Planning a Kitchen Renovation on a Budget: Tips, Links, Pricing, and My Recommendations
Updated: Jun 3, 2022
A kitchen remodel is the most EXPENSIVE yet most DREAMED ABOUT project in a home. In a recent poll on our Instagram Stories, 77% of you voted your kitchen as the most desired renovation if money weren't a factor. What if your kitchen renovation was more achievable than you thought? What if you could still have a new, beautiful kitchen and not break the bank?
After renovating two kitchens now, I’ve learned where all the major money-saving tips and tricks were hiding! I’ve spent endless hours researching countertops, cabinets, tile, hardware, flooring, and all things kitchen - I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned with you (LINKS INCLUDED). I hope after reading this your kitchen dreams seem a little more achievable. Here we go!
3 Quick Tips to Start
1. Keep the layout of your kitchen the same
This will eliminate any plumbing, electrical, and wall patchwork costs during your renovation. So don't go moving sinks, walls, or gas ranges around if you're trying to pinch a pretty penny! I was originally planning on switching the location of my kitchen and dining room and although it would have looked AMAZING, the costs just were not justifiable or feasible.
2. DIY as much as you can
Here's a list of things that you can take on yourself (if you feel comfortable, of course!):
Shop and order your own materials (cabinets, backsplash, hardware, etc.)
Demo your kitchen and pay for a dumpster or haul your trash to the dump
Install your own hardware
Assemble your own cabinets and drawers if they come unassembled
If you are a perfectionist, very patient, have the time, have done your research, and are feeling confident, then you could install your own cabinets! Here's my only word of caution if you chose to DIY: remember your countertops rely on your base cabinets being perfectly level in all directions, and your backsplash will look terrible if your upper cabinets aren't level either; a leveler and shims will be your best friend.
Again, if you are a perfectionist, very patient, have the time, have done your research, and are feeling confident, then you could install your own backsplash. It'll be more approachable if you're doing a simple pattern and you have or can borrow/rent a tile cutter. If anything, you can do your own grout.
3. Be your own General Contractor
A general contractor is someone who literally takes care of an entire renovation from start to finish. They, plan, measure, find and order materials, demo, plumbing, electrical, drywall, wall texture, tile, cabinets, the works. Which is WONDERFUL if you can afford it. However, you can cut out the middle mand and do a lot of this yourself (as mentioned above). This will save you a TON of money!
The most expensive aspect of a kitchen renovation is typically cabinets. Custom cabinets can easily cost 20k+, but we're not going to go anywhere near that number with these secondary options I have for you. Depending on your goals with your property and budget, how you update your cabinets may vary. Here are some options starting with the least expensive:
1. Paint them
If your cabinets are in decent condition and a style you can work with, painting them is the most cost-effective cabinet update. I will warn you, it's a lot of work but if your budget is tight, it's totally worth it. This might be hard to picture if your home is older, but remember you can always install new hardware to contribute to the new look for just a couple hundred dollars. If you're wanting to feel a little fancy, you can buy soft-close hinges! Check out this before and after done by Stephanie Jane Cameron! Don't underestimate a good coat of paint.
2. Reface them
The next step up from painting your cabinets is refacing them. Refacing is where you keep the box frames but you get new cabinet doors and drawer faces. This might not be the best option for you if you're changing the layout of your kitchen as ou probably don't want mixed-matched frames. My go-to DIY-er, Angela Rose, just opened a refacing company called Nieu and it's amazing! Trendy, high quality, awesome colors, and very affordable - check them out!
Here's a perfect example of just swapping out the cabinet doors and drawer faces!
3. Replace them
Out with the old and in with the new! I know this seems daunting, but all new cabinets feels really good! It's like a fresh start! There are 3 types of cabinets, in order from lowest to highest quality/price: particle/furniture board, a mix of particleboard and plywood, and solid wood.
Lowe's - Roughly $2,500 for a 10x10 kitchen. Their Diamond Now collection is in stock and has very limited color options. We did our first kitchen renovation with these and I loved them. They are definitely not made out of solid wood, but they are cabinets nonetheless! If you're looking into this option, you'll want to check out our full experience HERE.
Home Depot - Roughly $3,000 for a 10x10 kitchen. Almost the same Lowe's options, but I believe they aren't in stock like Lowe's are. They do have more options, however.
Ikea - Roughly $6,000 for a 10x10 kitchen. This is a little more expensive and a little bit higher quality board. You do have to assemble them yourselves, but that's not as scary as you think! It's actually very easy!
Here's our before and after of our first kitchen renovation using Lowes Diamond Now Particle Board cabinets:
RTA Cabinet Store - Roughly $5,000 for a 10x10 kitchen. I wouldn't recommend any other company! Even though we had a HUGE fiasco with our cabinet order for our most recent kitchen renovation, I would still use RTA again. You're getting the quality of custom cabinets at more than half the price. This is by far the most bang for your buck and will add the most value to your home. They have speedy delivery (within a week or so) and have lots of options to choose from.
Your second most expensive aspect of a kitchen renovation is hands down your countertops. New countertops can be costly - but man, do they make a big difference! I'll share some tips with you on how to salvage your current countertops and purchase new affordable ones:
1. Paint them
Whaaaaaat? PAINT my countertops??? Sounds a little crazy right? Well, I've done it before and it WORKS! It's not ideal and you will need to be gentle with them (not cutting, not hot things, and no crazy vigorous scrubbing), but if you're in desperate need of a change and the budget is tight, or you just need a quick solution to hold you overpainting them is something to consider. In our Mid Century Modest home, we had a grungy basement bathroom that we NEVER used - it almost creeped me out. Before listing our house on the market I knew we needed to do something with it! So, we painted the cabinets, painted the Formica countertops, and got new hardware. I wish I had done the update earlier! It was so easy and cheap - just make sure you're getting the right kind of paint (ask a sales associate and they'll know how to direct you)! I recently saw a fellow DIY-er on Instagram paint over GRANITE and did a MARBLE finish on it! Now THAT, I didn't know you could do. Here's an example:
2. Replace them
If you're looking for a more long-term solution, replacing your countertops is the way to go. Here are your options and my recommendations starting with the most affordable option:
Ikea Countertops - Roughly $90/6 ft for laminate and $180/6 ft for wood. Ikea does a really good job with their laminate countertops; they mimic stone, wood, and concrete textures (especially the last two!) very well and are extremely affordable! Below is my favorite butcher block wood option that I've actually considered purchasing before. Love it.
Butcher Block - Roughly $200 for 6 feet. Solid wood! These can be fun, nice, and durable! You will want to stain them (which can be fun!), and you'll NEED to treat them so they hold up, so make sure you budget a little extra for that. This has a much more casual and cozy look - perfect for medium to smaller homes.
Quarts - Roughly $300 for 6 feet (for a solid color like white or grey). Stone countertops are usually priced by the square foot, and you can expect anything upwards of $24/sq ft. If you're looking for countertops that will add monetary value to your home, give you the most high-end look, and last forever, I'd recommend quartz. You may be wondering, "Jessica, isn't that super expensive??" Here's the trick: When shopping for stone countertops, FIND A REPUTABLE WHOLESALER! Don't go through Lowes or Home Depot; these stores are actually resellers of your local stone countertop businesses. You save money but cutting out the middle man and shopping directly with local wholesalers. I would also avoid any super high-end countertop shops - you'll pay more for the quality of service, ease, and "extras" they can offer you. But when we are on a budget, those aren't necessary! I found a reputable wholesaler here in AZ called The Yard; they sell full slabs and remnants. If your kitchen is small you might even be able to utilize remnants at a discounted price! Check out all your local options and get as many quotes as you can. You can also save money on quartz countertops if you chose a solid color like white or grey with no veins in it. You can also ask the sales associate what countertops they see house flippers frequently buying. This will tell you what slabs are more affordable and still trendy enough to bring value to your home.
NOTE: Keep in mind that installation is an entirely separate cost! And if you are purchasing stone countertops through a wholesaler, you will have to find your own fabricator/installer. Ask your wholesaler or sales associate for references, they will likely have a list for you. To give you an idea of price, here in AZ, most fabricators charged around $25-$30/sf.
Say it with me, "Ceramic. Tile." (Echo, "Ceramic. Tile.") Go to your local Floor and Decor, Lowes, or Home Depot and find some ceramic subway tile and choose a color that you like. It typically runs about $2-$3/sf. That is the cheapest tile you'll find and luckily it's in style and looks great! If you want a more high-end look, do a herringbone pattern or stacked for a more modern look.
Another affordable option is verticle shiplap. I've seen this done many times and I think it looks awesome! I actually considered (maybe still am) doing shiplap in our Mild Mild West kitchen renovation.
On that same note, I've also seen beadboard used for backsplash. Beadboard would be more affordable than shiplap, however, I would say it's less trendy and might not give you a high-end look if combined with, say, outdated painted cabinets.
This leads me to my last and final tip...
Try to keep a mix!
When working on a budget, try to have a mix of high-end and lower-end materials. If you cut too many corners, your kitchen renovation might actually be counterproductive adding negative value to the space. However, if you can have at least one high-quality element in the space, it will enhance the value and visual appeal of your kitchen altogether. Take this image above as an example; that oven is THOUSANDS of dollars, and that backsplash is the CHEAPEST option available. In our recent kitchen renovation, our countertops were the cheapest quartz slabs, and our cabinets were one of the more basic and affordable options at RTA, but I splurged on our hardware and faucet and I'm so glad I did! They are what gives the space a very refined look! If we had gone with the cheapest kind of faucet and hardware, our kitchen would look very basic and bland; you can't do ALL this work to STILL end up looking basic and bland! Pick one thing that you're willing to allocate extra money towards to help your kitchen pop. I promise it'll be worth it in the end and you will LOVE your new kitchen!
If you're itching to improve your kitchen - do it! Start budgeting, setting aside some money, research your little heart out, and getter' done! It will add value to your home and to your life. You can do it!