How Much Does A Whole House Renovation Really Cost?

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Hi Everyone,

I find it difficult to believe we are now 8.5 months into this renovation. I was positive last May that by March, I’d be able to move back into my bedroom with at least 95% of the job complete.

It isn’t easy to put a percentage of what has been done and what is left; however, tomorrow, I will update the to-do list for Robert, my contractor.


This brings me to today’s topic: How Much Does a Whole House Renovation Cost?


A recent comment by Lori inspired it:

Laurel, I live less than an hour from Boston, and I’m a big fan of your work and have been following your site for several years. Your renovation is stunning. We are getting quotes for a project and are in disbelief over the cost, which has doubled in the last 2 years. Would you be willing to tell us the ballpark of how much this renovation you’re doing costs? If you’d rather not, that’s fine; it would be helpful to know. Thank you


It’s a reasonable question.

And here’s my answer.

None of your freaking business. ;]

No, I’m just kidding. Look, it’s not exactly classified information.


However, we need to get one thing clear based on something darling Sue said:


Sue explained in a comment to Lori, that I am likely privy to discounts/freebies in exchange for publicity. If only that were so!  Oh, I tried. I had a well-connected design-insider friend toot my horn for me. We also provided a media kit with website stats from Google Analytics. And what we were met with was, “Oh, we’re definitely interested,” followed by crickets.


However, except for the Zephyr Range hood, which I won in 2017 and they honored, absolutely nothing else has been gotten for free. Incidentally, the Zephyr range hood they gave me is the Maserati of range hoods. I will do another post about it. I can only say that I’ve heard it telling the whiny fridge to STFU already. At the lowest speed, the Zephyr Monsoon sounds like a gentle summer breeze.


As for discounts, only two companies have awarded me a generous discount.




Both companies gave me a superb experience and product. However, they were not free! Not even close. Even with the discounts, the products are expensive, but not the most expensive, in the case of the cabinetry. In fact, apples for apples, you’ll pay at least double, if not triple, if you go to a certain kitchen showroom in the South End of Boston that begins with a V.

The Mural Source – TWO YEARS AGO, promised me some wallpaper. I have an email from Paul Montgomery, the nicest southern gentleman ever, dated February 15, 2022. I would love to put one of their murals in my bedroom.  Walking in with the rounded bay, it is begging me for a panoramic mural. I think it’ll be so wonderful to see a peak of the design as one is walking down the short hall past the staircase.

The problem is deciding which one! I need to get some samples. I’m going to work on that this coming week.


Speaking of murals, there will be an update regarding the Fine and Dandy Murals soon.


Otherwise, my dear ones, for everything else, unless I can get it with a designer’s account, (like fabric, wallpaper, tile) I’m paying the same as you. I try to use my affiliate links whenever possible, but it’s like buying a high-end range and getting the lightbulb that goes inside for free.

For everything that’s labor-intensive, I am not getting any discount whatsoever, and I wouldn’t ask.


the door is installed!


In other news, the door is all moved, and for the first time, the downstairs feels connected with the upstairs and the rest of the building instead of connected with the alley. For earlier images of the door moving progress, please go here. 

(Please note: that I have plans to beef up the door to look far more grand.)

BTW, that thing leaning against the wall that looks like a giant skateboard is the new rounded bottom step, to be installed next week.


I adore that at the bottom of the stairs when I look up, I can see 95% of one of the big windows.


I can even see the John Hancock Building! It’s a fantastic and quite grand view.


wonderful new staircase

See what I mean?


Last night, as I had two loads of laundry to do, I went up and down the stairs numerous times, using my new door which is only steps from the laundry closet. Can you picture it? I was giggling to myself the entire time. Never in my life was doing the laundry so much fun!


Laurel, please stop reveling in your laundry and tell us how much you’re spending. How much does a renovation cost?


What part of “None of your freaking business. ;]” did you not understand? Oh, wait. I said I was just kidding. My apologies.

Well, there are millions of factors. However, Lori lives in or near greater Boston. So, yes, renovating is going to be expensive.


Okay, I’m going to preface this with if I had gone with contractor #1 it would’ve been at least $200,000 more, which would’ve been way beyond my means. Since that’s the case, I would’ve ended up with a considerably pared-down version of what I have.

So, the biggest expense is your general contractor. But, contractors vary quite widely.

However, they’re not different from apples and oranges; no, it’s more like grapes and pineapples.


The most expensive contractors are design/build companies.


In other words, you get a team of professionals, including a designer, an architect, engineering services, project management, and then a GC and subs. It’s a brilliant idea: one-stop renovation shopping and a team that knows each other and works towards the same goal.

While you might need all of those people, you might do better if you do them ala carte because the company has a far higher overhead than a solopreneur GC.

In my case, I didn’t need a designer. I did need an architect, but they gave me a bit more than I needed. And, I also needed structural engineering services.


Another thing and I know you know this, but the more custom the work is, the more the price will go up.


And finally. Much of what I’m doing is for me, of course, but also for the blog. In fact, a big part of my motivation for moving to Boston and to a place that needed work was for new blog material.

Many of the elements I’m using, like secret doors, are areas I’ve written about. However, I wanted to explore them for all of us to learn more about.


So, let’s dive in to see how much a whole-house renovation costs.


These are all bottom-line prices unless otherwise specified.  My contractor is unusual in that he lumped together many of his fees, but they’re quite reasonable compared to many.


fully functioning kitchen

The kitchen as it looked several weeks ago



This includes labor, cabinets, plumbing, electrical, and everything that has and will go into it, is about $145,000.


Primary Bathroom:


It will have custom built-ins and costs about $50,000, including vanity, faucet, shower door, plumbing, and electrical work.


The balance of the contractor’s fees is roughly $100,000.

This includes electrical, plumbing, HVAC work, door moving, stair building, rough and finish carpentry, floor and tile installation, etc.


  • The structural engineers and architects – $16,000
  • Painting and floor finishing with special finishes on some floors – $36,000
  • Doors/hardware 30k 

 The embrasure doors with the hardware are very expensive. Plus, every door is custom.
  • Antique Marble Fireplace Mantel with installation (incl. overseas shipping, customs, blah blah!) $12,000Regarding the railing, I am waiting for the new quote, which should come on Tuesday or Wednesday next week. The old quote was $7,500. I’m hoping this one won’t be more than 10k.
  • Tile, mouldings & wallpaper 10k
  • Light fixtures so far are about 5k, and that is with shopping open box sales


Parking – 10 months is $4,000

My contractor did not have line items for permitting, waste disposal, cleaning, and “profit and overhead.” Of course, the contractor is profiting from what he’s charging for services. However, contractor #1 had a line item for P and O of well over $50,000.

Okay, let’s add all of that up.




So, let’s look quickly at where I could’ve cut back and what was absolutely necessary.


I should’ve been clear with the architect that I was set with my design and the parts I needed help with. So maybe I could’ve saved about 5k there.

For the kitchen, I could’ve left out many of the custom features in the kitchen. However, the rounded cabinet gives me so much joy! I could’ve done simpler drawers and left off the scribed bead. Nope. I am so happy with those choices. However, if one is doing custom cabinetry in Boston, I would say the least you’ll spend for a new custom kitchen is $100,000. While I splurged with the counters, my major appliances were under $7,000.


The bathroom’s major expenses are going for plumbing and custom building.


Of course, the new staircase and door moving were multiple five figures. From my standpoint, it was worth it because this place feels like a cohesive home now with a far safer way of going between floors. Plus, once the railing is up, I can have people over without them worrying about falling through the huge gaps.


Another place I could’ve saved money was to go with a less elaborate design downstairs.


However, even in its raw state, I can’t tell you how much I adore the lower garden level. Even though the new radiator hasn’t been installed, and it’s a bit cool and dank, the space itself is like a warm hug.

While I do have some areas that could’ve been done for less if the scope had been scaled back, I feel like I’ve gotten a good deal.

It would be possible, in Boston, to do what I’m doing and pay double for it.


In my case, the trade-off is that it’s taking longer to finish the job.


However, I’m taking delight in every new thing that’s accomplished. And I’m grateful for everything I have. I don’t take any of it for granted.


How Much Does a Whole House Renovation REALLY Cost?

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So, yes. Professional renovating is very expensive. I guess this is why some folks attempt to do it themselves. That wouldn’t be for me. But, I’m pretty good at cracking the whip. hehe

It also helps to make a chocolate cake and give some to the guys.



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