The costs to remodel in Chicago in 2020, including kitchen, bath, and whole-home (plus outdoor budgets and permit tips!)
(Above) Remodel by Sweeten general contractor Christina. Photo: Chicago Home Photos
After a long obsession with so many Pinterest and Instagram boards, you’re finally ready to move on from daydreaming to starting that reno of your kitchen, master bath, or even (gulp) whole house. First, set a budget. Be honest. What can you afford? Build in a little reserve. Think about ideal layouts, materials, the look, and style—but also consider everything that isn’t visible—the infrastructure—especially if it’s a gut job.
Sweeten, a free service matching homeowners with vetted general contractors, has done some of the legwork, taking you through basic renovation costs in the Chicago area. This guide focuses on some of the major remodeling categories: whole house remodels, kitchen, bath, additions—as well as permits—so you can include a working numbers guide in your budget.
Here’s a breakdown of typical starting costs (including labor and materials) gathered from Sweeten contractors and Remodeling’s 2020 Cost vs Value guide:
- Full-home renovation: From $100 per square foot (psf) with stock materials to $400+ psf for high-end materials
- Lower-end bath remodel: $15,000—$20,000 (based on a bath 35 to 40 sq ft)
- Major mid-range bath remodel: $21,000—$40,000 (based on a bath up to 200 sq ft)
- High-end bath remodel: $40,000—$100,000 (based on a bath over 200 sq ft)
- Lower-end kitchen remodel: $25,000 (based on a kitchen under 100 sq ft)
- Major mid-range kitchen remodel: $40,000—$75,000 (based on a kitchen under 200 sq ft)
- High-end kitchen remodel: $75,000+ (based on a kitchen over 200 sq ft)
- Basement remodel: $40,000—$75,000
While these are reasonable guidelines, you’ll get a more precise estimate after you talk with a contractor, who will inspect the areas to be remodeled and discuss materials, appliances, and fixtures you want to use. There’s a wide range of variables here.
What a Chicago home remodel costs per square foot
Gut renovation versus non-gut renovation
Gutting a home is pretty much starting from scratch—taking everything down to the studs or framework and/or knocking down walls. A gut job starts at the higher end of the $100 to $200 psf range, while 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. The work usually involves running new plumbing pipes and wiring, moving doorways, and possibly installing new flooring.
For a full-home renovation, costs start at $100 per square foot. The scope includes demo, framing, insulation and drywall, wiring, plumbing, heating/cooling systems, millwork, paint, flooring, tile, light fixtures, electronics, and all finishes—except appliances, which can significantly boost your bottom line, 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 (those connected to a water supply), such as bathrooms or kitchens—typically start at $250 psf. In the city, condo (or co-op) baths can be as small as 30 square feet, but in freestanding homes, they typically are larger than 5’ x 8’. High-end (fully custom and luxury materials) renovations 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 build in overhead fees, allowing for the unexpected, usually 10 to 15 percent of the project (Sweeten recommends that the renovator reserve at least 10-15 percent above the bid as well). The beauty of using a general contractor is that it’s one-stop shopping, as it covers pretty much all the trades required for the job.
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.”
Costs for a kitchen renovation
- Low-end kitchen renovation—A typical starting point is $25,000 based on an under 100-square-foot kitchen. Cost vs Value has the average at $29,543 for less than 100 square feet. This translates to stock cabinets, economical tiles, and countertops, plus swapping out your dated appliances with newer and more energy-efficient models.
- Major, mid-range kitchen renovation: For a kitchen under 200 square feet, expect to pay between $40,000—$75,000. 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: Starting at $75,000 for a kitchen over 200 square feet, 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 lighting, 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.”
Costs for a bathroom renovation
- Lower-end bathroom: A starting point can be $15,000—$20,000 for a 5′ x 8′-space with budget-friendly finishes from big box stores like Walmart, Home Depot, Menards, and Lowe’s. As this is a wet space, it’s similar to a kitchen remodel in that plumbing, electrical insulation, and exhausts, as well as correcting misaligned walls and floors, are part of the job.
- Major, mid-range bathroom: For a 36-square-foot space, a remodel will range from $21,000—$40,000. Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value report suggests an average of $27,480 for this type of project and includes a recessed medicine cabinet, standard toilet, solid-surface vanity counter, and a porcelain tub.
- High-end bathroom: The typical cost can range from $40,000 to $100,000 with Cost vs Value citing an average of $81,857 for a high-end renovation, based on a bathroom over 200 square feet. Features include new ductwork, radiant heated floors, custom cabinetry, separate shower, freestanding tub, and custom lighting.
Costs for a master suite addition
- Mid-range master suite addition: Estimated costs are around $452 psf or $173,708 for a 24′ x 16′ space, including double vanity, freestanding tub, separate shower, walk-in closet, dressing area, according to Cost v. Value’s report. Whether it’s a ground-level addition, basement remodel, or second-floor addition, accessing rough-ins for plumbing will vary and affect pricing.
- High-end master suite addition: 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 $353,801. This kind of project includes custom shelving, built-in storage, as well as a walk-in closet and dressing area with windows.
Costs for a basement renovation
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, which could be laminate, vinyl, engineered wood, porcelain tile, or stained concrete, can vary significantly. At the high end, a project for $75,000 may include a 5′ x 8′-foot bathroom with shower, a wet bar, and flooring in an overall space measuring 20′ x 30′.
Costs can be affected by the existing condition of the space, whether or not plumbing pipes need to be installed or moved, new water service is required, and whether bracing needs to be done to eliminate structural supports in the middle of a space. If you want to raise the ceiling (typically Chicago basements are 8 feet or less, as low as 6’7″), that requires digging out and underpinning the foundation. In addition, it’s necessary to assure a waterproof space. 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.
Costs for renovation 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, application 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.
Renovating your home in Chicago? Sweeten can help!
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.
Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.