroom apartments and townhouses. They have a large single or double sink, 6 burner cooktops, multiple ovens, wide refrigerator(s), microwave, dishwasher, wine refrigerator, warming drawers, and specialty appliances like pizza ovens. There is abundant storage, counterspace and maneuvering room for several people cooking/entertaining.

Scope: The scope of a kitchen renovation can vary widely from refinishing what you already have to relocating the entire kitchen to a different part of your home:

  • Refinish: If everything in your kitchen is in good condition/working order, but it feels a little dated, a refresh can do wonders. This generally consists of repainting the cabinets/doors, changing the hardware, painting the walls/ceiling, and maybe updating the lighting. Depending on your countertop /backsplash material, this could also be updated without any significant demolition. Depending on your building's requirements and you level of DIY comfort, you could potentially execute this scope yourself without a contractor.

  • Replace-In-Kind: If the existing layout of your kitchen works for you (and meets current code requirements), but the cabinets, countertops, plumbing/lighting fixtures, and appliances have seen better days, you can remove and replace all the elements in the same locations. There are several advantages to this approach:

    • It falls under the Minor Alterations category of work, so it does not need to be filed with the Department of Buildings for an alteration permit.

    • It's more likely to get quick co-op board approval since it's an upgrade rather than a substantial change.

    • Physically you know there won't be surprises during demolition that could thwart your plans (who knew there was a roof drain pipe in that wall?) with costly changes.

    • While we wouldn't recommend it, this type of work could be executed by a contractor without a design professional.

  • Gut Renovation: Everything is fair game and potentially changing. Walls are coming down or going up, fixtures and appliances are moving, and everything is being stripped back to the structure. This level of scope is definitely exciting, but is also the most challenging and involved:

    • This is a Type 2 Alteration, so it requires architectural drawings filed with the department of buildings and a full set of permits.

    • If you live in a co-op, securing approval could be difficult, especially if the building has a strict no-wet-over-dry policy.

    • You should have a larger contingency fund, since there will absolutely be surprises during demolition that will need to be addressed.

    • This type of work requires working with both an architect and contractor.

Finishes: There is a HUGE investment/quality range for all of the materials, fixtures, and appliances that go into your kitchen, and it's the finishes and contractor labor that will primarily determine your total investment:

  • Entry-Level: Off-the shelf items from "big-box" stores, for example:

    • Cabinets: IKEA Engineered Wood

    • Countertops: Hi-Macs Solid Surface

    • Flooring: MSI Laminate

    • Backsplash: Daltile Ceramic Tile

    • Fixtures: Delta

    • Appliances: Summit

  • Mid-Grade: A combination of customized and off-the shelf items from specialty distributors, for example:

    • Cabinets: Siteline Painted Wood and Wood Veneer

    • Countertops: Ceasarstone Quartz

    • Flooring: MSI Porcelain Tile

    • Backsplash: TileBar Ceramic Tile

    • Fixtures: Kohler

    • Appliances: GE

  • High-End: Professional quality fixtures/appliances and exemplary craftsmanship of finishes, for example:

    • Cabinets: Starmark

    • Countertops: Cosentino Dekton

    • Flooring: Akdo Porcelain Tile

    • Backsplash: Artistic Tile Glass Tile

    • Fixtures: Graff

    • Appliances: Wolf

  • Luxury: Highest possible quality finishes, fixtures, and appliances, for example:

    • Cabinets: Custom

    • Countertops: Natural Marble or Granite

    • Flooring: Large Format Stone

    • Backsplash: Large Format Stone

    • Fixtures: La Cornue

    • Appliances: Meneghini

Photograph of Kitchen Design

As you can see, there are a lot of factors that will determine the cost of your kitchen renovation!

Is a small high-end gut renovation more expensive than a large mid-range replace-in-kind? Can you spring for high end appliances if you go mid-range on finishes? Is there enough savings in a replace-in-kind over a gut renovation to accommodate a stunning mural backsplash? Honestly, there is no way to answer those questions without specific project information, but there are some general rules of thumb that can help you budget/decide what kind of renovation is best for you.

Industry benchmarks are generally for a medium size replace-in-kind renovation, so you can scale up or down depending on your kitchen's size and level of involvement. For materials, labor, overhead, and contractor's margins, but not appliances or design fees, you can estimate:

  • Entry-level renovations starting at $40,000

  • Mid-grade renovations starting at $65,000

  • High-end renovations starting at $100,000

  • Luxury renovations starting at $150,000

Appliances can also be broken down into tiers according to finish level:

  • Entry-level packages from $1,500 to $5,000

  • Mid-grade packages from $5,000 to $10,000

  • High-end packages from $10,000 to $20,000

  • Luxury packages from $20,000 and up

Design fees can also run the gamut from basic advice to incredibly detailed drawings, renderings, and product selection. You can expect to spend anywhere from 20-30% of the total construction costs on design, with higher percentages for entry-level and mid-grade renovations (it's the same amount of work, just different finishes). If your designer is handling construction management, expect to spend at least 50% of the design fee value on this phase.

For the same medium size replace-in-kind renovation discussed above, for design fees you can expect on average:

  • Entry-level renovation design services starting at $12,000

  • Mid-grade renovations design services starting at $18,000

  • High-end renovations design services starting at $25,000

  • Luxury renovations design services starting at $30,000

It's also really important to have a contingency budget for all the little surprises that are bound to happen during the course of a renovation. Typically, you want to have 10-15% of the budget for a replace-in-kind project and 15-20% for a gut renovation.

Which brings us to our grand totals!

For a medium size replace-in-kind kitchen renovation in NYC, you can estimate the following all-in total estimates:

  • Entry-level renovations starting at $63,000

  • Mid-grade renovations starting at $100,000

  • High-end renovations starting at $160,000

  • Luxury renovations starting at $225,000

Please keep in mind that these are general starting estimates only. Want to understand what your specific kitchen renovation might cost? Schedule a Complimentary Design Discovery Consultation and we can figure it out together! And if you haven't already, make sure to check out Part 1 of this question where I talked about code requirements and project logistics.

Till next time…


PS - Do you have design questions? Send us an email at and we will answer it as quickly and completely as possible in an upcoming blog post!


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