You’re about to buy a place or you bought one a few years and now you’re asking how much will a kitchen renovation cost in Chicago?  I add Chicago because the cost of construction varies greatly in different regions.  This is because labor costs and building codes are different and if your renovation is in a high rise building more time has to be spent getting approvals and carrying materials up and down elevators which makes working in high rises inefficient.  This means a kitchen or bathroom in a Chicago high rise could cost 75% more expensive than nearly the same construction in a small town in Iowa.

But the construction will not be the same.  Chicago renovations tend to be more contemporary employing more expensive finishing materials.  Up-market finishes significantly add to a kitchen’s cost and every year the materials go more upmarket.

The result is that kitchens in Chicago have doubled and tripled in price in the last 20 years as countertops have gone from Formica, to Granite, to Quartz.  What used to cost 10 dollars a square foot has been replaced by something at 100 dollars per sq/ft.

The simple answer how much a complete kitchen renovation in Chicago is that it will cost is 10K and 100K. That will cover 90% of the market but  it’s still a pretty unhelpful fact.  To break it down more, we’ll look at 5 levels of renovation and show what you can get at each level.

Also, keep in mind, three important factors.

  1. Size matters in construction.  The larger the kitchen the more it cost.
  2. The cost is not just determined by the kitchen you end up with, it depends on where you started and the amount of changes needed to get to where you want to be.   Moving plumbing locations and taking down walls dramatically impacts pricing.
  3. The quality of the contractor regarding their workmanship and professionalism.

(A partial kitchen renovation is far cheaper)

We’ve renovated kitchens as little 70 square feet but most kitchens in Chicago are closer to 120 to 160 square feet.  A complete renovation can be done at several different levels.  A kitchen in a typical low-rise condo is in the middle of this range.

This was a small Chicago town house kitchen renovation. The kitchen 8 x 10 was so small it needed the help of a built-in under the stairs for extra storage, a wine cooler and a microwave. Cost: Lower level 3 including the built-in because it was small. Size matters!

Before proceeding I want to mention the 11 major elements of a kitchen renovation. At each level some of these will expand.

  1. Demolition of the existing materials. Basically tearing out everything with the exception possibly of the walls and flooring.
  2. Changes to walls, ceilings, windows, and doors.
  3. Flooring
  4. Changes to plumbing fixtures or fixture locations such as moving the sink or an appliance that require plumbing. (refrigerator, oven, dishwasher) .
  5. Adding or redoing ventilation: think exhaust hoods and heating registers.
  6. Electrical changes like adding lights, switches, appliance power.
  7. New cabinetry.
  8. New Countertops.
  9. New backsplash tiling
  10. Drywall and painting
  11. New fixtures and appliances.

Level 1: Everything stays in the same place, stock cabinets, granite countertops, basic appliances, basic work quality.

Cabinets for this kitchen renovation from Menard’s

These kitchens are advertised at 10K in Angie’s list but I doubt anyone gets one without paying 12 to 15K or more when all the additional costs are added in.   (It’s an old contractor game to bid low and then pile on the additions.) Flooring for instance, would not be included.

The cabinets will be builder grade (these shown are from Menards), the sink will be drop-in, the fixtures will be basic, the tile choices will be limited and the appliances will probably not be stainless steel.

In summary, it will be new, work perfectly, and look about 20 years out of style. At this price point, all the mechanicals, meaning electrical, heating and air-conditioning and plumbing will stay in the same location as will the appliances. This could be a down market rental unit in Chicago.

This one’s from 25 years ago. Hasn’t changed too much.

Level 2: Is much like level one only the materials and contractors are a little better. Price point is 15 to 30K.

If the materials are from a home design store with in-house designers the kitchen can look coordinated and current. Cabinetry will be stock but look like more expensive cabinets. Ikea cabinetry fits into this price point. They can look very good and many builders use them for contemporary spec homes.

This price point can include some better features like quartz countertops basic stainless appliances, nice non-brand name fixtures and new lighting.   The higher end of this range might include a new pantry and new floor tile.

Home design store kitchen

Ikea Kitchen (Looks very nice for the price. The cabinetry surfaces are durable but you have to build the cabinets which come as kit. The shelves also can’t take too much weight.)

Key to success at this level is effectively using the store-provided designer to get something you like and hiring a contractor known for his honesty and fairness.

Level III: This is where you can start to break out of the old kitchen footprint by adding a cabinet here or there. Prices range from 30 to 50K. The quality of everything from design through materials and construction should be better.

On the lower end of this range, the new kitchen will be a much improved versions of the old kitchen with some unique features but much in the same location of the old with perhaps a few new can or pendant lights. The cabinetry will be good quality made to order but not custom.

This project did not require any structural changes and few mechanical changes though we encountered a challenging plumbing issue. The backsplash remained a brick wall. Cost: Lower level III

Typical Chicago condo kitchen renovation. Mid-level III. The client kept his appliances except for a new refrigerator. The project included retiling the floor, minor wall changes, and moving the lights.

This lower-level III Chicago loft kitchen renovation had great design features and came in economically because of the designer’s judicious use of cabinetry and shelving.

On the upper end of this range, the kitchen design should be very specific to you meaning it should have unique features fitting your needs and desires including custom cabinetry. An interior designer experienced in kitchens can be involved to make this possible.

Typical Chicago bungalow kitchen renovation much improved with custom cabinets and lighting, no walls or locations were moved. (Upper level III)

The level of professionalism should be good at this level meaning your phone calls should be answered punctually and concerns should be addressed without calling repeatedly.

The difference between a great home renovator and a mediocre one depends on a number of different factors, the most important of which is professionalism as it’s the one that will keep your hair from turning gray.

We design and build many kitchens on the upper half of this level.

Level IV: At this level, an interior designer will create a kitchen with as many of the features you dreamed of that will fit in your budget. The range is 50 to 70k and will feature pantries, multiple storage solutions in your cabinetry, good appliances (GE Profile level) waterfall countertops, nook seating solutions, appliance sheds, wine coolers, etc. Major wall changes and plumbing moves may or may not fit the budget.

This kitchen may also be larger to accommodate larger islands, seating nooks and built-ins.

This stunning Chicago kitchen condo renovation is a lower-level IV despite being in a high rise. It has few special features but it’s design simplicity is perfect.

This mid-level IV Chicago home kitchen renovation included a built-in with seating unifying the entire kitchen.

This mid-level IV Chicago condo kitchen renovation created for a European. It featured very clean European design (note no pulls) and a budget that was legislated and could not change. It did not.

Level V: This is where a sledge hammer can bust out walls and the new kitchen might not resemble the old. Prices range 70 to 100 K.

At this price point the kitchen will be larger ranging up to 250 sq-ft and might have moved to new location from the old. It will have more features and larger features.   Kitchens like this might 10 foot long islands that double as tables.

This lower level V traditional Chicago kitchen renovation has very clean designed with wonderful details.  Everything remained in the same place and cabinets were commercially available.  The arch with curved crown molding was created as part of the renovation.

The mid-level V Chicago contemporary home kitchen renovation is small but required a many mechanical and structural changes to create the wall openings. Old walls were removed and the kitchen was extended toward the dining room. The kitchen was superbly detailed by the owner who is a remarkable amateur artist. 

This mid-level V Chicago contemporary kitchen condo renovation features custom cabinetry many beautiful details.

This Highland Park mid-level 5 remodel above featured requiring a bearing wall between the dining room and kitchen. Due to some interesting engineering the wall held up the entire roof. The house built originally in the early 50’s had water radiant heat in the plaster ceiling further complicating the renovation. Note a doorway has disappeared as well.   The client was very adept in formulating solutions and drew out the locations of the ceiling radiant heat lines to assist us.

The Chicago home kitchen in this remodel moves from the upper left corner to the lower wall which requires entirely new plumbing and electrical work.  The new kitchen is designed an rendered by Hannah Tindall of Habitar Design.

Stratagem construction brings this excellent Chicago kitchen design to life at a high level V cost.

This level 5 plus Evanston home kitchen renovation involved placing a beam and removing a supporting column hidden in the closet wall. The headroom for a stairway from the basement to the back deck is hidden in the cabinetry. Floating countertop is supported by well hidden steel.

These are the before photos. Most renovations return 50 to 80% at resale but this renovation likely returned 200 to 300% because it so improved this house which lacked a kitchen befitting it.

There’s an infinite number of possibilities but this kitchen level covers most higher-end condos and homes up to 2 to 3 million dollars.

High-end appliance often fit within this range but may also add another 20K as top end appliance packages can be stunningly expensive. 30K for appliance plus is also not impossible.

Our most expensive kitchens have come in at 150K. They are usually expansive and complicated but I do know designers who wonder how a kitchen can come in for less than 200K. They shrug when they’re told it’s possible. To see some of our other kitchen remodeling projects, click here.

Mitchell Newman, M.D. is the principal of Habitar Design and Stratagem Construction. He’s written numerous articles on construction issues and has received numerous industry awards including the Fixr’s Top 200 Influencers in the Home Design Industry in 2019. He is also a contributor to Wikihow.