Dear Angie: How much should a complete kitchen remodel cost? — Alfred S., Altus, Okla.
Answer: As you cook up plans to perk up your kitchen, keep in mind several guidelines from our consumer research team:
■ Aim to keep the total cost at 10 percent to 20 percent of your home's value.
■ Remodeling experts say you generally can expect about an 85 percent return on investment with a total kitchen remodel.
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■ The average budget to remodel a kitchen last year was $30,000, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association.
As for how much a particular kitchen upgrade will cost, that will depend on the size of your kitchen and the appliances, cabinets, countertop and other elements of the project.
Highly rated remodelers tell our team that a full kitchen remodel can range from $10,000 to $100,000. Designer fees, custom cabinetry and high-end appliances will move the project to the higher end.
Here's a simple recipe for getting started when you're ready to move from the imagination phase to preparing to talk to contractors:
■ Set a budget.
■ Set a buffer. Set aside 20 percent of your budget, or an additional 20 percent, for contingency expenses. It's smart to give yourself wiggle room because major remodeling projects often uncover or lead to issues that take extra money and time to address.
■ Set realistic expectations. Make sure that as you consider your plans, you keep in mind how you really use the room and what you can afford. Also, don't forget the hassle factor; your home will be in a state of chaos for some time.
Before you start talking to contractors, consider who will be in charge. You might want to act as your own general contractor and hire each remodeling specialist on your own. This might save you money, but it will cost you time and energy.
An experienced and reputable general contractor will know how to manage a kitchen remodeling's multiple phases, and aspects of a project that might challenge you should be easy for a general contractor.
Plan to get at least three estimates before hiring a contractor. Ask friends, family and neighbors for recommendations. Confirm consumer experiences and company reputation from a trusted source.
Ask for proof of insurance and bonding and any required licensing. Get all aspects of the job in writing, and put down no more than a third of the cost as a down payment or deposit.