Sweeten’s guide to Chicago remodeling costs in 2021, including kitchen, bath, and whole-home (plus outdoor budgets and permit tips!)
(Above) Remodel by Sweeten general contractor Christina. Photo: Chicago Home Photos
The budgeting step can be nerve-wracking for first-time Chicago renovators. You’ve finally moved on from daydreaming to starting a remodel of your home. Start by gathering some basic details: know what you can actually afford, and plan to add a small reserve on top of that. The materials you want to use also factor in, as well as how much work will be done. Plus, everything that isn’t visible—the infrastructure—will impact your costs. This can be a lot to keep track of, especially if this is your first time renovating.
Fortunately, Sweeten has done some of the legwork in this guide to Chicago remodeling costs. This guide focuses on some of the major remodeling categories: whole house remodels, kitchen, bath, additions—as well as permits. You can use these details to create an accurate budget for a Chicago-area renovation.
Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.
Here’s a breakdown of typical starting costs (including labor and materials) gathered from Sweeten contractors and the 2021 Cost vs. Value Report:
- Full-home renovation: From $100 per square foot (psf)
- Budget bath remodel: $15,000—$20,000 (based on 35 sq ft)
- Mid-grade bath remodel: $21,000 (based on 35 sq ft)
- High-end bath remodel: $28,500 (based on 35 sq ft)
- Budget kitchen remodel: $22,000 (based on a 100 sq ft)
- Mid-grade kitchen remodel: $30,000 (based on 100 sq ft)
- High-end kitchen remodel: $37,500 (based on 100 sq ft)
- Basement remodel: $40,000—$75,000
Keep in mind that every professional contractor will want to have a detailed conversation with you. They will also inspect your home before developing an estimate specific to your needs and wants.
Pro tip: Do not wait. The pandemic has caused a backlog in the supply of materials in many sectors. For homeowners interested in renovating, it’s smart to schedule and sign with a contractor to lock in your material prices. You’ll also want to book a start date on the contractor’s schedule. If you do wait, prices will only continue to go up and your material order starts at the back of a long queue.
Chicago remodeling costs per square foot
Gut renovation vs. non-gut renovation
Gutting a home pretty much means starting from scratch. You’ll take everything down to the studs or framework, and/or you’ll knock down walls. Because it’s more intricate, a gut job starts at the higher end of the $100 to $200 psf range. By contrast, a remodel of the space within existing walls will be at the lower end. For example, remodeling a 700-square-foot, one-bedroom condo may range from $50,000 to $70,000, while a gut reno likely will exceed $100,000. This work usually involves running new plumbing pipes and wiring, moving doorways, and possibly installing new flooring.
Costs for a full home gut renovation start at $100 per square foot. Take note: this scope of work is extensive! Expect demo, framing, insulation and drywall, wiring, plumbing, heating/cooling systems, millwork, paint, flooring, tile, light fixtures, electronics, and all finishes. (This excludes appliances, which can significantly increase costs, depending on how high-end they are.) According to Chicago-based Sweeten contractor Ryan, “A whole-house renovation—say, 3,000 square feet—would cost $200,000, at the low end, and start at $400,000 at the high end. It all depends on the materials chosen.”
Wet rooms—connected to a water supply, such as bathrooms or kitchens—typically start at $250 psf. In the city, bathrooms in condos or co-ops can be as small as 30 square feet. However, in freestanding homes, they are typically larger than 5’ x 8’. High-end renovations that are fully custom with luxury materials can cost upwards of $700 per square foot. Architectural design and drawings, demolition, construction, materials, fixtures, lighting, and finishes are included in the fee.
Contractors may build in overage fees to their estimates. This allows for the unexpected—which definitely can happen—to be covered. Overages are usually 10-15% of the project cost. (Sweeten recommends that the renovator reserve at least 10-15% above the bid as well). Don’t let the numbers shock you, though: the beauty of using a general contractor is that it’s one-stop shopping. Working with a contractor covers pretty much all the trades required for the job. This spares you the work of hiring individual tradesmen to complete the various aspects of your project.
Chicago-based Sweeten contractor Brad recommends being realistic about how much you can spend. “You can’t buy a $100,000 ring on a $5,000 budget. Nail down your contractor first; they know pricing. And add 15 percent for unexpected conditions.”
Average cost of a kitchen remodel in Chicago
Budget kitchen renovation costs
A typical starting point is $22,000 based on a 100-square-foot kitchen. According to the 2021 Cost vs. Value Report, the average is $31,004 for 200 square feet. This translates to stock cabinets, hardware, and countertops, plus swapping outdated appliances with newer and more energy-efficient models.
Mid-grade kitchen renovation costs
Sweeten has found that a 100-square-foot space at this finish level can start at $30,000. For a kitchen at 200 square feet, expect to pay an average of $81,820, according to the Cost vs. Value Report. This includes custom lighting, updating 30 linear feet of semi-custom wood cabinets, new countertops, a 3′ x 5′ island, double-tub stainless steel sink with single-lever faucet, garbage disposal, built-in dishwasher, energy-efficient range, vented hood, built-in microwave, dishwasher, and new flooring.
High-end kitchen costs
Based on what Sweeten has seen, expect starting costs to be $37,500 for a 100-square-foot room at this finish level. According to the Cost vs. Value Report, a kitchen at 200 square feet starts at $160,000. Expect top-flight custom cabinets with interior detailing like partitioned drawers, pullout shelves, pop up and down storage, stone, quartz, or porcelain countertops, stone or imported tile backsplash. Also included are custom lights, under-cabinet lighting, hardwood, stone or porcelain flooring, and typical high-end appliances.
Sweeten contractor Ryan has seen kitchens cost $50,000 for a gut remodel, and at the high end, closer to $100,000. “Those figures,” he says, “can vary greatly, as some cabinetry alone might cost $80,000.”
Average bathroom remodel costs in Chicago
Budget bathroom costs
A starting point can be $15,000—$20,000 for a 35-square-foot-space with budget-friendly finishes from big box stores like Walmart, Home Depot, Menards, and Lowe’s. As this is a wet space, plumbing, electrical insulation, and exhausts, as well as correcting misaligned walls and floors will be part of the job.
For a 35-square-foot space, a remodel will start at $21,000. According to 2021 Cost vs. Value Report, $27,570 is the average cost for this type of project. This includes a recessed medicine cabinet, standard toilet, solid-surface vanity counter, and a porcelain tub.
The typical cost at this finish level starts at $28,500 for 35-square-feet. The 2021 Cost vs. Value Report cites an average of $82,838 for a high-end renovation, based on a bathroom over 200 square feet. Features at this level include new ductwork, radiant heated floors, custom cabinetry, separate shower, freestanding tub, and custom lighting.
Costs for a master suite addition
Mid-grade master suite addition costs
Estimated costs are around $452 psf or $177,273 for a 24′ x 16′ space, including double vanity, freestanding tub, separate shower, walk-in closet, dressing area, according to 2021 Cost vs. Value Report. Whether it’s a ground-level addition, a basement remodel, or a second-floor addition, accessing rough-ins for plumbing will vary and affect pricing.
High-end master suite addition costs
For a 32′ x 20′ master suite with a separate sitting area and large master bath over a crawl space, costs are around $553 psf or $359,232, according to 2021 Cost vs. Value Report. This kind of project includes custom shelving, built-in storage, as well as a walk-in closet and dressing area with windows.
Basement renovation costs in Chicago
A starting budget for a basement is around $100 psf. At the low end, the cost averages $40,000 and includes a bathroom with a shower. Flooring options can vary significantly, including laminate, vinyl, engineered wood, porcelain tile, or stained concrete. At the high end, a project for $75,000 may include a 5′ x 8′-foot bathroom with a shower, a wet bar, and flooring in an overall space measuring 20′ x 30′.
Costs for a basement renovation can be affected by multiple factors. Consider the existing condition of the space, if plumbing pipes need to be installed or moved, if new water service is required and if bracing needs to be done to eliminate structural supports in the middle of a space. Also take into consideration ceiling height, since Chicago basements are typically 8 feet or less, and as low as 6’7″. If you want to raise the ceiling, that requires digging out and underpinning the foundation. In addition, it’s necessary to assure the space is waterproof. A perimeter drain tile system is installed (repaired or extended). Connecting it to a sump pump also is important to consider, and this cost can start at around $2,500.
Chicago remodeling costs for permits
The permit process for renovating varies from Chicago to its suburbs, with each of the village’s or town’s governing bodies determining requirements and fees. In Chicago, permits are obtained through the Building Department. The issue in common is safety and compliance with building codes.
In Winnetka, remodeling permits cost $30 per $1,000 of construction; new construction is $1.30 per square foot of new gross area. There also are permit fees for plumbing, electrical service ($9,800 for 200 amp service; $21,000 for 400 amp service), furnace, and AC as well as roofing and pools. In Hinsdale, the permit fee for remodeling is calculated on two percent of the value of construction. In addition, expect to pay permit fees for demolition ($3,000).
In Chicago, applications for building permits must include architectural drawings and names of all licensed contractors—plumbers, electricians, HVAC contractors (usually supplied by the general contractor). There is no one size fits all. But expect to pay between $1,500 and $2,000 minimally for a whole house remodel, major kitchen, and/or bath. The larger the project, the more the fee, ranging to as high as $10,000.
There’s also an Easy Permit Program for small projects that do not require architectural drawings (usually available the same day). There are nominal costs (a few hundred dollars for plumbing and electrical permits), which usually are pulled by those contractors.
©2021 Zonda Media, a Delaware corporation. Complete data from the 2021 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at www.costvsvalue.com.
Find expert Chicago general contractors near you
Post your project on Sweeten and we’ll match you with multiple vetted general contractors to provide estimates for your renovation, then help you evaluate the estimates. Sweeten also checks in with you until the project is completed. When you brainstorm with your general contractor to develop an accurate budget, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the dream space you’ve always craved.
Have a good handle on HOA (Homeowners Association) fees before you purchase your condo, co-op, or detached house.
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