6/04/2021  • 

How Much Does It Cost to Upgrade a Builder Kitchen?

For homeowners working with a builder on a pre-construction home, it can seem impossible to gauge what your expenses will be.

 

Not anymore.  

 

Deslaurier Custom Cabinets serves a diverse clientele that includes both retail and builder clients. In this article, we’re tackling the complex question of new-build kitchen costs head-on.  

 

With the invaluable expertise of Design Consultant Kevin Rosien, we’ll examine the six primary cost contributors of builder-grade kitchens, namely, cabinet door style, wood species, stain or paint colour, accessories, modifications, and hardware, countertop material, and kitchen layout. We’ll also cover the topic of upgrades, and how much you can expect them to cost above your builder kitchen’s standard pricing.

 

By the end of this article, you’ll have a solid grasp of what the design process—and its budget sheet—looks like when working with a builder.  

 

Ready to get started? Scroll down to start reading!

 

 

 

Standard Builder-Grade Kitchens

Finding Your Kitchen’s Base Price

 

There’s a reason it’s so challenging to find cost estimates for builder kitchens online. The reason being that the most truthful answer to the question, “How much does a builder-grade kitchen cost?” is: it depends. 

 

The price tag on your custom kitchen depends on what your builder’s standard offerings are. 

 

What does standard mean, you ask?  

 

Standard offerings refer to the design selections included in your base model home. In other words, a standard kitchen is the kitchen already built into your pre-construction home’s purchase price.  

 

Standard selections vary with every builder.  

 

It makes sense then, that the first resource you need to determine your future kitchen’s cost is a list of your builder’s standard and upgrade selections. If you’ve already purchased your home, you should have a document that tells you this information already. If you’re in the builder research stage, you’ll find that some builders offer this information directly on their website and others don’t.

 

Reach out to your builder and ask for a specifications sheet of your kitchen’s standard features.

 

You'll also want to find out what company is supplying your builder kitchen. For instance, Deslaurier partners with a host of builders in the Ottawa region and beyond. If your builder kitchen is from Deslaurier, you'll work directly with a Deslaurier designer to customize and finalize your kitchen's design. 

 

Other home development companies operate differently, but it's a good idea to know the businesses behind your builder home.

 

Redefining Standard Kitchens

 

It’s worth noting that “standard” has no negative connotation. Some clients have the mindset that upgrading is the only route to achieve a high-quality kitchen aesthetic, but that’s simply not true.

Standard is beautiful. Standard kitchens work. I’m not here to upgrade your kitchen. I’m going to show you a beautiful standard kitchen, and you can decide if the upgrades have value.                                                                                                                                       —Kevin Rosien, Design Consultant

 

Kitchen Upgrades: What Are They?

 

Upgrades encompass every alternative design selection outside the builder’s standard offerings. If you want to, you can swap out every single standard component of your builder-grade kitchen—for an additional cost.

 

Upgrades are opportunities to add more value to your kitchen, all while optimizing it to your lifestyle and preferred aesthetic. 

 

Let’s look at cabinetry hardware as an example. When you come into the Deslaurier showroom for your builder kitchen design appointment, you’ll probably be presented with 1-2 boards of your builder’s standard offerings, each board showcasing approximately 10-20 unique hardware styles.  

 

Elsewhere in the showroom, you’ll find rows and rows of hardware boards on display. In total, Deslaurier offers some 3600 hardware options! 

 

If you don’t like the pulls and knobs in front of you, you can walk around the corner to pick out any other hardware type you desire on display. That’s an upgrade. It will cost you more.

 

You can upgrade—or not upgrade—anything you like in your builder kitchen. 

 

Everything Hinges on Your Builder’s Standard

 

Now, let’s set the record straight. Some people hear the word “upgrade” and their defenses immediately go up. In their minds, upgrades are more money and more money is not what they want to give.

 

We understand! But when it comes to upgrades, not everything is equal.

 

To explain, let’s circle back to the linchpin of your kitchen’s total cost: your builder’s standard.

 

Here’s an example to illustrate:  

 

Builder A offers a standard laminate countertop. Builder B offers a standard granite countertop. Marjorie wants quartz countertops.  

 

In the countertop world, laminate is an entry-level product and, typically, the most affordable countertop material out there. Laminate is made from particleboard with a plastic sheet glued to its surface. Granite and quartz, as you may know, are two other popular countertop materials, both of which are natural stone products (see more about the best countertops for your kitchen).  

 

With Builder A, let’s say Marjorie must pay $5000 to upgrade from laminate to quartz. With Builder B, Marjorie must pay $1000 to upgrade from granite to quartz. In this example, there’s a $4000 difference for the exact same product. 

 

Does that mean Builder A is more expensive than Builder B? Not necessarily!

 

Upgrading from laminate to quartz is a bigger jump to make than upgrading from granite to quartz. Why? Laminate and quartz are entirely different products—they’re apples and oranges. On the other hand, if granite is your starting point, moving to quartz is only a small step from one stone type to another.

 

What’s the takeaway here? Not all upgrades are equal. Everything is relative to your standard starting line. Upgrades aren’t the bad guys or the good guys. Upgrades are the means to customizing your kitchen the way you want it. 

 

Delaying Upgrades Until Post-Close

 

Options, options, options. Buying a new construction home presents virtually endless design options. And here’s yet another: you may choose to delay upgrades until after your home closes.

 

It’s helpful to know that upgrades can be retrofitted into your kitchen after you've moved in. If you don't have the budget for all the upgrades you want now, hiring an independent contractor at a later date is an alternative solution.

 

Keep in mind, though, most upgrades make more sense to complete at the time of construction.

 

For example, let’s consider the laminate to granite upgrade again. Some new homeowners think they'll save money on materials and labour by hiring someone else post-close. What they don't realize is that a countertop installation such as this inevitably affects your plumbing.

 

Specifically, top-mounted sinks that pair so well with laminate don’t work with granite at all. To upgrade your counters to stone after closing your home, you’ll probably need to fork out the cash not only for the granite countertop and installers but also for a new under-mount sink and plumber. So, what could have been a simple initial upgrade with your designer becomes a major overhaul later. 

 

It's not only the big-ticket items that are easier to get done from the get-go. Even small design modifications tend to snowball into hefty unplanned costs post-close.

 

Making changes—big or small—is simpler on Day 1 than Day 365. After all, there's something to be said about the old adage, "do it right the first time"!

 

Check out our 5 most worthwhile builder upgrades article for more tips on when (and when not) to delay upgrades. 

 

A close-up of Deslaurier custom cabinetry

 

6 Major Builder Kitchen Costs 

A New Kitchen Cost Guide

 

To get a clearer picture on what a builder kitchen costs, let’s examine the six major cost contributors individually:  

 

  1. Door style 
  1. Wood species
  1. Stain or paint colour
  1. Cabinetry accessories, modifications, and hardware
  2. Countertop material
  3. Kitchen layout


Ready? Let’s go!  

 

Door Styles  

 

Your cabinet’s door style has a starring role to play in your kitchen’s aesthetic.  

 

Typically, your builder will give you a handful of door styles to choose from, all of which count as standard. A popular standard package at Deslaurier includes 4 unique styles, namely, our Brookfield, Crestfield, Northfield, and Urban door style:

Deslaurier's standard door styles.

Beyond these standard styles, DCC has dozens and dozens of cabinet fronts available for upgrades.

 

For example, a typical 1st-level upgrade might be mitered cabinet doors (where the joints come together at a 45° angle instead of a 90° angle). These might cost you an additional $1500. Next, you could upgrade to raised panel doors (where the centre panel raises to the height of the frame) for an extra $2500. You can even combine these upgrades and choose a mitered raised panel door for $4000 more.

 

The added dollars come from the added manufacturing time it takes to create pieces with more elaborate designs and detail.

 

Wood Species

 

Another major cost contributor to your kitchen is the wood species you choose for your cabinets. Your builder will likely present you with 1, 2, or 3 standard options. While there are always exceptions, most builders’ standard wood species offerings are:  

 

  • Oak
  • Oak and birch
  • Oak, birch, and maple


Oak is the entry-level wood species for cabinets. Why? It’s extremely common, and it’s extremely durable. Birch and maple are two other very popular, and often standard, wood species.  

 

Without even considering alternative species, you’ll find a lot of aesthetic variation between oak, birch, and maple.  

 

For example, consider the cosmetic difference of an oak (right) and birch cabinet front (left) side-by-side: 

A stained oak and birch cabinet door side by side. 

Even with the exact same stain, these doors look very different. You’ll notice the oak door has a distinctive, bold grain pattern while the birch door's grain is subtle.  

 

This just goes to show that in many cases, there’s no need to venture into the land of upgrades to nail your dream kitchen’s look.  

 

However, if you choose to upgrade, you can expect another hardwood, like cherry or walnut, to come with a 15 – 40% price increase. 

 

The cost of wood species is based on harvesting ability and market demand. 

 

It’s a walk in the park for Kevin to explain the price variation of wood species to his clients—literally:  

I tell my clients to take a walk in Gatineau Park. What will you see? 300 oak trees. 150 maple and birch trees. And, if you’re lucky, maybe 20 cherry trees. It’s only natural then, that cherry cabinets cost more than oak. 

 

The price difference is baked into the rarity of the product. 

 

Stain or Paint Colour  

 

What about colour? Across the board, Deslaurier offers over 40 standard stain colours for custom cabinets in builder-grade kitchens.  

A photograph featuring 36 of Deslaurier's cabinet stains 

Combining all of Deslaurier’s wood species, door styles, and stains, there’s over 20,000 potential cabinetry designs. A typical base builder kitchen will offer around 480 as standard options (3 species x 4 door styles x 40 stains).

 

As seen in the oak vs. birch image, all stains look slightly different depending upon which wood species they’re applied.  

 

While staining cabinets can achieve a rainbow of colours, the natural wood grain tends to show through.

 

That’s why the most widespread colour upgrade is using solid paint over stain. Solid paints provide an opaque finish that covers up wood grain patterns.

 

A solid paint finish costs more than a stain because of the labour involved in the painting process. Whereas staining cabinets is a 3-step process, painting cabinets is an 8-step process, which stands to reason why opting for a solid paint colour over a stain generally costs 10 – 15% more.  

 

Cabinetry Accessories, Modifications, and Hardware

 

Cabinetry accessories, modifications, and hardware are vital to the day-to-day working convenience of your kitchen.

 

Once again, what’s standard depends on your builder. 

 

There’s virtually no end to the cabinetry modifications you can make. Some common ones include:  

 

  • Fridge uppers and panels 
  • Angled corner cabinets (these offer deeper storage—standard corner cabinets may not fit your serving trays!) 
  • Extra drawers 
  • False doors  
  • Bulkhead trim 

When it comes to choosing (or not choosing) accessory and modification upgrades, designer Kevin Rosien wants to know all about the client’s lifestyle.  

 

I want to know your cooking style, eating habits, entertaining habits, family lifestyle—all of it.  

 

Are there young kids in the house? You may want to avoid placing a built-in range hood microwave right above the stove. The stove-microwave proximity creates a “crash zone” that can be dangerous for young kids.

 

Do you have tall family members? You may want to modify your kitchen island’s counter depth—no one likes to bang their knees against cabinets.  

 

Check out our best-selling kitchen cabinetry accessories article for more information. 

 

As for hardware, builders customarily give clients an allowance per unit. In the showroom, your designer will show you a few dozen hardware styles within your allowance. Let’s say that allowance is $5.  

 

Just around the corner, you’ll see that Deslaurier has literally thousands of other hardware from suppliers like Amtek, Berenson, Richelieu, and more.  

 

A large display of cabinetry hardware from Deslaurier's showroom. 

 

These hardware prices fluctuate widely, depending on the material, colour, and design of each unit. Believe it or not, some of these products are individually hand-forged, which of course is highly skilled work that is reflected in the price. Hardware prices can range from $5-$40 per unit.

 

If your builder allowance is $5, and you want an $8 drawer handle, you’ll have to pay the $3 difference. 

 

Countertop Material

 

Countertop material claims another big chunk of your builder kitchen budget.  

 

Most often, builders offer either laminate or granite as a standard countertop material. More specifically, at Deslaurier, there’s a standard “4-pack granite” package that includes four popular granite colours all within the same tier of quality, value, and price.  

 

For further style variety, you can upgrade to the 6-pack granite package. These granite slabs come from farther away—in fact, the true culprit behind the majority of the cost difference between the 4-pack and the 6-pack spread is simply transportation fees. It costs a lot to ship a heavy natural stone slab across the world!

 

Below is an example of a builder’s countertop upgrade pricing list, where the standard selection is laminate. 

 

Disclaimer: The table below represents EXAMPLE prices only. Prices also vary with kitchen layout.

 

4-pack granite

6-pack granite

14-pack quartz

Quartz builder 10

Quartz tier 1

Quartz luxury

$3100

$3700

$3750

$5325

$6120

$7700

1st-level upgrade 

19.4% increase

21% increase

71.8% increase

97.4% increase

148.4% increase

 

Deslaurier’s popular and economic 4-pack granite is the 1st-level upgrade available. As you can see, with a price increase of roughly 20%, you can have access to either the 6-pack granite or the 14-pack quartz. These two upgrades aren’t a massive financial leap to make. As we just highlighted, sometimes the price uptick is more about logistics than the product itself.  

 

However, you can expect to pay more as the rarity of the product goes up. The Quartz luxury package, for example, represents a whopping 148% price increase, but gives you access to the crème de la crème of quartz—nothing but the most premium, exotic quartz from around the globe.   

 

Kitchen Layout

 

Not all builders allow kitchen layout changes.

 

Why not?

 

New construction homes have different timelines. You can buy two pre-construction homes today and one might be move-in ready by the end of the year, and the other set to break ground two years from now. Depending on your builder’s time frame, they may or may not permit you to make structural changes to your floor plan.  

 

Ask your builder directly if altering the kitchen layout is possible. If it is, you may want to consider layout changes an honorary upgrade option.

 

Your designer can stretch out and switch up your floor plan to fit your needs. Of course, some things are set in stone because of building codes. Your designer will work with you to ensure all your layout changes are code-compliant.

 

Do be careful, though: layout changes can get expensive.

 

Even simply extending a kitchen island for extra eating space can add thousands to your final bill. An extended eating area requires extra cabinetry, more paint, and further decorative modifications like glass front or false doors.  

 

Creating Your Builder Kitchen Wish List at Deslaurier

 

At Deslaurier, our professional design consultants will book two design appointments with you: the first to create your kitchen wish list, and the second to sign off on it.  

I always emphasize to my clients that no final decision is made on the first appointment. The first meeting is all about touring the showroom, discovering what’s possible, and making a wish list. There’s no pressure, and the tour is so thorough that there won’t be any surprises at the end.                                                                                                                 —Kevin Rosien, Design Consultant

 

Your designer will spend 2-3 hours with you on your first consultation, walking you through all your standard and upgrade options one by one.  

 

By the end of the visit, you’ll have clear understanding and visual idea of all your future kitchen’s design possibilities. Your homework? To decide what you want before appointment number two!

 

In the meantime, your designer will take your wish list upgrades and put together a price list for your consideration. That way, you can compare your base kitchen costs and your hypothetical upgraded kitchen costs side by side.

 

That price sheet is the only concrete answer to the elusive "how much does a new kitchen cost?" question. Each new-build kitchen investment is based on the individual homeowner's selections.

 

Generally, your designer will send these updated drawings and price sheets within 4-5 days after your first appointment.  

 

By the way, if you need a quick refresher on your top two granite candidates, you can always book a time to visit the showroom on your own in between your 1st and 2nd appointment.

 

The day of the second appointment, you’ll confirm your selections, sign off on the paperwork, and call it a day. You should be in and out within the hour.  

 

Design Your Dream Kitchen

 

Deslaurier Custom Cabinets is a trail-blazing, Canadian company and a front-runner in the field of kitchen design. We have a location in the Jupiter, FL area ready to serve you! 

 

Schedule a FREE design consultation with us today or click here to become a Florida dealer.

 

 

 

 

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