Sweeten’s Guide to Hamptons Renovation Costs in 2020


Sweeten’s 2020 guide to Hamptons renovation costs, including kitchen, bath, and whole-home, plus permit tips

The Hamptons…the mere mention conjures up images of poolside luxury and endless summer. But what’s it really like to live—and renovate—there? If you’re considering buying a home in the East End to renovate, there are some things you should know. Luckily for you, we’ve done the homework! Read on to learn what to expect (and budget) for your Hamptons renovation costs. (Keep in mind that all projects are unique, and many variables will impact a remodel!)

Sweeten offers a guide to Hamptons renovation costs, focusing on four categories—cost per square foot, kitchen, bathroom, and permits. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Note: every expert contractor will want to have a detailed chat and inspection of your home before creating an estimate for your needs and wants.

Here’s a breakdown of typical Hamptons renovation costs, compiled from Sweeten renovations and Remodeling’s 2020 Cost vs. Value report.

  • Full home renovation: Starting at $100 per square foot (psf) with stock materials; high-end properties start at $250+ psf
  • Low-end kitchen remodel: $25,000 for under 100 square feet
  • Mid-range kitchen remodel: $40,000—$75,000
  • High-end kitchen remodel: $75,000+
  • Low-end bath remodel: $20,000
  • Mid-range bath remodel: $25,000—$40,000
  • High-end bath remodel: $40,000—$100,000
  • Basement remodel: $25,000—$100,000

To be clear: when referring to the Hamptons, we are talking about the Town of Southampton and the Town of East Hampton, which both comprise many hamlets and villages. Hamlets such as Westhampton, East Quogue, or Hampton Bays lie within the boundaries of the town of Southampton. The villages of Amagansett and East Hampton are within the administrative boundaries of the town of East Hampton. So, any building permits filed will be with the offices of Southampton or East Hampton.

There is a season for everything, but especially in the Hamptons. Usually, there is a big push before summer so that everyone can enjoy their homes before the summer is out, and everyone is very busy. If possible, start your design process in the fall and do the work in the winter. 

However, with the unexpected events of 2020, real estate industry experts expect the busy season to shift due to the freeze on non-essential activities and business.

Hamptons home renovation costs per square foot

According to experts who work in both New York City and the Hamptons, the consensus is that costs per square foot are essentially the same in both locales. As we point out in our cost guide to Westchester County, proximity to Manhattan dictates both the buyer demographic as well as real estate values. This, in turn, is reflected in the cost of renovations. As Sweeten contractor Eric points out, however, there are subtle differences between the villages and hamlets, with East Hampton being the priciest. Sweeten sees projects starting at $100 per square foot with stock materials and high-end properties at $250+ psf.

While renovation costs per square foot will vary depending on whether it is a gut or non-gut, and the level of finishes and custom features you require, Eric tells us that there is a starting point of $150 psf for renovations with stock materials. Luxury waterfront properties, however, start at $500 psf for high-end renovations and can exceed $1,000 depending on complexity and finishes. (See Budget Basics: Renovation Costs Per Square Foot, where we outline three levels of renovation.)

Additionally, cost increases over the past year have also pushed baseline budgets upwards: the price of fuel has gone up, as has general liability insurance, said Sweeten contractor Eric. “Building materials are also up from last year because of supply and demand; everyone is renovating! And when homeowners are renovating, the cost for electricians and plumbers and other subs increase, because they can pick and choose between the most profitable jobs. They will charge more now for smaller jobs like a single kitchen or bath.”

Costs for a kitchen renovation

  • Low-end kitchen: Most Sweeten kitchen remodels in the budget range average $25,000 for under 100 square feet with budget-friendly finishes from retailers such as Home Depot. 
  • Mid-range kitchen: Most Sweeten projects in the mid-range can fall between $40,000—$75,000. In Sweeten contractor John‘s experience, he cites a mid-range kitchen could average in the $75,000 range. Ariel Okin, an interior designer who works in the Hamptons, tells us: “Kitchen gut renovations can range from $40,000—$150,000 depending on the level of work the client wants, and the same goes for baths. Square footage, scope of work, and estimated amount of time it will take to complete the job are all major considerations that go into pricing out the project.”
  • High-end kitchen: At Sweeten, we’ve seen projects cost start at $75,000 for high-end finishes. According to Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value 2020 Report, a major upscale kitchen remodel averages $166,408 in New York or $832 per square foot.
    This is based on a 200-square-foot kitchen with top-of-the-line custom cabinets, stone countertops, imported tile backsplash, built-in refrigerator, microwave, commercial-grade cooktop, and vent hood, as well as all new lighting and wood floors.

Sweeten contractor John estimates that a high-end kitchen in the Hamptons will start at $150,000 and up.

Costs for a bathroom renovation

  • Low-end bathroom remodel: At Sweeten, we’ve seen projects begin at $20,000. John quotes a three-piece (shower, sink, and toilet) project to average out to about $35,000 for a 5’ x 8’ space with budget-friendly finishes.
  • Mid-range bathroom remodel: Sweeten has completed bathroom renovations between $25,000—$40,000 in the mid-range that covers about 100 square feet. Cost vs. Value 2020 Report cites an average of $29,585 for a mid-range bath remodel.
  • High-end bathroom remodel: At the high-end range, Sweeten renovations that consist of three-pieces can cost between $40,000—$60,000. A high-end master suite remodel consisting of 4-5 pieces including a shower, double sink, bathtub, and toilet costs between $60,000—$100,000. According to Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value 2020 Report, an upscale bathroom remodel averages $88,523 in New York or $885 psf. This is based on expanding an existing 35-square-foot bathroom to 100 square feet, relocating all fixtures, and installing a new shower with a frameless glass enclosure, freestanding soaker tub with high-end faucets, stone counters with dual sinks, one-piece toilet, and a humidistat-controlled exhaust fan.

Sweeten contractor John estimates that a high-end master bath renovation would run about $100,000 on average.

Costs for a basement renovation

At Sweeten, we’ve seen basement remodels budgeted at $100—$150 psf or $25,000 for a simple coat of paint. A gut renovation would cost $50,000—$100,000 which could include plumbing, electrical, an entertainment center, appliances, closets, and with possible walls going up or down. An average basement conversion project in the New York area is $75,000, according to the Cost vs. Value report. The project for this size budget includes a 20′ × 30′  foot room and a 5′ × 8′ foot bathroom with a shower and bar area as well as insulation and laminate flooring. This sample project works out to $117 psf.

What to know about permits in the Hamptons

Permits are a big part of the renovation process in Hamptons towns. While expediters are not regularly used there, the process can involve two types of experts not usually called upon in renovation projects elsewhere.

  • Environmental consultants can assist homeowners and architects in parsing land use regulations, coastal environmental planning, and acquisition of related permits. Given the delicate ecosystems and the proliferation of wetlands and sand dunes along the coasts, these consultants are crucial to navigating this aspect of the permit process. Additionally, they can answer help determine whether you can expand the footprint of a house or add a dock. They typically charge by the hour (ranging from $250-350/hour, with a minimum project fee). For the initial site inspection and report, some offer a flat rate fee of around $1,500. This fee would cover the property inspection and produce a report.
  • Local attorneys who are well-versed in the zoning codes of the particular town in question can help navigate the process. Sweeten architect Andrew tells us that East Hampton recently changed some of its codes and a local attorney assisted him and his client in liaising with the town office on a debated matter of allowable square footage. Attorneys’ fees vary; a local real estate agent can provide recommendations.

Keeping up with local regulations and requirements

While the town offices may be small and provide a more personal interaction, as Sweeten architect Andrew relates, don’t mistake that casual air for a casual approach to enforcing regulations. For example, certain Hamptons neighborhoods won’t allow work on weekends, or after a certain time during high season. There have also been increasing attempts to limit the square footage on properties and accessory structures that may be used as rental properties. Additionally, there are stringent regulations at the town, state, and federal levels that will affect your renovation, depending on scope.

It’s important to understand what the current code is. However, you should also try to find out what is upcoming or anticipated in terms of changes. Because project timelines can extend, you want to ensure you’re complying with the relevant codes when your project finishes.

One relatively recent development has been a change in the energy conservation requirements in East Hampton, for example. Andrew notes that he is dealing with this on a current project. Now, they’ll need to hire someone who is certified to complete the HERS rating, which will cost between $1,000—$2,000. They may also need to use different building components to achieve better insulation and R-value required today.

The Town of Southampton provides this handy Building Permit Application Checklist for residential interior renovations (note that different fees and applications are required for other types of construction).

  • Building permits for residential interior remodeling permits run $65 psf up to 2,000 square feet on the first story of a house with a $50 fee for up to $1,000 of estimated construction cost (ECC).
  • This Electrical Permit Fee Schedule indicates that electrical permits range from a minimum of $50 for a re-inspection to $1,000 for additions, renovations, basement wiring, and garages with more than 7 devices over 15,000 square feet.
  • Fees for plumbing fixtures are $5 per fixture with a $50 minimum.

Ready to start planning your Hamptons renovation?

Now that you understand typical Hamptons renovation costs, you can start the planning process! Sweeten’s Renovation Checklist offers you a downloadable roadmap to organize all of the moving parts of a home renovation, including laying out your “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves.” Once you post your home renovation project on Sweeten, you’ll be matched with multiple excellent contractors who can provide their expertise and estimates. Sweeten stays involved and monitors your project until it is completed. The result: peace of mind during the renovation and your dream house at the end!

Learn more about remodeling costs based on location and project scope with our handy cost guides.

Refer your renovating friends to Sweeten and you’ll both receive a $250 Visa gift card when they sign a contract with a Sweeten general contractor.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, and scope, helping until project completion. Follow the blog for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.



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Setting the Scene for Outdoor Living


An outdoor kitchen is the ultimate al fresco space! Get ready for a ton of fun (and a good investment for your home)

outdoor kitchen(Above) Outdoor kitchen renovation by Sweeten contractor Dennis

If you agree that the kitchen is the heart of the home, then consider bringing that sense of entertaining and relaxation outside with an outdoor kitchen. The options for an outdoor kitchen are endless—sinks, fridges, lighting, roofing, the list goes on.

If this sounds appealing, then you are not alone! More than 70 percent of homeowners who have outdoor space are looking to enhance the patio with the goal of making it more relaxing, according to a recent survey from American Home Furnishing Alliance. A CNN Money survey predicted the outdoor kitchen market to be worth almost $6 billion yearly.

An outdoor kitchen might become the cherry on top of your home renovation plans. It isn’t the cheapest project, nor a necessity, but Sweeten outlines what you need to know to help you weigh your decision. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

How to schedule your outdoor kitchen project

Luckily, it’s possible to do outdoor work at nearly any time of the year. However, weather with temperatures above freezing (minus rain and snow!) is preferred. On average, the shortest timeframe to complete an outdoor kitchen without delays or unforeseen events is 2-3 weeks. The longest average timeframe for an outdoor kitchen completion is four months. Start the process at least six months before you want to have the outdoor kitchen completed which also leaves enough time to create a good kitchen plan, advises Dennis, a Sweeten general contractor in Philadelphia.

Budget for an outdoor kitchen

Like all home renovation projects, it’s best to determine what you want to spend in the beginning. Your budget will be a meeting place of your financial abilities and what you need and want. Dennis has worked on outdoor kitchens in the Philadelphia area that range in price from $15,000 to more than $100,000, which is a similar price range given by Jose, a Sweeten general contractor in the Miami area.

A lower budget outdoor kitchen will use materials such as concrete or cement pavers for the floor, according to New York City Sweeten general contractor Santi. Pressure-treated wood for cabinetry is also another good value choice. Materials in a more expensive outdoor kitchen could be stainless steel cabinets, stone floors, and a natural stone countertop, Santi said.

Appliances will also take up a big chunk of the budget. Jose said you should expect to pay several thousand dollars for a grill, fridge, and other appliances that are tough enough to survive the great outdoors.

The national average cost of a mid-range backyard patio that includes a fire pit, small fridge, sink, gas grill, lighting, a pergola, and a 20-foot square patio on flat ground is about $56,000, according to Remodeling‘s Cost vs Value report. That renovation will add over $30,000 to your home’s value. Many outdoor kitchens will start with a patio or deck that is already there, potentially bringing down the cost, according to Dennis.

Draw up the design

The layout of your outdoor kitchen can be drawn up by a kitchen designer or in a growing number of cases, a landscaper, says Dennis. Landscapers help to blend the outdoor kitchen into the overall look of your outdoor space. And of course, your general contractor can likely assist you with the design.

Consider where you place the grill, sink, and fridge as they create the “work triangle” for whoever is cooking. Be sure to keep that area free of obstructions or foot traffic. The design is also an important time to look at the strength of your deck if you are not starting from scratch. Dennis advises that existing decks will need to be assessed to determine if they can handle the added weight.

outdoor kitchen remodel (Above) Outdoor kitchen renovation by New York Sweeten contractor John

Make note of the materials

With the outdoor factor, materials used will differ greatly from your indoor kitchen. And then factor in your style preference and budget. If a bench—a single permanent structure which encompasses countertop, storage, and appliances—is part of your design, common materials are stucco, concrete, or stacked stone, says Dennis. Quartz is also a possibility, according to Jose.

When it comes to cabinets, don’t install too many as you’re not going to keep a lot of plates, pots, and pans in your outdoor kitchen. Whatever you do have should be able to stand up to the winter cold and that includes pipes that drain easily for winterizing.

Understand outdoor kitchen appliances

The staple piece of your outdoor kitchen, and likely the most expensive, is the grill. If you’re planning on installing this permanently by building it into a bench, then don’t hold back on price, Dennis advised. “You want to make sure you have a quality grill—and fridge—because if they break you aren’t going to find one that is an exact fit for the permanent structure,” he said.

Whether your chosen grill will use a propane tank or rely on gas lines, it will have a big impact on your budget, timelines, and permits needed. Even though you’ll need to replace a tank, you won’t need gas lines from house to patio; which saves time, money, and effort.

Ironically, not all fridges can withstand the winter. “Some fridges cannot handle freezing weather even though that seems odd,” Dennis said. Outdoor fridges must work harder to maintain a constant temperature when the weather fluctuates. Consider high-grade stainless steel, which will reduce rust.  But don’t forget the added convenience of an outdoor fridge comes with the inconvenience of needing electricity. This will set you back a few hundred dollars, but solar energy is a possibility.

Coverings for outdoor kitchens

Providing shade and shelter from the rain comes in many forms. For more extravagant outside kitchens—such as a TV for watching sports and a sound system—Dennis recommends something similar to a gazebo roof that has full coverage. There’s also lattice, which will provide some shade, but not rain cover. On the lower end of the budget scale is a retractable awning.

Lighting for outdoor kitchens

Have a long think about what you will use your new outdoor space for. Will you be reading? Playing cards with friends at night? Then perhaps you need more lighting over the seating area as well as where you prepare the food.

Hosting dinner parties? Then consider more ambient lighting that highlights architecture. And if you’re already planning on having a fridge and the electricity it needs, the lighting might be a natural progression.

Don’t forget plumbing!

Running water is important for cooking, so prepare to lay some pipes from your house to your outdoor kitchen. Depending upon the distance, it could cost between $600 to $1,500, according to Sweeten contractor Jose. Cold water is the only necessity here, but “if a client really wants hot water, we can explore a really small, tankless water heater,” he said.

Once you get the water out there, you then have to get rid of it. “You can’t put the waste water into the ground,” said Jose, “It needs to be connected back into the house’s sewer.” Use of a dry well, where water is filtered before going into the ground, might be possible, but this will depend on building codes.

Prepare for permits

The permitting process for outdoor kitchens can be surprisingly complicated. Not only will you need a building permit, but also an electrical permit for refrigeration. If you don’t want to use gas tank lighting, you’ll need mechanical or plumbing permits for water and gas. To avoid gas or electricity permits, clients can use a gas cylinder for the grill and solar energy for electricity, Sweeten contractor Santi suggested.

You may need approval from a zoning department. Dennis advises homeowners to check their local zoning codes as there may be limits on how much land you can cover with materials like concrete because rain cannot easily soak through it. There may also be restrictions on how close to the property line you can build. “It would be a waste of time to design something gorgeous and then submit it and not have it approved,” Dennis said.

Ready to turn your outdoor space into a hub of outdoor entertainment?  Start getting matched with your ideal Sweeten general contractor today!

ADUs or accessory dwelling units can transform into home offices, living space for family or as a rental, or a retreat.

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 with Sweeten.



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A Brooklyn Brownstone Renovation “Flips” for the Better


Living space and rental come together in this Brooklyn brownstone renovation

brownstone renovation, Brooklyn

“After” photos by Kate Glicksberg for Sweeten

  • Homeowners: Bellamy, an executive at The GAP, and Zak, a senior environmental scientist, posted their project on Sweeten
  • Where: Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York
  • Primary renovation: Three stories of a 2,400-square-foot Brooklyn brownstone
  • Notable: Swapping the positions of their renovated garden rental and owners’ duplex
  • Result: Better functionality for the two-family building
  • Sweeten general contractor
  • Sweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Guest post by Sweeten homeowner Bellamy

Finding their circa 1900 Brooklyn brownstone home

After a grueling year-long search, countless open houses, and one house lost in a bidding war, we found our home. Remarkably, it had everything we wanted: it was a two-family home in the heart of “brownstone” Brooklyn, with original hardwood floors. Most of the houses in the neighborhood were built circa 1900. Many we viewed did not stand the test of time, but this home had been in the same family for years and did not show the usual wear-and-tear of a 100-year-old home. We were lucky, but it did need a major facelift.

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I was thankful to stumble upon Sweeten early in my renovation research for our brownstone in Brooklyn. While I had owned a home before, this was our first time doing a serious renovation that would require more than our DIY skills could handle.

The layout of the house and our budget did not afford us a ton of options, so the renovation was straightforward. We focused on structural changes to change the flow and use of the house. Thankfully, when we moved in, we were able to live in the garden floor apartment while we renovated the upper two floors where we would eventually live.

Salvaging and repurposing

We removed the original entry doors as you come into the entry foyer, but left the structural wall intact. This allowed the area to feel more open as you continue into the living area; it also gave back more livable space to work with. However, I loved the original details of the doors and wanted to find another use for them. Luckily, they just fit the ceiling clearance on the second floor and they found new life as the guest room headboard.

In the living room and through to the kitchen, we tore down two walls and exposed a long expanse of brick wall. The former owner had repointed the brick in the front room with black mortar, which was a real eyesore. When we exposed the whole length of the house, we were left with two walls that didn’t match. Limited by our budget, we repointed the half that was previously covered and experimented with painting techniques to blend the two together.

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An overhaul for the kitchen

I wanted the kitchen to be the focus of the home. There were three main obstacles: adding a door for backyard access, the ceiling height, and a non-negotiable double oven. I initially wanted to enlarge the back window above the sink to make it a focal point and let in more natural light. Not far along into the process, I had to abandon that idea since we were concerned with what the enlarged opening would do to the structural integrity of the home, given its age. It was also a huge expense so we chose to use those dollars elsewhere.

In the end, we actually made the window above the sink slightly smaller to allow for a proper backsplash. We replaced the second window with a door and added a small landing and stairs for easy backyard access.

The next question was how to vent the hood with 11-foot-high ceilings and open shelving left nowhere to hide. Ultimately, the ducting was kept exposed and vented directly through the wall outside. I love the industrial element it adds to the newly renovated space.

Lastly, where to fit the double oven? At first, I was concerned I would be giving up valuable pantry space, but the layout worked out perfectly and there was room for everything we wanted, even the custom built-in beverage taps. We are home-brewing enthusiasts and wanted a unique feature in our kitchen to showcase that.

WATCH: How Bellamy and Zak find their Sweeten contractor

Splurging and saving

The first-floor bath was an easy update. The layout was already functional, so we kept it as-is with a direct replacement—aka rip-and-replace—of all the fixtures. We were able to salvage the original door and reuse the existing tub. We later put our DIY skills to the test and added fun wallpaper and wainscoting.

My favorite splurge on the top floor was a heated bathroom floor—worth every penny in the winter.

The top floor previously served as a separate apartment complete with its own kitchen. We wanted to have a master bedroom, master closet, master bathroom, guest bedroom, and laundry room. The tricky part was figuring out where to put everything. The pre-existing kitchen allowed us to easily add laundry without a huge expense. Once that was decided, everything else fell into place.

The master bedroom closet is a dream spot that had been a small room that our contractor converted. My favorite splurge on the top floor was a heated bathroom floor—worth every penny in the winter.

Throughout the house, we did some major upgrades that elevate the whole space: we put up fresh drywall throughout the second floor, refinished the original floors in a dark walnut color, and replaced all the windows in the house.

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Managing the renovation budget and process

While I would not necessarily recommend living in a renovation (so much dust), it did allow us to check on the progress and be more involved in day-to-day decisions such as outlet locations and doorknob height. We optimistically thought the renovation would take three months, but we did add on some significant projects that stretched the timeline. Overall, the project took about five months to complete the top two floors with some minor updates in the garden apartment.

The budget was our major obstacle, but our Sweeten contractor was great at working with us to determine where we could splurge and where we could save. Once our contractor realized we were quite handy, we were able to figure out what we could do ourselves versus what we should leave to the professionals. For example, we chose to take on all the painting, which was a huge undertaking. I’m talking all ceilings, all walls, all trim, and multiple coats! I don’t think we understood what a huge task it was—and that in certain spaces, the contractor was unable to move forward until we completed painting. I’m glad we did it, but it was a grueling several months and I’m pretty sure I gave myself carpal tunnel.

Switching the brownstone layout

The biggest change in terms of the function of the home was separating the garden floor apartment from the upper two floors. In dividing the two, we were able to gain a coat closet in the apartment and additional storage space for us before the basement level. The ground floor is now available as its own standalone rental unit, while we live on the two floors above. Now that the house is done, I am so thankful we splurged on what we wanted—replacing the windows, skim-coating, and repointing the brick; those are some of my favorite things in the house.

Thanks to Bellamy and Zak for sharing your beautiful and unique Brooklyn brownstone renovation story with us! Here’s how they renovated their new garden rental space on a budget.

SHOPPING GUIDE

FOYER RESOURCES: Merola floor tile: Home Depot.

LIVING ROOM RESOURCES: Vega brushed brass blush-mount lamp: CB2.

GROUND FLOOR BATH RESOURCES: Merola hex black floor tile: Home Depot. Jeffrey Court Fresh White wall tile: Home Depot. Devine Color Speckled Dot peel-and-stick wallpaper: Target. Delta Foundations shower fixtures: Home Depot. ENSEN faucet: IKEA. Black towel bar hardware: CB2. The Copper Factory doorknob: Overstock.com. Godmorgon/Odensvik vanity and sink: IKEA. Framed fog-free wall mirror: Home Depot. Hinkley Lighting vanity light from Ainsley Collection, 56552PN: Build.com.

KITCHEN RESOURCES: Merola floor tile, FRC8TWED: Home Depot. Kitchen cabinets: Custom. Omnia cabinet knobs, 9153/18.3: Build.com. Drawer pulls: Custom. Quartz countertops, 1141: Caesarstone. Jeffrey Court Fresh White backsplash tile, 96012: Home Depot. Olde London apron-front farmhouse fireclay sink, OL33SG: Home Depot. Kenmore refrigerator, 70423: Sears. Bosch dishwasher, SHVM78W53N: Sears. Whirlpool self-cleaning double electric wall oven, WOD51EC0AS: Lowe’s. Kenmore slide-in gas cooktop, 34913: Sears.

MASTER BATH RESOURCES: Carrara marble hex mosaic floor tile, C33XH: MarbleOnline.com. Jeffrey Court Fresh White wall tile, 96012: Home Depot. Jeffrey Court Retro Octagon White Dot shower floor tile, 96025: Home Depot. Towel bar and toilet paper holder: CB2. Delta Porter shower fixtures, 142984C-BN-A: Home Depot. Godmorgon/Odensvik sink and vanity, 291.852.39: IKEA. Vanity cabinet fronts: Semihandmade. Hinkley Lighting vanity light from Ainsley Collection, 56552PN: Build.com. Home Decorators Collection framed fog-free wall mirror, 81160: Home Depot.

PAINT RESOURCES: Trim paint in Totally Black, HDC-MD-04: Behr. Wall paint in Pure White, PPU18-06: Behr.

See the downstairs rental results from Bellamy and Zek’s Brooklyn brownstone renovation story!

Remodel the brownstone of your dreams with help from our guide on purchasing and renovating a townhouse.

Refer your renovating friends to Sweeten and you’ll both receive a $250 Visa gift card when they sign a contract with a Sweeten general contractor.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, and scope, helping until project completion. Follow the blog for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.



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Aging in Place Design Costs & Tips to Improve Home Accessibility


Sweeten explains aging in place design costs, plus accessible design costs (and how to add them to a home!) 

(Above) Marissa + Jeremy installed bright lights for future aging in place in their kitchen remodel

What is aging in place design? What does accessible design mean?

To some, “aging in place” is a design term that means creating living spaces that are safe and accessible for people who want to stay in their homes and care for themselves as they grow older.

To others, the term “accessible design” or “living in place” is more applicable, as it means designing spaces that suit the needs of children and adults in one home. In both cases, the goal is to create living spaces that are, safe, accessible, and also make design sense.

Sweeten gives an overview of aging in place design costs, plus costs for accessible designs, and gives tips for when these designs can be beneficial to the family lifestyle. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

How much does accessible design cost?

When part of a major renovation, the cost to include accessible techniques can be minor. “Things don’t necessarily need to cost more, they are just different,” said Julie Schuster of Julie Schuster Design Studio and is a certified living in place professional (CLIPP). “If you are remodeling a kitchen you probably want under cabinet lighting. Why not upgrade slightly to add bright LED lights that are good for aging eyes?” 

There are two approaches to accessible living spaces: 

  • Remodel to suit the urgent needs of the homeowner.  A wheelchair user will need, among other things, wide doorways and hallways, and a curbless shower with a bench and grab bars. A family with young children may want night lights in the hallways, non-slip bathroom floor tiles, and anti-scald shower valves.
  • Remodel to make the design flexible for future improvements. “It is important to learn the things that could crop up in the future and then design backward for them. I install blocking behind a shower wall while renovating, so grab bars or a built-in bench can be added later. Putting in the blocking does not add to the overall cost,” said Kammi Reiss of Kammi Reiss Design.

For Sweeten contractor Aaron, being flexible in design is key. In one condo project, they placed a removable panel in front of the kitchen sink so a wheelchair user can roll up to the sink for use. 

What does aging in place cost?

While many accessible design techniques have similar costs as any renovation project,  some projects do have an increased cost. For example, the combination of slippery surfaces and a wet setting in bathrooms often cause accidents, especially for people with mobility issues or poor eyesight. 

Here’s a comparison from Remodeling’s 2020 Cost vs. Value Guide that compares a standard  5-foot by 7-foot bathroom of mid-range quality to an accessible one of the same size. The accessible bathroom includes 36-inch-wide doors, flat panel electric switches installed at sitting level, walk-in curbless shower with fold-out seat, adjustable shower head, thermostatic mixing valve, LED lighting, ceramic tile walls with contrasting color stripes, towel bars (grab bars) that can support 250 pounds each, night lights, and reconfigured storage accessible to someone in a seated position, among other items.

Here’s an example of what universal design can recoup at resale at a national level.

aging in place

Remodeling asked us to revise the remodeling project for them,” said Louie Delaware, co-founder of the Living in Place Institute. “Everyone assumed that it would cost much more and would not be worth as much.”  While there are increased costs, the return on investment is similar to that of the accessible bathroom. 

Costs for accessible design projects:

Here are some estimated costs for common projects often associated with accessible designs:

  • Entrance ramp: $1,300 to $ 3,500
  • Door widening to accommodate wheelchairs: $400 to $800, each
  • Chair lift: $3,000 to $6,000, curved stairs will cost more
  • Widening hallways (often includes moving plumbing, heating and cooling and electrical lines):  $500 to $2,000
  • Grab bars with decorative finishes: $100 to $200, each
  • Curbless showers: $2,000 to $8,000
  • Faucets with lever controls: $200 to $400

Many of the techniques used in accessible design or aging in place design are the same, whether planning for yourself, someone who wants to age in place, or to suit the needs of a growing family. The goal is to create a safe, accessible design for everyone to enjoy.

Read how aging in place and living in place can bring ease to day-to-day living for every family member.

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 with Sweeten.



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A Manhattan Duplex Remodel To Expand & Welcome a Child


Expecting parents take on a Manhattan duplex remodel to expand their space and fortify for the future

Greenwich Village home renovation


  • Homeowners: Rachel + Marco posted their Manhattan duplex remodel on Sweeten
  • Where: Greenwich Village in Manhattan, NYC
  • Primary renovation: Swapping rooms between two floors of a duplex co-op
  • Notable: A kitchen expands with hidden appliances and built-ins
  • Result: The kitchen and living room come together to create a great room
  • Sweeten general contractor
  • Sweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Guest post by Sweeten homeowner Rachel

A Manhattan duplex remodel (instead of moving)

This is our first home, which we bought about six years ago just after we got married. When we were planning to expand our family, we knew we had to renovate or move. There was enough square footage, but we needed more distinct rooms or spaces. The apartment is a duplex co-op in Greenwich Village which was built in 1910. We love Greenwich Village so much and I really wanted to have the experience of raising a baby here. So, we renovated!

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Living here for so long before the renovation was really helpful since it gave us plenty of time to think about the best possible use of the space. We had a two-bedroom, two-bath, but wanted another bedroom for a baby. The old layout didn’t really work for entertaining, either—the kitchen and dining room were upstairs while the living room was downstairs. Marco and I also wanted our own personal spaces within our home for his hobbies and for my closet/office. Overall, we hoped to create a comfortable family home that met everyone’s needs.

I always thought of our apartment as a hidden gem—a colorful, fun place where you could see a little girl growing up, sophisticated yet flexible enough to allow for events like playdates and parties. The general contractors we found through Sweeten were really amazing. On top of being creative problem solvers, they were incredibly nice guys!

The top floor would be a combined kitchen/dining/living area, so the kitchen needed to be functional but also beautiful enough for a dinner party. We hid most of the appliances behind paneled cabinets; an “appliance garage” and snack storage were organized inside hallway cabinets outfitted with marble countertops. When we have family-style dinners, we set up the self-serve dishes and bar in those spaces. So, yes, you’re in a kitchen, but it’s also an elegant dining room.

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Customizing the almost-black kitchen

I cook a lot and was so excited for the stove. I wanted one of those fancy French stoves that come in custom colors, but they are so expensive! Instead, I found one from a U.S. manufacturer for maybe one-third the price. (They also do custom colors.) The cabinet color was chosen to match the stove, so this appliance is “hidden,” too. We wanted something different from the typical all-white kitchen that would also complement the light wood floors. This almost-black shade is just a little more interesting than plain black. It took lots of trips to the paint store for swatches!

We put a lot of thought into maximizing space and brainstorming with our Sweeten contractors. We really pushed them to be creative. I just kept saying, “We need to hide the trash and we need a spice cabinet. Where can we do it?” I wouldn’t let up! The answer was wrapping the cabinets around the pillar and also where the lower cabinets end, which created a finished look. There were other details: I don’t think you can go wrong with big molding. I chose the largest size I could find for the ceilings, doors, and floors! It makes a big difference for not a huge cost.

I don’t think you can go wrong with big molding. I chose the largest size I could find for the ceilings, doors, and floors! It makes a big difference for not a huge cost.

There were a few challenges, like the flooring. It took a couple of tries to get it just right, including completely refinishing the downstairs floors more than once.

Then there was the fireplace, which was very old and didn’t work. Our contractors figured out it was a faux fireplace that took up space for no reason, so it was removed.

Matching new and old brick

We also needed to make our brand-new brick match with the brick from 1910. Our contractors came up with a solution that was even better than what we had imagined. We repaired some portions, which was very expensive, and painted the wall solid white, stripping that paint off layer by layer to create the current washed effect. That helped to blend the new and (very) old brick.

The bathroom needed updating, too. It was really old with a weirdly-shaped, very deep, mini tub. We installed a beautiful regular-sized tub and shower tile I had seen in another project our contractors had done, which I loved. I pushed hard to put in a double-wide mirror, even though there were a lot of issues with making a recessed cabinet fit the space. I’m glad I persevered because it makes the room so much bigger.

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A bedroom transforms into personal hobby spaces

Marco and I have always believed in having our own spaces. We divided what used to be a huge bedroom into two separate spaces to create his office and my closet. Marco needed his own space where he could work on his hobbies without driving me crazy! He likes to do things that create dust and noise and play his music really loud. He works hard during the week, so he should have a place to do that! The office is actually soundproofed so he won’t wake the baby.

Greenwich Village home renovation

Throughout the process, Sweeten was great; they continually checked in with us. I knew I could go to them if there was ever an issue with our contractor. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you need to pick finishes in person whenever possible. It’s really hard to imagine what crown molding, counters, or other elements look like on a computer screen.

Thank you, Rachel and Marco, for sharing your Manhattan duplex remodel with us!

Shopping Guide

KITCHEN RESOURCES: Kitchen cabinets: Showplace Cabinetry. Black of Night cabinet paint color: Benjamin Moore. Cabinet hardware: Lewis Dolin. Sink and faucet: Newport Brass. Refrigerator: Sub-Zero. Stove: Big Chill. Dining table: ModShop. Dining stools: CB2.

LIVING ROOM RESOURCES: Crown molding: ArchitecturalDepot.com. Sofas: Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams. Rug: AllModern. Bookshelves: CB2.

BATHROOM RESOURCES: Hardware, shower fixtures, and toilet: Kohler. Sink and vanity: Restoration Hardware. White Wisp paint color: Benjamin Moore.

MASTER BEDROOM RESOURCES: River Blue paint color: Benjamin Moore. Arc Floor Lamp: Sit Down New York. Console: West Elm. Stool: Wayfair.

NURSERY RESOURCES: Sun Kissed Peach paint color: Benjamin Moore. Wall art: Johanna Goodman. Crib and upholstered chair: Babyletto.

OFFICE RESOURCES: Baby Seal Black paint color: Benjamin Moore. Closet system: California Closets.

WALK-IN CLOSET RESOURCES: Closet system: The Container Store.

When you’re ready to build your dream home, having a licensed general contractor is key. Read more on why.

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 with Sweeten.



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A New Jersey Condo Gets a Bright Side


A condo renovation in New Jersey combined different design styles for a happier, brighter home

New Jersey condo renovation

“After” photos by Jonathan Ayala for Sweeten


  • Homeowners: Chong + Adam posted their project on Sweeten
  • Where: Fort Lee, New Jersey
  • Primary renovation: Kitchen and two bathrooms in a 1,090-square-foot condo
  • Notable: One wall holding the pantry came down and was replaced by a peninsula.
  • Result: More storage and an increase in natural light
  • Sweeten general contractor
  • Sweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

From rental to property owner

Chong and Adam were ready to ditch the small one-bedroom, railroad-style apartment they were renting in Jersey City. Eager to put down more permanent roots, they looked for homes in Fort Lee, NJ—a good midpoint between his work in central New Jersey as a business analyst and her job at a molecular biology lab in Manhattan. They found a 1,090-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo on a quiet, pedestrian-friendly street in a well-maintained high-rise built in the ’60s.

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Chong said that for years she read “with envy the various home blogs and design sites, one of which was Sweeten.” She daydreamed about having her “own home and a kitchen with ample counter space and height-appropriate storage.” She wondered if she would forever store pots and pans in the oven and have to keep a step stool in the kitchen to reach the upper cabinet shelves.

As soon as they closed on their condo, Chong said, “I posted our condo renovation project to Sweeten and was matched with our contractor. From our first meeting, we were on the same page as to how to bring the unit out of the ’60s and ’80s. We loved his energy and creativity, and also felt assured that Sweeten had done the legwork for us in checking his credentials and reviews of past work.”

To maximize planning for their New Jersey condo renovation, they came to the first meeting with lots of ideas. Their contractor, Chong said, “allowed us to make the design decisions while they focused on the nuts and bolts of how to make it all happen. Aesthetically, I favored simple lines with a touch of an industrial feel, and Adam liked warm, traditional finishes.”

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Kitchen drawers make the difference

The first item on their New Jersey condo renovation checklist was to slightly enlarge the footprint of the kitchen. At about 8’x8’, it was not very large, and a floor-to-ceiling pantry blocked natural light from the living room. In the small footprint, a standard-depth refrigerator made access to the pantry awkward, and there was limited counter space.

Adam will say out of the blue, ‘I love our place.’ And I really do, too.

They opted to tear down the pantry and put in a peninsula, adding about a foot of space along its length. The peninsula addition forced a change to the kitchen’s entry, so they cut a portion of a hallway wall and redirected some electrical lines and a light switch. Drawers in the peninsula solved storage issues from the loss of the pantry. As a result, they gained easy access to frequently used items, storage for pots and pans, and “most importantly, little use for a step stool,” Chong said.

There was a challenge to the floor plan since the kitchen wasn’t level with the rest of the space; the contractor had to do some research so he could raise the kitchen floor. “He did a great job of making it seamless without the need for any transition pieces,” Chong said.

Updating the bathrooms

The two bathrooms were easier in terms of design, but the plumbing and electrical changes were more extensive behind the walls. Once the updates were made, the bathrooms came along quickly. The guest bathroom was set in a traditional style, while the master bath would be a little more modern. “We love the minimalist handles and how the handles and the glass doors together make the bathrooms look larger,” Chong said.

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In the rest of the apartment, some of the walls were repaired and plastered with new baseboards and fresh coats of paint were applied. They also removed all of the old carpets and discovered parquet floors. “We liked the original walnut color, so our Sweeten contractor simply screened (removed the old finish without sanding) and coated the floors with a satin finish,” Chong said.

Working with their Sweeten contractor

Their New Jersey condo renovation took about four months from the day they signed a contract with their Sweeten contractor to the date of final inspection. “Considering how he was limited to the work hours and days set by my building’s management, he kept to a good pace,” Chong said.

While there were no major surprises or roadblocks, she and Adam moved into the apartment about halfway through the renovation. During their overlap, Chong said, “Our contractor, ever the gentleman, was very accommodating and respectful of our privacy and comfort.” Now, after a few months since the renovation’s completion, “Adam will say out of the blue, ‘I love our place.’ And I really do, too.”

Shopping Guide

KITCHEN: Oxford Linen Ice porcelain tile floor tiles, #100235829: Floor and Décor. Shaker-style kitchen cabinets in charcoal gray: Hanssem. Oberon cabinet hardware: Amerock. Cabinet pulls, #BP40519BBZ: Amerock. Misterio polished countertops, #BQ8815P: Pental Quartz. Bright White Ice backsplash, #914100887: Floor and Décor. Cardale faucet, #R72247-SD: Kohler. LG refrigerator, #LFC21776S7: Home Depot. Kenmare dishwasher, #KDFE104DSS: Home Depot. Maytag range: Home Depot. Collier lighting, 3381HB: Hinkley.

GUEST BATHROOM: Festival White and Black Dot Octagonal porcelain floor tile, #100104629: Floor and Décor. Bright White Ice ceramic wall tile, #100112689: Floor and Décor. Delta Greenwich hardware, #138284: Home Depot. Moen Kingsley faucet in chrome, #6121: Lowe’s. Ellenbee Collection sink/vanity, #C21124-SS: Lowe’s. Allen + Roth Winsbrell lighting, #B10077: Lowe’s. Mirror, storage, and cabinets, #33116: Lowe’s.

MASTER BATH: Festival White Herringbone porcelain floor tile, #100230804: Floor and Décor. Festival Pure White Glossy ceramic wall tile, #914101065: Floor and Décor. Delta Greenwich hardware, #138284: Home Depot. Kohler Ellison faucet, #K-R72780-4D-CP: Home Depot. Style Selections Drayden Gray sink/vanity, #CM18F30-SS: Lowe’s. Allen + Roth Kenross lighting, #18652-000: Lowe’s. Kohler vanity mirror, #CB-CLC3026FS: Lowe’s.

LIVING SPACE: Distant Gray paint, #2124-70: Benjamin Moore. Academy flush mount ceiling light in the foyer, #67012OZ: Hinkley. Theory pendant ceiling light in the dining room, #3574DZ: Hinkley.

Carol and Jon took over a spare bedroom to enlarge their kitchen in Jersey City. Check out Sweeten’s home reno cost guide for New Jersey!

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, and scope, helping until project completion. Follow the blog for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.



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8 Paneling Designs to Hide a Fridge Door


Let your fridge blend neatly into its surroundings with these paneling ideas

One of the first things you notice in a kitchen is the refrigerator. It is big and usually holds souvenir magnets, wedding invitations, or to-do lists. With more homes featuring open-plan layouts, its size and boxy shape interfere with the visual harmony. Paneling and built-ins can help hide a fridge door and integrate it into cabinetry, unifying the look of the entire kitchen.

The homeowners below lassoed their oh-so-necessary refrigerator into functional design statements with their general contractors from Sweeten. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

A custom touch for a fridge

For their East Hampton kitchen, homeowners Jennifer and Alex wanted to keep the redesign simple but inviting. They chose to add a large island for entertaining and splurged on a wine fridge and quartz countertops. To make the design more modern, they decided to install an integrated refrigerator, which streamlined the look of the cabinetry.

refrigerator paneling

A repurposed structure

When Ainsley and Simon’s architect discovered that the column in the kitchen was merely decorative, they came up with a plan to tuck the refrigerator inside of it and add custom panels. “You don’t look at it and think it is a fridge at all,” Ainsley said.

refrigerator paneling to hide fridge door

A seamless built-in

Lauren’s front door led directly into the kitchen. She had to choose between a traditional entryway or a hybrid space that would add square footage to the kitchen.  She chose the latter and added a seamless wall of cabinetry with a refrigerator and pantry—plus, a coat closet.
kitchen storage and integrated refrigerator

A wall of closets

To improve the flow between their living and kitchen space, Tara and Brian’s contractor came up with an idea to move the refrigerator to a wall already outfitted with closets. Now the refrigerator fits right in with the cabinetry instead of jutting out in the main cooking space.

refrigerator paneling

A fridge in disguise

Casey and Kumar’s apartment is full of clever storage solutions to maximize their limited space. The kitchen is one such example thanks to creative built-ins, which also hide the fridge door. Custom cabinetry covers the refrigerator along with a neighboring pantry, and the whole unit conceals a structural column.

wooden cabinets to hide fridge door

Closet-turn-fridge spot

Scandinavian chic was the look that homeowners Roxana and Gabriel were going for in their Long Island City loft.  They turned to a Sweeten contractor who was able to update their space to match their minimalistic style. The refrigerator, which moved from the main kitchen area into what was formerly a coat closet proved to be one of the biggest challenges. They had to find the right size appliance and custom cut the Ikea panels to fit.  

Panels unify the kitchen

Creating an open concept living arrangement was the biggest goal for this Manhattan couple. They took down the dividing wall between the kitchen and family room and replaced it with a custom unit with storage on both sides. It was really important to the couple that they fit a fully integrated Sub-Zero refrigerator and other standard-sized appliances. “They [general contractor team] worked with me through a few kitchen iterations until we found a great open layout that permitted full-size appliances,” the homeowner shared.

A puzzle of panels

Less like appliances, more like furniture—that was Sally’s directive for her kitchen renovation. Her contractor built out a wall of cabinets covering the refrigerator, a pantry, and added narrow units designed to hold brooms and mops, too. 

Set your calendar. Here’s how long an average kitchen renovation will take.

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 with Sweeten.



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House Renovation Costs in New Jersey 2020


A guide to house renovation costs for New Jersey in 2020, including kitchen, bath, and whole-home (plus a basement budget and permit tips!)

New Jersey renovation costs

Nine million New Jerseyans live in the Garden State. And why not? There’s the option to live close to beaches, own a farm, or live the quintessential American suburban life. There’s also a convenient commute to New York City and Pennsylvania. According to the US Census, 64 percent of the houses are owned by the inhabitants, which means there are a lot of homes available for renovation.

First step: Setting a budget

If you’re embarking on a home renovation journey, your first stop will be creating a realistic budget so you can compare what you have to spend and what you might need to spend to get what you want. Each project will have a unique process and outcome with many variables—from your own taste in material and workmanship to changes in layout—that will move your cost meter up or down.

Luckily, Sweeten has done some of the heavy lifting for you when it comes to understanding house renovation costs for New Jersey. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Here’s a breakdown of typical starting house renovation costs in New Jersey, compiled from Sweeten renovations and Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value report. Renovators in denser areas closer to New York City will likely see slightly higher budgets. 

  • Full home renovation: $100 per square foot (psf) and up
  • Low-end kitchen remodel: $20,000 to $25,000
  • Mid-range kitchen remodel: starting at $30,000
  • High-end kitchen remodel: starting at $60,000
  • Low-end bathroom remodel: $15,000 to $20,000
  • Mid-range bathroom remodel: $685 psf or $24,000
  • High-end bathroom remodel and expansion: starting at $40,000
  • Basement remodel: starting at $20,000

But remember this: While it is great to have an idea of your end cost, a contractor will want a detailed conversation and inspection of your home before delivering a more specific estimate.

New Jersey home remodeling costs per square foot

New Jersey is a big state. In the northeastern part of the state, real estate prices are slightly lower than neighboring New York City. To the west are better-priced rural properties that helped give New Jersey the title of “Garden State” for its extensive agricultural industry. The same cost variations can occur when it comes to renovating your New Jersey home.

Most Sweeten projects generally start at $100 per square foot (psf) in New Jersey. Sweeten contractor Norm, who is based in Northern New Jersey, has seen gut renovations start at $200 psf and go up from there. This cost range also includes everything from architectural design and drawings to fixtures, demolition, expediting, construction—the whole project.

Easier logistics in New Jersey

There are fewer obstacles to a New Jersey renovation than, say, a place like New York City, according to Norm. New Jersey renovations do not normally come against parking and access issues or limited hours a co-op will allow for construction each day, like what happens over the Hudson. This can mean more efficient use of time, less hassle, and a smaller budget for clients in New Jersey.

House renovations can be lighter on the wallet, too. Houses typically have direct access, whereas apartments require contractors to take extra care (and time) to keep communal hallways and lobbies clean and clear. “All those things make a home renovation much less labor-intensive than an apartment,” said Norm.

New Jersey renovation costs

How much a New Jersey kitchen remodel costs per square foot

Lower-end budgets
  • Low-end kitchen: Sweeten kitchen remodels can start at $20,000 to $25,000 for under 100 square feet with budget-friendly finishes from retailers such as Home Depot.

New Jersey-based Sweeten contractor Gregory recently completed a kitchen in Monmouth County’s Fair Haven for under $25,000 at $100 psf. For flooring, he used a prefinished engineered floor lumber core with a real wood veneer on the top layer. This cost $2,500. The cabinets were purchased ready to install and a stone counter was paired with a stainless steel undermount sink, “which was quite cost-effective,” Gregory said. “A good budget number per square foot of floor space might be $100 to $150 psf for economical kitchens,” he added.

Joshua, a Sweeten contractor who does a lot of renovations in Monmouth and Ocean counties, recently redid a 160-square-foot kitchen for under $20,000. To stick within this economical budget, he used vinyl plank flooring, a basic subway tile backsplash, and premade cabinets that come in standard measurement options like 12, 15, and 21 inches. “You can make it pretty close with those measurements, but with custom, you can make it fit exactly to what the space is,” Joshua said.

New Jersey-based Sweeten contractor Bruno, whose clients include the high-end homeowners of North Bergen and those in better value areas like Middlesex, agreed that a kitchen renovation can start at under $20,000 for something basic (premade stock cabinets, basic appliances, etc.) and small (10’ x 10’ square feet).

Mid to high-end budgets
  • Mid-range kitchen: Sweeten has seen mid-range kitchens start at $30,000. Joshua puts a mid-range kitchen in a range up to $40,000. Instead of hitting up big-box stores like Home Depot, as you would for a lower-end kitchen, this price bracket allows you to shop in specialty stores for items like tiles or cabinets, Joshua said. Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value report puts a typical mid-range kitchen renovation at $375 psf or $75,000 total as an average for Trenton, New Jersey’s capital.
  • High-end kitchen: Sweeten’s typical remodel starts at $60,000. The average cost for this level in Trenton, New Jersey, is $145,000 or $725 psf, according to Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value report. The largest kitchen project Norm completed in New Jersey was more than $150,000. Pumping up the price were items such as a kitchen island with double-thick quartz and a waterfall edge, a Wolf range, reclaimed wood beams added to the ceiling, a wine fridge, and a very large square footage.

How much a New Jersey bathroom remodel costs per square foot

  • Low-end bathroom: Sweeten bathrooms can start at $15,000 to $20,000 for a 5’ x 8’ space with budget-friendly finishes.

Bathroom renovations can cost less if the majority of materials come from big-box stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot for porcelain tiles, a molded sink, and a fiberglass shower. “The crux of the job is always similar in terms of what you have—a toilet, a shower, tiles, vanities—then you expand your budget with what finishes you use,” Joshua said.

  • Mid-range bathroom: A mid-range bathroom that covers about 35 square feet in New Jersey will cost on average $24,000, according to the Cost vs. Value report. This comes out at $685 psf and can include a recessed medicine cabinet, a standard toilet, solid-surface vanity counter, and a porcelain tub. Typically, the smaller the space, the higher the square foot cost.
  • High-end bathroom: Sweeten has seen high-end bathrooms start at $40,000. That same Cost Vs. Value report puts a high-end bathroom renovation at $75,000, based on a bathroom expanded from 35 square feet to 100 square feet (or $750 psf).

The budget of a recent bathroom that Norm worked on came to that $75,000 average. “It had it all—an oversized, walk-in steam shower with body sprays and frameless glass,” he said. There was custom carpentry and a freestanding tub, “which are very expensive,” Norm added. Then there is the less exciting but very important work of replacing the plumbing lines. 

Costs for a basement renovation in New Jersey

For a basement remodel in the New Jersey area, expect the starting cost to begin at $20,000. The Cost vs. Value report puts an average basement conversion in New Jersey at $117 psf. The example project cost $75,000 and was 20’ x 30’ with a 5’ x 8’ bathroom, shower, a bar area, insulation, and laminate flooring.

But there’s a lot to take into account that will impact the budget. Sometimes the floor needs to be dug deeper to raise the ceiling height. The walls could require underpinning. Electricity and plumbing might need to be installed if there is no existing bathroom. Installation and waterproofing can also be a significant cost if it is needed as well as pumps to drain out incoming water. Some clients just want new drywall, new doors, a new closet, and a paint job, which could put a project at around the $20,000 mark.

A premium basement could cost between $100,000 and $150,000, according to Sweeten contractor Norm. Clients tend to get creative with basements from custom bar areas to cinema-style entertainment rooms. “I’ve done a lot that are geared towards homeschooling with learning nooks built underneath stairs,” he said. “Or there’s been funky, retro-style laundries with dropdown racks that fall out of the walls.” 

Costs for permits in New Jersey

There’s a lot of good news for New Jersey renovators here. A few years ago, the state eliminated the need for projects to get a permit for minor work such as a bathroom renovation in which fixtures are being directly replaced (often referred to as “rip-and-replace”). 

“Doing direct replacement — replacing the toilet or oven, old for new — will keep your costs down,” said Norm. This means plumbing and gas lines can stay as is, which can be a huge expense saver. For trickier renovations that need permits, some Sweeten contractors suggest budgeting between 10 to 15 percent of the entire project’s cost for permits.

In New Jersey, permits are often handled by each town and will likely be tied to the budget you submit.

  • In the township of Teaneck in Bergen County, the first $50,000 in your renovation or repair budget will cost $30 per $1,000 for permits (so permits for that $20,000 kitchen you’re planning will be about $600). The next $50,000 in a budget will cost $24 per $1,000 of planned work and any amount over $100,000 will cost $22 per $1,000 of planned work.
  • In Morris Township, a permit will cost $33—$44 per $1,000 for the first $50,000 of the renovation budget and $27—$33 per $1,000 for the next $50,000 and $20—$28 per $1,000 for a project over $100,000.
  • For Toms River in Ocean County, the fee will be $39 per $50,000 of the estimated cost of work, add $25 for projects budgeted from $50,001—$100,000 and add $19 for projects costing over $100,000.

Hopefully, all of these facts and figures give you a jumping-off point to begin pulling together a budget. Sweeten’s Renovation Checklist offers you a downloadable roadmap to organize all of the moving parts of a renovation, including laying out your “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves,” so you can plan and get started off on the right foot.

Preparing your home for resale? Read up on the best remodeling projects to invest in to appeal to buyers.

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 with Sweeten.



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A Brooklyn Kitchen Dazzles With an L-Shaped Layout and Island


Once kept to a single wall, a true working kitchen comes to life with an L-shaped layout and island

“After” photos by Kyle Knodell

Project: Update and enlarge a small kitchen in downtown Brooklyn with an L-shaped layout and island

Before: Looking for more square footage in downtown Brooklyn led this couple to a 3-bedroom, 2-bath 1,230-square-foot loft in a 1920s Art Deco building. The kitchen was an unusual shape, with all of the appliances huddled together along one wall, not so suitable for avid entertainers.

kitchen renovation, Brooklyn

After: To expand the space, the couple wanted an L-shaped layout with a six-foot-long island and floor-to-ceiling cabinets for storage. They posted their project on Sweeten and chose their Sweeten contractor. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Due to the building’s landmark status and paper-thin walls, condo approvals were a lengthy process. Once they were complete, the renovation itself took two months. Their contractor encouraged them to keep cooking as a focus, meaning no TV in the kitchen and leaving the “binge-fests for the den.” The couple eagerly agreed on a modern look mixing closed cabinets and open shelves while pairing white and gray shaker-style cabinets with custom black walnut slabs. One of the black walnut slabs acts as a desktop in a built-in—a workspace ideal for the husband, who is usually up before dawn checking email.

l-shaped kitchen layout with island

You could agonize over the exact CMYK breakdown in your grout, or you could choose one that’s a reasonable shade of gray, order it online, and get on with it.

A white subway tile backsplash with dark gray grout and white quartz counters serve as a simple backdrop. The couple also used brass hardware to add a modern touch. They also planned to splurge on quality countertops, which are known for their durability. To afford this, the couple decided to pass on a highly-desired farmhouse sink for a more affordable stainless steel sink. Durability was a priority for the couple. “This kitchen was built to be used,” said the homeowner. With its greatly increased prep space and extended bar seating, we couldn’t agree more!

l-shaped kitchen layout with wood topped islandkitchen renovation, Brooklyn

Bonus: After hosting their first dinner party in the space, she received a thank-you from a friend who said, “I could spend all my days in that kitchen.” The hostess’ response: “And that’s exactly our plan.”

Style finds: Cabinets: Fabuwood. Brass cabinet hardware: Semihandmade. Subway tile: Home Depot. Statuario Maximus countertop: Caesarstone. Custom black walnut slabs (open shelves, island countertop, desktop): 3 Dot Design. Light pendants: AllModern.com. Refrigerator: LG. Dishwasher: Bosch. Profile microwave: GE. Profile range: GE. Faucet: Delta. Chair (at desk) and Slope counter stools: West Elm.

Read how to minimize the mess during a renovation and how to clean up after it’s completed.

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 with Sweeten.



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