How to Afford a Kitchen Remodel

There’s something that drives me nuts about first time home buyer shows. Many times they look at a room and say “this needs to be gutted”, to which someone replies “oh yes, a kitchen remodel will cost about 15 to 30 thousand” and they get all scared because they can barely afford the closing.

They’ve got it all wrong. You can gut and pour money into a room all at once, but you do not NEED to. Here’s how to afford a kitchen remodel when you can’t afford a new kitchen.

by reusing items and waiting patiently, this kitchen only cost $2500 to renovate. WOW!

For most people or rooms, it’s just not possible right off the bat. You might have to do-it-yourself, learn how, and/or ask family members for help.  Your remodel might take longer, you chip away at the parts you don’t like bit by bit, invest money into projects when you have it, and maybe wait a few years to have a finished (or semi-finished) space.

If you’re attempting a bit-by-bit renovation on a budget, here are some tips:

  • make a list of the things you want to change (all of them)
  • re-write the list so that it is written in the order that you can finish
  • visit stores often, look for deals, specials, closeout sales
  • scour your local Habitat for Humanity Restore for paint and fixtures, as well as garage sales
  • have an open discussion about finances and make a plan
  • turn off the TV at night in favor of painting or working on stuff
  • help family members out with their projects and exchange services
  • same goes for babysitting (see this post on tips for working on a project with kids)

When you have your plan, get to work!

Here is our kitchen in September 2009:

kitchen before, wait until you see the after!

Beautiful, isn’t it! ;) Right off the bat we moved some cabinets around. We had a non-working “avocado” double oven, a working range/oven, and no dishwasher. The double oven was taken out, a cabinet next to the sink was taken out and put in place of the double oven, and a dishwasher was added next to the sink.

IMG_4667

kitchen: before.

We painted the cabinets and walls, and spray painted the existing knobs and hinges. Moving the cabinets made the gold flecked countertops wonky, but okay to live with. The fridge and oven came with the house and worked great, so they stayed too.

kitchen before, wait till you see the after!

kitchen before, wait till you see the after!

Our in-laws were replacing a fridge and gave us their white one (bye, green fridge!).

We found granite-look laminate countertops at a Black Friday sale for around $100, and installed them. Wow, what a difference! This is what our kitchen looked like for a while. Didn’t love the tile, but it worked!

kitchen renovation in progress, doesn't have to be renovated all at once!

In April 2012, we were able to install hardwood floors in place of our 30-40 year old laminate tile. We were able to find a sale, signed up for emails for 10% off, and signed up for their card to get even more off. The total price per square foot was around $2.20, making the approximate cost around $300 for the kitchen (including supplies).

While you don’t see it, we also fixed squeaky floors. And I blurred out the mess in the dining room. Oops.

kitchen renovation progress over time, here they added wood floors

While we were in project mode, the kitchen was painted a grey-beige (Martha Stewart “Sharkey Gray”), and the rest of the trim was painted white.

kitchen with grey-beige walls, white appliances, black counters, wood floors. LOVE!

In February 2014, we replaced our white appliances with stainless steel. I liked the white and wasn’t so sure about this change, but we found a really great sale and went for it. We bought all Frigidare and got a multi-appliance rebate, the store had their friends and family deal, and we negotiated free delivery. The total cost for the refrigerator, dishwasher, oven, and range hood was around $2,200.

We touched up cabinets and Doug rebuilt the trim near the doorway to the dining room. We also bought and installed glass knobs and pulls (found these online at D. Lawless Hardware for half the retail cost). Here’s our kitchen now:

by reusing items and waiting patiently, this kitchen only cost $2500 to renovate. WOW!

kitchen renovation over time, wow!

Four and a half years total, money spent bit by bit. We didn’t gut or replace everything, we used what we had and improved it. And the biggest change was the one that cost the least – painting the cabinets!

Great post! One couple's story of renovating a kitchen over time.

If you’re interested, you can see more updated house pictures and before pictures in our house tour.

So what do you think?

Do you have a room (or whole house) being remodeled over time?

 

Note: I’ve gotten emails asking if anyone really lives in this space. (HA! Yes.) I do like our kitchen counters clean, but we are in the process of selling our home and took everything out for the pictures. :) 

Ann Marie Heasley
Hi there, I'm Ann Marie! I get a kick out of making stuff, love pops of color, and am a garage sale junkie. My style is simple, comfy vintage. (I would say clean, but my house is rarely clean.) I think your home should be a place where you feel happy. Join me as I share glimpses of our everyday life, creative projects, and tips to make your life easier.
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Comments

  1. says

    Your kitchen looks beautiful! We plugged away at our kitchen slowly too, painted cabinets and hunted down deals and it made it so worth it in the end!

  2. Margo says

    Love it!!
    Did you install the floors yourself and do you have any other lighting besides the central chandelier?

    • Doug says

      We did install the floor ourselves. There are many online tutorials and you can rent the nail gun from a home improvement store for a reasonable price. For lighting, we have the chandelier, a light over the sink, and a light on the range hood. Thanks Margo!

  3. says

    Your kitchen is amazing! I love it! Does it kinda bum you out that your house is listed now that it’s feeling done? Or are you excited for the possibilities? Do you have a place you want to buy yet? Best wishes!

    • says

      Thank you, Ellie!! At first I was a little bummed, but I’m ready for the next chapter to start. We don’t have a place in mind, I’ve actually been trying not to look. Every time I find one I love, it sells, haha! Just have to trust that the right one will come along… eventually. :)

  4. says

    What a beautiful home! I especially love your mom cave. Several years ago, we turned our traditional, unused living room into the room now affectionately know as Starbucks. We have four, big comfy microfiber chairs around a large, round antique coffee table. I worried that people would think it was strange. Everyone loves it! And more importantly, it gets used — everyday! I love your blog. Thanks!

  5. Emily says

    It looks beautiful!
    Soooo, how did you paint the cabinets? How long did it take? Would you do it that way again or choose a different method of painting? I’m in the “researching” phase for our kitchen.
    Thanks!

    • LINDSAY says

      I was going to ask the same question! We have lovely cabinets but I want white instead of wood. I need some convincing that painting is the right way to go!

  6. says

    AMEN! I seriously SCREAM at the TV when I watch House Hunters and the home reno shows. “We can’t afford to give you another bedroom because we had to replace wiring, but that light fixture we put in was $3,000, oh, and the lamp was $1200.” Thanks for letting me get that one off my chest ;) Your kitchen looks amazing!!

  7. says

    Our home has been a labor of love since we moved in. We have not been able to any major renovating all at once. It has all been in stages. And while it is frustrating at times, I think this has to be the way most people realistically do it. I mean how many people really have $15,000+ after buying a home to sink into stuff, especially in a first home? We are getting ready to re-do all the flooring. It is going to be a lot of work and money, but we know we can do it ourselves for half the cost of having it installed. Thanks for sharing that it can be done (and some day finally finished)!

  8. Misty says

    My husband and I moved into our house a year an a half ago. We live in an area that is growing very quickly due to the economy so we couldn’t be picky with our price range. I refinished our cabinets with Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations and went from builder oak to an antique cream finish. My husband replaced out our lights with more modern fixtures and we bought our stainless steel appliances in stages so we didn’t have to drop a lot of cash at once on them. I’m in the process of painting all our ugly builder oak trim white and replacing all the brass doorknobs in our house. Our intent is to sell in 4 years so my “to-do” list is based on the biggest bang for our buck when it comes to resale at that time.

  9. says

    I love that you never ripped up your kitchen. People are quick to say “these old cabinets need to be replaced” but often they don’t. I think your kitchen looks great and the money you saved is amazing. Great job!

  10. Julie Carrigan says

    I love your new look!! Your kitchen was/is so similar to mine!! I want to paint my cabinets too but am terrified of using the wrong paint. I’ve seen disasters where the paints gets scratched easily. Could you tell me exactly how you did your cabinets please?? Prep (sanding) or did you use the new paint on product that eliminates that step? And what paint did you use? And any coating or finish after painting? Did you spray any cabinets or just use paint brush and or roller? I currently have mismatched pickled and stock wood look cabinets. I want uniform and white or off white. Please advize me your thoughts!! Thank you sooooo much!!!!

  11. Lisa says

    What a wonderful result! Your kitchen is fabulous!
    I also yo with painting my cabinets and stress over what product to use, and if the entire inside should be done.
    Cabinet Painting 101 please!

  12. Marianne Downing says

    Found your pix on a FB feed. I live 1000 miles away but I have your before kitchen – I swear! Great inspiration to me that something is possible here. My home was built in 1982 but the builder apparently was enamored of the 1970′s colonial dark knotty pine look – it is on all cabinets and all woodwork. Alas, it is not the “chic” dark woodwork of pottery barn, nor is it the classic 1930′s kind like you have. It seems like you have a mix of the original stain and painted? Does that work well for you? Or are you planning on painting all woodwork?

  13. WeShipFloors says

    Doing this our self, and going on a three-year bit by bit remodel. Actually just bought the hardware and probably should have bought it first because just those little things have made a huge difference…. Almost as much as the new paint. Great post BTW.

  14. Rebecca says

    WHERE oh WHERE did you get those counters for $100?
    I can wait until Black Friday. Please share your secrets!! :)

    • says

      Menards! The Black Friday sale was about $5 per linear foot, I think the regular price is more like $14-15. But that was 4 years ago so things might have changed. :)

      Best of luck! They have held up really well.

  15. Clairlyn says

    I saw that you said you spray painted the knobs and hinges on your cabinets. How have they been holding up? Also, can you give any tips on refinishing the cabinets? Mine are stained wood and I want them white as well.

    • says

      They have held up great! The knobs definitely had wear like I expected, but the hinges are great. So much so that we kept them and I’ve never touched them up. Rustoleum now has the Oil Rubbed Bronze in a paint form and before we replaced the knobs, I touched them up twice with that. Could I have touched them up more often? Maybe. But it didn’t bug me.

      I will add that we knew we wanted to replace the knobs eventually, so dealing with some chips and wear wasn’t a big deal to me. :) We had them up for 4 years so it was definitely worth the cost if you’d like to some day replace them! Or if you don’t mind touching them up, haha.

      As far as the cabinets, this comment would be WAY too long to describe that. :) I’m working on a post with that process as well as how we painted the trim. I’ll try to remember to reply to this comment when it is up!

      Hope that helps!!

  16. CandiL says

    I am wanting to put wood flooring in my kitchen/dining/living room area it’s an open floor plan…Just wondering if you put the flooring under the cabinets or just up to the kick boards.

  17. Lisa says

    Thanks for sharing this. We just bought our house in November and, being on a fixed income, we know changes will have to come over time. Right now, paint is our friend. I’m almost finished with our cabinets and totally loving the new look. We’re using a gel stain over paint on the lower cabinets. It actually makes our kitchen look bigger! Who would have thought!

    • Julie Carrigan says

      Lisa I’d love to see a before and after pic of your cabinets!!! I am going to tackle mine when I figure out how to do it the easiest/cheapest/ and most durable way. Please please please post a pic!!!??
      Julie

  18. Susan says

    NICE JOB! You did it perfectly! In older homes cabinets are solid wood–even replacements only have solid wood doors. It would be crazy to replace when you can just paint!

  19. says

    Great job. This is like my kitchen transformation, bit by bit and when I have the funds. Like you, the best improvement was painting the cabinets.

  20. says

    This is really inspiring! My husband and I just bought our second home and I’m dying to dive into the kitchen, but the funds just aren’t there at the moment. This just shows you can make it livable and still draw it out over a few years span of time. Love it!

    • says

      Congratulations on your new home, Kellie! It’s so tough to restrain yourself mentally (but I guess easier in real life if you don’t have the funds, haha!). You guys can do it! Keep me posted on how it goes. :)

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