Report: Scope of kitchen renovations shrinks even as spending increases

The median spending on kitchen upgrades increased among homeowners who recently began or completed this work, according to the home design site Houzz. At the same time, homeowners were reducing the scope of their work.

In its 2020 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, analysts found that the national median cost for a major kitchen remodel completed in mid-2019 was $35,000, a 17 percent increase over comparable remodels completed in mid-2018. Median spending on minor remodels held steady at $8,000.

"It is remarkable to see median spend on kitchen remodels grow by double digits for the third year in a row," said Nino Sitchinava, principal economist at Houzz. "Combined with a two-year decline in the scope of kitchen remodels, spend increases confirm our findings of significant price inflation in the home remodeling industry due to changes in international trade policy. Homeowners are dealing with increasing product prices by substituting materials, as indicated by slower growth in the use of engineered quartz and a decline in the popularity of engineered flooring materials, highly impacted by tariffs on imported materials from China."

The report found some indication that homeowners were scaling back the extent of the work they were doing. While 89 percent of respondents upgraded their countertops, this was down from 94 percent two years earlier. Similarly, the share of respondents upgrading their sinks fell from 90 percent two years ago to 83 percent. Compared to the previous year, homeowners were also significantly less likely to upgrade their backsplash, wall finish, windows, or exterior doors.

Homeowners were also more likely to work within the space of their existing kitchen. Forty-six percent modified the layout of their kitchen, down from 50 percent in the previous year. Thirty-five percent increased the size of the room, down from 42 percent in the previous year.

The reduced scope of kitchen renovations also meant fewer homeowners were pursuing an open floor plan. Forty-six percent said their upgraded kitchen was more open to the home's interior, down 7 percentage points from the previous year. However, 64 percent of those who opened their kitchen to the interior said they did so by eliminating wall separation, a year-over-year increase of 6 percentage points.

Nearly every renovation—94 percent—included an upgrade to the cabinets. Sixty-eight percent replaced them entirely, while 27 percent opted for a partial upgrade. These options included refinishing cabinet exteriors (64 percent), replacing some cabinets (25 percent), or replacing the doors only (18 percent).

Islands were also a popular choice, with 61 percent renovating this feature. One in three homeowners added a new island, while 22 percent upgraded an existing one. The islands were typically a large focal feature in the room, with 32 percent measuring more than seven feet long. Ninety-eight percent said the island had storage capacity, with 79 percent saying it incorporated cabinets and 70 percent saying it included drawers.

Fifty-eight percent said they used their island as a dining area after the renovation. Forty-nine percent said it was used for entertaining, while 45 percent said they frequently socialized at this feature.

Engineered quartz continued to gain popularity as a countertop choice. Fifty-one percent said they used this material, up from 48 percent in the 2019 survey and 43 percent in 2018. Twenty-nine percent opted to use granite, down from 30 percent in the previous year and 34 percent in 2018.

Full-wall backsplashes were becoming a more popular choice. Sixty-three percent had the backsplash extend up to the cabinets or range hood, while 11 percent extended it up to the ceiling. Ceramic or porcelain tile continued to be the most popular choice for backsplash material, with 57 percent using it; the next most popular choice, marble, appeared in just 10 percent of renovations.

There was a steady increase in the use of vinyl flooring, which appeared in 14 percent of renovations – up from 12 percent in 2019 and 10 percent in 2018. Hardwood and ceramic were the most common flooring choices at 29 percent and 23 percent, respectively.

More than half of homeowners—55 percent—replaced all their kitchen appliances as part of their upgrade, while 31 percent replaced only some of them. The dishwasher, refrigerator, and microwave were the most commonly updated appliances.

Interest in high-tech options declined slightly. Twenty-five percent of updated appliances included high-tech features, down from 30 percent in the previous year; wireless controls were the most popular high-tech appliance option, followed by color touch screen displays and built-in apps. Fifty-one percent of faucets used high-tech features, down from 57 percent in 2019; the most popular options included water efficiency, no-fingerprint coatings, and touch-free activation.

Nearly every respondent—94 percent—said they used the kitchen for cooking after the upgrade, while 70 percent said they dined there and 60 percent said they used the room for baking. One in three homeowners said they felt they were living a healthier lifestyle after the renovation.

The 2020 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study was based on survey respondents from nearly 2,600 Houzz users between June 19 and July 2. These homeowners were planning a kitchen renovation, in the midst of one, or had recently completed one.


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