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How Much of My Remodel is Labor vs. Materials?

Most homeowners feel more comfortable spending tens or even hundreds of thousands on a home remodel when they understand how their money is being spent. Homeowners want to see that their remodel includes not only high-quality products and materials but also benefits from expert installation and skilled labor. One of the most common questions we get asked as a home remodeling company is, “How much of the total remodel cost is labor vs materials?”

Our build teams at Lamont Bros. Design & Construction are some of the most reputable in the Portland Metro Area. In every project, our team works hard to provide the highest value in product offerings and labor. Over the last several years, we’ve seen the ratio of labor versus materials remain relatively consistent.

In this article, we will answer the often-asked question, “How much of my remodel is labor vs. materials?” We’ll discuss how labor and material costs differ based on the type of remodel, and what factors influence this breakdown.  By the time you’re done reading, you will have a clearer understanding of where your investment goes and how to make informed choices about your home remodel. The topics we’ll discuss include:

What is the Average Breakdown of Labor vs. Materials?

Across various types of remodeling projects, labor costs typically make up a significantly larger portion of the budget. There is a lot of skilled work required to ensure that the remodel meets building codes and quality standards.

Materials, while also a considerable expense, usually account for a smaller percentage of the total cost. However, this can vary based on the finishes and fixtures you select.

A general construction rule of thumb is that labor typically makes up two-thirds of the total cost, with materials accounting for the final third. At Lamont Bros., we’ve found this to be a relatively accurate representation. Over 7 years and 300 home remodeling projects, our average labor-to-material ratio has been about 65% labor and 35% material.

Labor costs tend to be higher for projects such as basement remodels or additions, which require more skilled labor and fewer specialty products. Inversely, kitchens and bathroom remodels tend to have higher material costs due to their focus on specific products and finishes such as cabinetry or tile.

What is the Difference in Labor vs. Material for a Kitchen Remodel?

The kitchen is one area of the home that relies heavily on products and materials for both its functionality and design appeal. As a result, the cost split for kitchens is about 33% materials and 67% labor.

Labor Factors Influencing Kitchen Remodels

From demolition and framing to cabinet installation and finish carpentry, kitchen remodeling requires several different forms of skilled labor. Here are some of the labor items that have the most effect on your kitchen remodel:

man installing cabinets with a level bar
Kitchens typically have higher than average material costs.

Labor Costs

Demolition: This initial phase requires careful planning and attention to detail to prepare the space. Demolition accounts for about 10-15% of the labor budget. The build team must be careful to avoid damage to structural elements and utilities.

Plumbing and Electrical: Given their complexity and the expertise required, plumbing and electrical work make up a significant part of labor expenses. Although materials for this type of work are usually minimal, the skilled labor required can make up 20-25% of the project’s total labor cost.

Material Costs

Cabinets: As a dominant feature in any kitchen, cabinets can take up 30-40% of the materials budget. Some high-end cabinet packages can cost $50,000 or more. This cost reflects the material, design, and customization level.

Countertops: Countertops, valued for their functionality and impact on the kitchen’s overall appearance, represent 10-20% of the material expenses. The choice of material, from natural stones to engineered surfaces, directly influences this cost.

Appliances: Making up 15-20% of the material costs, appliances are pivotal for the kitchen’s operations. The selection ranges widely in price, depending on the desired features, performance, and integration with the kitchen design.

What is the Difference in Labor vs. Materials for a Bathroom Remodel?

Bathroom remodels, like kitchen remodels, rely heavily on comfort and design, resulting in a higher-than-average material cost. The distribution for bathroom remodels is approximately 69% labor and 31% materials.

man installing tile
Heated floors during installation.

Labor Costs

Tile Work: Tile work is one of the more labor-intensive aspects of bathroom remodeling, requiring skilled craftsmanship. For a bathroom with extensive tile work, labor for this alone might comprise around 25-35% of the labor costs. This accounts for both the skill level required and the time consumed by intricate patterns and waterproofing considerations.

Plumbing: Plumbing adjustments or installations, given their complexity and the necessity for compliance with building codes, could represent approximately 30-35% of the labor costs. This includes installing new fixtures, rerouting pipes, and ensuring everything is leak-proof and functional.

Material Costs

Shower Glass: If shower glass is a major feature in a bathroom remodel, it could account for around 10-20% of the material costs. The actual value depends on the size and customization of the glass enclosure.

Vanity (Including Countertop & Vanity Cabinet): The vanity, combining both the cabinet and the countertop, represents a significant portion of the materials budget, around 10-15%. This is because vanities can vary widely in terms of materials, sizes, and designs, from standard models to custom pieces with high-end countertops.

What is the Difference in Labor vs. Material for a Home Addition?

Home additions involve expanding the living space of a home by adding onto the structure. It requires extensive planning, labor, and materials. The cost split for additions is around 71% labor and 29% materials.

Framing makes up a significant portion of the cost of a home addition.

Labor Costs

Plumbing and Electrical: Additions almost always require electrical work and occasionally plumbing too. As specialized trades, you can expect the cost of plumbing and electrical to make up 10-20% of your labor budget.

Drywall: As a brand-new living space, the entire addition will likely need to have drywall installed throughout. Though less technical than plumbing or electrical work, it still requires about 5-10% of the total labor budget, especially to achieve a high-quality finish.

Material Costs

Framing: Essential for the structural support of the addition, the lumber required for framing accounts for nearly 10-20% of the material costs.

HVAC: The cost for a new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, critical for extending comfortable living conditions to the new addition, can be substantial due to the complexity of integrating with existing systems. Expect this to make up 5-15% of the total material cost.

Siding: Siding not only protects the addition but also plays a key role in the aesthetic integration with the existing structure. Like HVAC, siding makes up a significant material cost that can take up 5-15% of the material budget.

Basement Remodels: Labor vs. Material Costs

Transforming a basement into a livable space enhances a home’s value and utility. Because the process of remodeling a basement involves transforming a pre-existing space into usable living space, the labor cost is often higher than average. The cost distribution for basement remodels is roughly 74% labor and 26% materials.

Some basement remodels have very high concrete and excavation costs.

Material Costs

Framing: Framing makes up 10-20% of material costs and is crucial in defining the new spaces within a basement. It provides the necessary structure for rooms, closets, and other interior structural elements that give the basement definition and purpose.

Flooring: Flooring is another major material expense in basement renovations, accounting for 10-20% of the cost. The type of flooring you choose can directly impact where in the range your cost falls. Options range from basic bare concrete finishes to high-end tile or wood flooring.

Concrete: In cases of new construction or expansion, concrete for foundations and floors becomes a key material cost. Depending on the circumstances and amount of concrete required, This could be anywhere from 5-25% of the total material cost.  This can include pouring new slabs or creating foundation walls for any extensions to the basement.

Labor Costs

Finish Carpentry: This involves the detailed work required to complete the interior spaces, including installing trim, doors, built-ins, and sometimes custom cabinetry or shelving. Finish carpentry is a labor-intensive process that significantly contributes to the overall labor costs, making up 10-20% of labor costs in a basement remodel.

Excavation: For expansions that increase the basement’s footprint, excavation is a necessary and labor-intensive part of the process. This includes digging out new areas, which can be a significant portion of the labor cost, depending on the project’s scope and the terrain’s complexity. As with concrete, the amount of excavation varies from project to project, so it can take up 2-25% of the labor costs, depending on how much is required.

Ready to Start Discussing Your Remodel Options with a Designer?

After reading this article, do you think you understand more about the breakdown of labor and material costs for your remodel? As you continue to learn more about the cost of remodeling, it’s important to also understand how finding the right contractor can ensure you get the most value for your money spent. To learn more about your contractor options, download our free 3-Step Contractor Selection Guide.

Ready to start planning your remodel? If so, click the button below to schedule a free design consultation with a member of our design team. We’ll help you explore your design options and make sure you never have to navigate the challenges of remodeling alone.