2019 Home Renovation Costs Per Square Foot in Chicago

After a long obsession with so many Pinterest and Instagram boards, you’re finally ready to move on from daydreaming to starting that reno of your kitchen, master bath, or even (gulp) whole house. First, set a budget. Be honest. What can you afford? Build in a little reserve. Think about ideal layouts, materials, the look and style—but also consider everything that isn’t visible—the infrastructure—especially if it’s a gut job.

This guide focuses on some of the major remodeling categories: whole house remodels, kitchen, bath, additions—as well as permits—so you can include a working numbers guide in your budget.

Here’s a breakdown of typical starting costs (including labor and materials), drawn from Sweeten renovations and Remodeling’s 2019 Cost vs. Value report.

  • Full-home renovation: From $100 per square foot (psf) with stock materials to $400+ psf for high-end materials
  • Lower-end bath remodel: $15,000—$20,000 (based on a bath 35 to 40 sq ft)
  • Major mid-range bath remodel: $21,000—$40,000 (based on a bath up to 200 sq ft)
  • High-end bath remodel: $40,000—$100,000 (based on a bath over 200 sq ft)
  • Lower-end kitchen remodel: $25,000  (based on a kitchen under 100 sq ft)
  • Major mid-range kitchen remodel: $40,000—$75,000 (based on a kitchen under 200 sq ft)
  • High-end kitchen remodel: $75,000+ (based on a kitchen over 200 sq ft)
  • Basement remodel: $40,000—$75,000

While these are reasonable guidelines, you’ll get a more precise estimate after you talk with a contractor, who will inspect the areas to be remodeled and discuss materials, appliances, and fixtures you want to use. There’s a wide range of variables here.

What a home remodel costs per square foot

In the city of Chicago and neighboring suburbs, remodeling costs are fairly consistent across the board. As Cook County property taxes are among the highest in the country, real estate prices are impacted, with a range from around $700,000 to upwards of $10 million for free-standing homes. Those prices (and level of materials and finishes) often affect renovation costs.

Gut renovation versus non-gut renovation

Gutting a home is pretty much starting from scratch—taking everything down to the studs or framework and/or knocking down walls. A gut job starts at the higher end of the $100 to $200 psf range, while a remodel of the space within existing walls will be at the lower end. For example, remodeling a 700-square-foot, one-bedroom condo may range from $50,000 to $70,000, while a gut reno likely will exceed $100,000. The work usually involves running new plumbing pipes and wiring, moving doorways, and possibly installing new flooring.

For a full-home renovation, costs start at $100 per square foot. The scope includes demo, framing, insulation and drywall, wiring, plumbing, heating/cooling systems, millwork, paint, flooring, tile, light fixtures, electronics, and all finishes—except appliances, which can significantly boost your bottom line, depending on how high-end they are. According to Walter, who works with Chicago-based Sweeten contractor Ryan, “A whole-house renovation—say, 3,000 square feet—would cost $200,000, at the low end, and start at $400,000 at the high end. It all depends on the materials chosen.”

Wet rooms (those connected to a water supply), such as bathrooms or kitchens—typically start at $250 psf. In the city, condo (or co-op) baths can be as small as 30 square feet, but in freestanding homes, they typically are larger than 5 x 8 feet.  High-end (fully custom and luxury materials) renovations can cost upwards of $700 per square foot; architectural design and drawings, demolition, construction, materials, fixtures, lighting, and finishes are included in the fee.

Contractors build in overhead fees, allowing for the unexpected, usually 10 to 15 percent of the project (Sweeten recommends that the renovator reserve at least 10-15 percent above the bid as well). The beauty of using a general contractor is that it’s one-stop shopping, as it covers pretty much all the trades required for the job.

Chicago-based Sweeten contractor Brad recommends being realistic about how much you can spend. “You can’t buy a $100,000 ring on a $5,000 budget. Nail down your contractor first; they know pricing. And add 15 percent for unexpected conditions.”

Costs for a bathroom renovation

  • Lower-end bathroom: A starting point can be $15,000—$20,000 for a 5 x 8-space with budget-friendly finishes from big box stores like Walmart, Home Depot, Menards, and Lowe’s. As this is a wet space, it’s similar to a kitchen remodel in that plumbing, electrical insulation, and exhausts, as well as correcting misaligned walls and floors, are part of the job.
  • Major, mid-range bathroom: For a 36-square-foot space, a remodel will range from $25,000—$40,000. The Cost vs. Value report suggests an average of $26,908 for this type of project and includes a recessed medicine cabinet, standard toilet, solid-surface vanity counter, and a porcelain tub.
  • High-end bathroom: The cost kicks up to $80,433 for a high-end renovation, based on 100 square feet within an existing footprint. Features include new ductwork, radiant heated floors, custom cabinetry, separate shower, freestanding tub, and custom lighting.

Costs for a bathroom addition

  • Mid-range: $62,546
  • High-end: $111,955

Cost for universal design bathroom remodel

To turn a bath into one with all features compliant with ADA (Americans with Disability Act) guidelines, the cost is approximately $42,543 and includes: updating an existing 5 x 7-foot space to be wheelchair accessible (zero threshold, 36-inch door), with flat-panel electrical switches at sitting level (36 to 42 inches above floor).

Costs for a kitchen renovation

  • Lower-end kitchen: A starting point is $27,798 for less than 100 square feet. This translates to stock cabinets, economical tiles, and countertops, plus swapping out your dated appliances with newer and more energy-efficient models.
  • Major, mid-range kitchen renovation: A 200-square-foot renovation begins at $79,825 and includes custom lighting, updating 30 linear feet of semi-custom wood cabinets, new countertops, a 3 x 5-foot island, double-tub stainless steel sink with single-lever faucet, garbage disposal, built-in dishwasher, energy-efficient range, vented hood, built-in microwave, dishwasher, and new flooring.
  • High-end kitchen: Starting at $156,610, expect top-flight custom cabinets with interior detailing like partitioned drawers, pullout shelves, pop up and down storage, stone, quartz or porcelain countertops, stone or imported tile backsplash. Also included are custom lighting, under-cabinet lighting, hardwood, stone or porcelain flooring, and typical high-end appliances.

Walter has seen kitchens cost $50,000 for a gut remodel, and at the high end, closer to $100,000. “Those figures,” he says, “can vary greatly, as some cabinetry alone might cost $80,000.” 

Costs for a master suite addition

  • Mid-range master suite addition: Estimated costs are around $423 psf or  $168,345 for a 24 x 16-foot space, including double vanity, freestanding tub, separate shower, walk-in closet, dressing area, according to Cost v. Value’s report.  Whether it’s a ground-level addition, basement remodel, or second-floor addition, accessing rough-ins for plumbing will vary and affect pricing.
  • High-end master suite addition: For a 32 x 20-foot master suite with a separate sitting area and large master bath over a crawl space, costs are around $518 psf or $342,098. This kind of project includes custom shelving, built-in storage, as well as a walk-in closet and dressing area with windows.

Costs for a basement renovation

A starting budget for a basement is around $100 psf. At the low end, the cost averages $40,000 and includes a bathroom with a shower. Flooring options, which could be laminate, vinyl, engineered wood, porcelain tile, or stained concrete, can vary significantly. At the high end, a project for $75,000 may include a 5 x 8-foot bathroom with shower, a wet bar, and flooring in an overall space measuring 20 x 30 feet.

Costs can be affected by the existing condition of the space, whether or not plumbing pipes need to be installed or moved, new water service is required, and whether bracing needs to be done to eliminate structural supports in the middle of a space. If you want to raise the ceiling (typically Chicago basements are 8 feet or less, as low as 6’7″), that requires digging out and underpinning the foundation. In addition, it’s necessary to assure a waterproof space. A perimeter drain tile system is installed (repaired or extended). Connecting it to a sump pump also is important to consider, and this cost can start at around $2,500.

Costs for renovation permits

The permit process for renovating varies from Chicago to its suburbs, with each of the village’s or town’s governing bodies determining requirements and fees. In Chicago, permits are obtained through the Building Department. The issue in common is safety and compliance with building codes.

In Winnetka, remodeling permits cost $30 per $1,000 of construction; new construction is $1.30 per square foot of new gross area. There also are permit fees for plumbing, electrical service ($9,800 for 200 amp service; $21,000 for 400 amp service), furnace, and AC as well as roofing and pools. In Hinsdale, the permit fee for remodeling is calculated on two percent of the value of construction.  In addition, expect to pay permit fees for demolition ($3,000).

In Chicago, application for building permits must include architectural drawings and names of all licensed contractors—plumbers, electricians, HVAC contractors (usually supplied by the general contractor). There is no one size fits all. But expect to pay between $1,500 and $2,000 minimally for a whole house remodel, major kitchen, and/or bath. The larger the project, the more the fee, ranging to as high as $10,000.

There’s also an Easy Permit Program for small projects that do not require architectural drawings (usually available the same day). There are nominal costs (a few hundred dollars for plumbing and electrical permits), which usually are pulled by those contractors.


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