Renovating a house can be one of those bank-account-draining experiences that make a designer shoe habit or dining in three-star restaurants look cheap in comparison.
But how much does it cost — or should it cost — to renovate a home? Some believe a top-shelf Brooklyn townhouse renovation costs at least $1 million. But there’s also a vocal subset who hold fast to the idea that almost any house can be renovated for $200,000 — or less.
Who’s right? Read on to find out.
First, some basics:
- Size is a factor. The cost of any renovation (or repair) depends on size — both the size of the space and the scale of the project. Bigger homes will cost slightly less per square foot to renovate than smaller ones but, of course, much more in total — and vice versa.
- Break it down. One way to wrap your mind around how much a given job should cost is to chop it into chunks — how many people hours will the job take? What is a reasonable per-hourly cost?
- People are key. Also important to take into consideration is the overhead of the type of worker or firm you are hiring. Are they licensed, do they carry insurance, do they have a big team to handle multiple large projects at once or is this a one-person-plus-a-helper outfit? (Bear in mind not all subs need or will have a license. Electricians must be licensed, for example, but not wood strippers.)
- Location, location, location. For example, do you live in a co-op with special rules about who can renovate and when? Do you live in a part of the country where costs are higher than elsewhere?
Now, a disclaimer:
Every situation is different. These are ballpark figures for typical situations.
Our renovation cost estimates, below, are for Brooklyn. Labor costs are higher here than in many other parts of the U.S. This reflects the fact that service providers’ cost of doing business is higher here as well. For instance, they typically pay more for their own housing, office, and garage space. Transportation can take longer, there are tolls, and congested city streets means parking tickets are unavoidable.
Here are some ballpark figures for renovations by total budget:
- Under $100,000
Small renovations, probably mostly cosmetic. New paint, refinish floors, redo only one wet room or upgrade several, plus limited selective repairs such as a new boiler. At this level, you will probably be working with a contractor but not an architect.
- $100,000 to $300,000
Basic renovations. Upgrade all the mechanicals, new kitchens and baths, new roof, new basic windows, new wood-frame exterior, selective splurges on expensive items such as central air or a high-efficiency boiler or moving wet rooms, permits as needed, and an architect.
- $300,000 to $500,000
All the above, plus a greater number of fancy things, such as blowing out the back, moving wet rooms, stripping, Passive House, refinishing, conversion, Alt-1 or Alt-2 permits, and an architect.
- $500,000 to more than $1 million
No expense spared. Everything above plus an addition with a new cellar, brownstone facade resurfacing, dozens of new top-of-the-line windows, a custom rear glass wall, reconfiguring rooms, the best materials and fixtures, extensive high-end custom finishes such as moldings and built-ins, the most expensive contractor and subs, and a top architect.
Here are some ballpark figures for renovation costs per square foot:
- $50 per square foot. Basic renovations.
- $100 per square foot. A very nice renovation.
- $200 per square foot and up. Top of the line.
And here are some approximate ballpark figures for specific jobs:
- Electrical, per point: $250
- Install light fixture: $40
- Whole house electrical renovation for a 3,000-square-foot row house: $12,000 to $30,000 or $3,000 to $7,500 per floor, including the cellar
Heating, Cooling and Plumbing
- Replace main stack from cellar to roof (four floors total): $12,000
- Whole house plumbing upgrade for 3,000-square-foot row house: $50,000
- Replace boiler: $4,000 to $7,000
- Oil to gas conversion with new boiler and permits: $12,000
- Install an air conditioner, handyman: $40 to $70
- Mini-split system with four units and a rear outdoor condenser unit: $15,000 and up
Structural and Exterior Work
- Replace portion of main beam, sister joists, replace columns in rear quarter of basement: $2,000 to $3,000
- Redo outside cement patio: $2,000
- New layer on flat 20-by-45-foot roof plus extras such as mudroom roof, small skylight: $4,000 to $7,000
- Brownstone resurfacing with brown colored stucco: $50,000 to $70,000 and up, according to the size of facade, stoop, etc.
- New vinyl, wood, or Hardie Plank siding for row-house facade: $9,000 to $12,000 and up, not including new windows, cost of cornice, etc.
- New fiberglass cornice, installed: $3,000
- Reline a chimney: $2,500 to $5,000
- Refinish floors: $1.50 to $3 a square foot, depending on the size of job and other factors such as seal/stain
- Skim coating plaster walls: $3 per square foot (of floor size)
- Stripping woodwork $25 per hour
- Finish carpentry: $40 and up per hour
- Painting: $1 to $3 a square foot (of floor size), varying with size of job, prep, number of coats, trim, etc.
- Bathroom renovation: $7,000 to $30,000 to $100,000 and up, in line with the size of bathroom, cost of materials, and whether you are moving plumbing or rebuilding floor support
- Kitchen renovation: $12,000 to $40,000 to $100,000 and up, depending on size of kitchen, cost of materials and appliances, linear footage of cabinetry and counters, whether you are moving plumbing and walls
Don’t forget to add 10 to 15 percent to the estimate for unforeseen complications, like discovering a hidden vent line in the wall you want to demo, rotted joists under the bathroom floor, mold, or hidden leaks in an outside wall.
The average home-renovation project in Brooklyn costs about $78,000, according to Sweeten.
What has your experience been? If you see something we’ve left out, let us know, and we’ll add it to the list.
For more information on all these topics, please see the Brownstoner Forum.