2021 Los Angeles Home Remodel Cost Guide

Unlike a simple purchase like buying a car or vacuum,  the range for a remodel cost can vary greatly because there are so many factors and variables involved. If two neighbors renovate the exact same space in each of their homes, it’s quite possible one of them could easily spend double what the other spends. So, although home renovation costs are hard to accurately pin down, this article will provide you some guidance about the range of costs for major home renovations in Los Angeles and Southern California. 

Here at GreatBuildz, a free service that connects homeowners with reliable general contractors, we talk to our pros every day and track the real-life home remodel costs of major renovations that Los Angeles homeowners are paying – below is an overview of the data we’ve collected. 

Total home remodel cost can be broken down into four major categories: Labor, Materials, Soft Costs, and Contractor Profit.

  • First, is the ‘labor’ charged by the contractor. Although its called labor, it also includes ‘rough materials’ (items the contractor buys like lumber, nails, drywall, etc). Due to the fact that the cost of rough materials is somewhat standard, the cost of the labor category is largely dependent on what the contractor pays for his staff, subcontractors, etc. and this can vary a lot.
  • Second is materials (sometimes known as ‘finish materials’) which have to be selected by the homeowner. This includes things like faucets, tile, door-knobs, and even appliances.  The total cost of this category can also vary greatly depending on the chosen materials.
  • The third category is ‘soft costs’, and includes variables like the costs to create plans by an architect, the costs to hire a designer (if needed), and city plancheck & permit fees (and impact fees if applicable). Usually, these fees are NOT included in a contractor’s price.
  • The last category is contractor profit. This number varies based on the size of the job, location, and several other variables. It can range from 15-30% of the total project budget and is typically between 20-25%.

It’s important to understand which finish materials, if any, are included in the contractor’s bid (as an allowance), and which ones will be purchased directly by the homeowner.  When it comes to the remodeling costs discussed below, these are the total of all the categories above.  Therefore, you’ll need to be aware that when you review a contractor’s bid, it may be just for the labor and contractor profit portions. Keep in mind that you will need to add finish materials and soft costs to get to your total home remodel cost. Alternatively, the contractor’s price could include quite a few allowances for materials, design fees, or permit fees, so please review the estimate carefully to understand what it does and doesn’t include.     

LA Kitchen Remodel Costs

$30,000 – $100,000k+

Although the range of remodel costs above is wide, most kitchens fall into the $40-70k range in Los Angeles. The majority of your kitchen remodel cost will primarily be from a few categories: cabinets, countertops, appliances, and labor.  Let’s discuss the variables that affect the total remodeling cost: size, reconfiguration, materials (including appliances), and scope.

Size: This one is pretty obvious; the larger the kitchen, the more materials it requires, and the more labor it takes to install those materials. In addition, larger kitchens usually incorporate larger appliances which are more expensive.

Reconfiguration: A new kitchen renovation that replaces the cabinets, appliances, and sinks in the same exact location as the old kitchen is the most efficient and cost-effective. On the other hand, reconfiguring the kitchen will add to the remodel cost because ‘utilities’ like water, electrical, gas, and venting have to be relocated in order to accommodate the new design. Also, removing and/or adding walls as part of the kitchen redesign will add costs for similar reasons. The costs of reconfiguring a kitchen vary depending on things like the need to remove load-bearing walls and the difficulty of running utilities to a new location.

Materials: The costs of this category can vary greatly and are most affected by just a few items – cabinets, countertops, and appliances. Homeowners generally have two cabinet options.

  1. The lower-cost option, which is pre-fabricated cabinets which come in standard sizes (IKEA or Home Depot, etc)
  2. Custom cabinets that are manufactured specifically for each kitchen based on the design requirements.

Countertops are similar in that they come in either:

  1. The pre-fab variety that’s cheaper, but has limited size & customization or,
  2. Custom slabs that give homeowners a much greater variety of styles & design options but have to be ‘fabricated’ so you end up spending significantly more.

Lastly, appliance pricing can run the gamut from cost-effective, $2,500 total, to wildly expensive high-end brands, which can easily be over $50,000.

Scope: Although most kitchen remodels replace the cabinets, countertops, and appliances, the scope and cost can vary depending on other items the client wants to include in their renovation. Such items may include flooring, lighting, custom backsplash, wallpaper or paneling, and open shelves.

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LA Bathroom Remodel Costs

$15,000 – $60,000

Most bathroom remodels in Los Angeles are closer to $25,000 for a smaller or secondary bathroom and $40,000 for a larger, master bathroom. Let’s break down the total remodel costs, options, designs, and considerations further.

 Just like a kitchen, the most efficient and cost-effective option is to remodel the bathroom and replace the major items in the same location – toilet, vanity, shower, tub.  Relocating these means increased costs from re-routing water and waste lines as well as removing and installing new electrical, lighting, exhaust, and potentially walls.

Bathrooms have more material items than a kitchen, so expenses are more distributed among multiple items like floor tile, shower tile, vanity, shower door, tub, sinks, faucets, shower/tub fixtures, and more. In the case of a bathroom, it’s important to clearly understand and quantify which of these materials are paid for by the contractor versus the homeowner, as this can make a drastic difference between various contractors’ estimates.  

Let’s discuss a few items that make up a significant portion of the bathroom remodel costs: Tile, vanity, stand-alone tubs, & fixtures. Tile is expensive because it’s very labor-intensive to install. So, regardless of the cost of the tile itself (which can certainly be expensive), this is a major cost of the project as it encompasses laying the entire floor, shower walls, shower floor, and any tub surround. The shower walls and floor also require the installation of backer-board and a ‘hot-mop’ as waterproofing under the tile, which adds another cost in this category.

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Although there are certainly inexpensive, small vanities available (IKEA or other retailers) in standard sizes, once you get into larger, two-sink vanities, the costs can easily get into the thousands. Large vanities up to 6’ in length can be purchased from retailers, but anything over that size will need to be custom made and that will further increase the remodeling cost.

A separate tub (not paired with a shower) is often found in elegant master bathrooms and makes up some of the price differentials between a small bathroom and a large one. Finally, plumbing fixtures can vary greatly in cost. If you are not picky about faucets and showerheads, there are certainly cost-effective options. But if you’re trying to achieve a certain contemporary look, you’ll find these materials can run into the thousands.        

ADUs, JADU’s & Garage Conversions

There has been a lot of excitement about new California ADU regulation changes that now allow a great deal of flexibility for most single-family homes. These changes mean that just about every Los Angeles homeowner can add living space on their property by building an ADU, JADU, or garage conversion. ADU stands for accessory dwelling unit and JADU stands for junior accessory dwelling unit. For more detail on these new regulations and what you might be allowed to build on your Los Angeles property, check out my blog: Los Angeles ADUs – What You Need To Know For 2021. The remodel cost of each of these categories are quite different, so let’s take each one separately.

Detached Garage Conversion

$70,000-$125,000

In most cases, a standard two-car garage (approximately 360sf) conversion will average $80-100k.  Because the structure already exists, turning this space into an ADU (with a living space, a bathroom, and a kitchen) is an efficient way to go. Generally, you’re saving on remodeling costs because you already have a foundation, framing, stucco, and a roof. However, if any of these need to be repaired, replaced, or brought up to code, that will obviously increase your budget.  The soft costs involved in this project are reasonably small, ideally between $5,000 – $8,000 for your plans and permits.

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If you think of a garage conversion to an ADU as building a small house, it can help you understand the number of details and materials that go into a project like this. All the same elements that are in your existing house are required like plumbing, a water heater, electrical systems, appliances, air conditioning, and heat, and the list goes on. A good contractor with ADU experience can help you understand all the details involved, but to give you an idea of the list of elements involved, check out my blog Construction Checklist For Building An ADU.

With a project like this, it’s extremely important to document in detail which materials are paid for by the contractor and which are paid for by the client. Finally, make sure to include in your total budget both the contractor’s bid and the price of materials you’re buying directly. This will help you better evaluate the full remodel cost of the project.          

ADU – Accessory Dwelling Unit

(Detached or Attached)

$100,000 – $400,000

The new regulations allow you to build an ADU up to 1200 square feet, but they can also be as small as 200sf.  So, depending on the size of the ADU you desire, the budgets can vary widely. A good rule of thumb is to budget $300-$400 per square foot. Also keep in mind that the bigger you build, the lower you’ll be paying on that cost per square foot range.

So, if you’re building 300sf, you’re probably budgeting at least $120,000, but if you want to build 1,000sf you can budget $300,000 or less. The reason for this is that any ADU, large or small, has one set of the most expensive components like a bathroom, a kitchen, a water-heater, an HVAC system, etc.  As an ADU gets bigger in size, that additional area is usually cheaper space to build like larger living areas, more bedrooms, and closets.

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An ADU can either be attached to the house, an existing garage, or a free-standing unit – the costs of these are not significantly different. As mentioned briefly above, building an ADU is really no different than building a small version of your house, so it’s not a simple project. You’ll want to make sure to engage an experienced architect/designer for the plans and speak to several quality contractors to get their opinions, recommendations, and cost estimates for your desired project. The architecture plans for an ADU should run you between $5,000 – $15,000. Finally, it’s a good idea to start with a checklist to get a sense of what items go into an ADU project. See my ADU Checklist article for a full list of requirements you can use as a resource.

JADU (Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit)

$40,000 – $100,000 

According to the new state regulations, a JADU is defined as a 500sf maximum separate living unit that must be created from within the ‘envelope’ of the existing home. So, that means taking part of the space within your home, be it a bedroom or an attached garage, and converting that to a distinct living unit containing a small kitchen, a separate entrance, and (optionally) a bathroom. Most of the time, this project involves converting an attached 2 car garage into a JADU. 

An attached garage conversion to a JADU is somewhat cheaper than a detached garage conversion to ADU because all the necessary utilities (gas, electrical, water, waste) are available in close proximity. The other items and remodel cost ranges are similar, like the bathroom, kitchen, flooring, windows, etc. Like the discussion above, you’ll want to engage an architect and contractor when starting such a project.   

Additions

$250-400 per square foot

Although most additions are ‘attached’ to the rear of the house, there is quite a bit of variety with regard to the possibilities, and therefore the remodeling costs can vary significantly.  For example, some additions require quite a bit of reconfiguration within the existing home to accommodate the new space, and that will add to the total remodel cost.

Also, a two-story addition will be more expensive than a single-story addition due to the structural elements required to support the second floor. Finally, ‘dry’ rooms such as family rooms and bedrooms are cheaper than ‘wet’ rooms like bathrooms, kitchen & laundry rooms.  This makes a lot of sense when you think about the fact a bedroom is essentially four walls and a floor, while a bathroom needs plumbing, tile, vanity, countertops, fixtures, etc.

 A very common addition is a master suite, which is a combination of dry space (bedroom, closet) and wet space (a master bathroom).  A master suite might be 400-500 square feet in size and cost around $150,000, but can range from $120-200k depending on the size and required finishes. Let’s discuss some options that can affect the remodel cost of a master suite or other addition. 

If your existing house is on a slab foundation (not a raised foundation), it will be more difficult to connect the plumbing (waste lines) and could increase costs. Also, if your electrical panel is at capacity, you may need to upgrade it to accommodate new electrical circuits in your additional space.

Next, if your roofing material is old or unique, it might be difficult to match it in constructing the addition, creating the possible need to re-roof the entire home. Finally, your chosen materials & finishes will have a significant impact on your project pricing. Some examples are lots of cabinetry in the bathroom/closet, wood/tile flooring versus carpet, luxury bathroom elements such as a large shower & freestanding tub, and extra features like patio doors, wood deck, or barn-style doors.      

Whole House Remodel Cost

$100-300 per square foot

Whole-house remodels are the most difficult category to estimate because the total remodel cost will largely depend on what’s included. Every home is unique and requires a specific scope to accomplish the desired remodel. Therefore, the only way to get a true, realistic estimate is to invite several contractors to bid the job (and potentially have an architect design the plans).

One way to create a rough budget for a whole house remodel in Los Angeles is to separate it into its major components.  You start with the most expensive parts, which are likely the kitchen and bathrooms, assuming these are all included in the remodel.  Based on the costs discussed above for each of these components, you can add these up to establish your overall budget. Then, you might add in the following elements, depending on which are included in your remodel: flooring, windows, interior/exterior paint, doors, windows, landscape/exterior, any systems such as plumbing, electrical, HVAC, roofing, etc. My “ADU” checklist blog is a good place to consider all the elements you might need in a remodel.

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Unfortunately, the hardest part to budget is the structural elements if you are doing any reconfiguration of your space by adding or removing walls. The remodel cost of this will depend on your unique situation and the structural engineer’s design, which could include structural support, beams, foundation reinforcement, shear walls, etc. Because this is just too difficult for the layperson to budget, your best bet is to get multiple contractor estimates. Make sure each contractor breaks down his bid into all the various elements so you can compare these structural costs on each bid in an apples-to-apples way.

Is a Remodel Right For Me?

One of the most common barriers to beginning a home remodeling project that homeowners report is not knowing fully whether or not remodeling is right for them or if they should move instead. If this seems to describe you best, here are a few things to consider when deciding which route to take:

Is the budget best or even realistic for your family?

Once you’ve secured at least three quality quotes from different contractors, you should have an idea of whether or not the cost of a remodel fits within your budget. Even if it does, it’s then time to consider if it’s worth it. This fully depends on what makes the most sense for you and your family.

Is your home more special to you than the cost?

Remodeling is a no-brainer if you’re very attached to your home. Unless facing economic hardship, homeowners who find themselves in love with their home, but instead sell and move for money eventually regret it.

If remodeling is more expensive but enhances your quality of life, you know that remodeling is the answer for you.

How long does a home remodel usually take?

That ultimately depends on how in-demand your contractor is, the time of year, and access to materials. And, of course, many, many other factors. If you’re not prepared, though, the time can take some by surprise. It’s a long-term commitment to the process.

It’s unfair to estimate an “average” time for remodels, but, to give you an idea, a bathroom may take three weeks while kitchen remodels may take six. Either way, it’s best to be prepared in case you’re required to move out for any amount of time during the renovations.

Even if you can stay at home throughout the entire length of the renovation process, it can be a significant life adjustment to live in a house while it’s being remodeled. However, as long as you are prepared, you can rest assured as you watch your home transform into something even more beautiful than it was before. The process of renovating brings a lot of homeowners joy.

Resale opportunities

If you find yourself located in a neighborhood filled with starter homes, consider how large of a remodel you can take on before the home caps out in value. While it may technically still increase in value with the more work put in, there are still only so many potential buyers who will pay for a home in that neighborhood. For example, if the average home resale value in your area is $750,000 and you renovate your home to the point where it’s now worth $900,000, you might lose some money on the resale.

If you’re unhappy with your home for reasons like an undesirable school district or unpleasant neighbors, a remodel, unfortunately, will not help you. However, if you love your home for every possible reason you could love a house except for the fact that you need just one more bedroom, bathroom, or level, start the process of inquiring about a home renovation today.

 

If you want to learn more about home remodeling costs, addition or ADU project, or if you’re ready to take the next step and talk to a local contractor or designer/architect about your specific project, feel free to call one of our friendly GreatBuildz staff at 818.317.3567 or submit your project at www.GreatBuildz.com.

Check out the GreatBuildz Guide Blog for more construction tips and advice for any type of home remodeling project!