If you plan to do a kitchen remodel, you know it can be expensive! And, that may mean you don’t get the kitchen of your dreams (or even one that functions better).
The truth is that most of the time, it will blow your budget. But, if you know what to do, you can get that kitchen you want on a budget.
How to remodel your kitchen on a budget…the smart way
For most families, the kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s where you have family time and welcome your guests, and you want it to look its best. While the kitchen may be the most important room in the home, it’s also the most expensive one to remodel.
After 12 years in the home improvement industry, I’ve learned a lot. I wanted to provide some insider tips that can save you money on your kitchen renovation, regardless of whether your budget is $10,000 or $100,000.
The goal is to make smart choices without sacrificing the quality of the outcome.
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1. DIY portions of the kitchen makeover
If you’re handy and don’t mind putting in some sweat equity, determine the pieces of the job that you can do yourself. Save the hard parts for the pros, but figure out which areas don’t require specialized expertise.
For example, one of the easiest projects you can do is demolition. As long as you have the right tools and stay away from plumbing and electric, you almost can’t go wrong here. The demo may include removing the cabinets or flooring. Another simple task (for some) is to do the painting at the end of the job.
Some DIYers are even able to install the cabinets, flooring or even the backsplash (especially if you choose a meshed mosaic tile). Do what you feel comfortable with – meaning you can do the job well and relatively quickly.
2. Save money on the cabinets
The kitchen cabinets are usually the most expensive part of the whole project, so if you can save here, it can have a significant impact on your budget. Here are some ways to save on cabinets:
- Choose stock cabinets rather than custom. They are much less expensive.
- Consider some open shelving for the upper cabinets. They are less expensive, make your room look larger and add a nice bit of farmhouse style to your kitchen.
- Install the cabinets yourself. Even consider buying Ready To Assemble cabinets as they are also less expensive.
- Better yet, if you can avoid replacing the cabinets, it will save you a lot of money and time. Instead, paint the cabinets and replace the hardware. Check out this article to learn how to paint your cabinets the right way (even if you have a professional do it) and this article on the getting the most stylish hardware for kitchens.
3. Explore less expensive flooring, even flooring you can install yourself
If you already have solid hardwood flooring, just sand and refinish them, rather than replace them. Doing so will probably save you around 70-80% on the flooring portion of the budget.
The two most popular and upscale types of flooring for kitchens are hardwood and tile. They are both great options, and you can check out the pros and cons of hardwood floors vs. tiling. What most homeowners don’t realize is that the costs for these will differ not only based upon where you live but also the type of sub-floor you have.
Generally, in colder/moderate climates (e.g., Northeast, Mid Atlantic, Mid West, Pacific Northwest), hardwood will be less expensive as the main floor usually has a plywood sub-floor.
And for homes in warm climates (e.g., Southeast, South Central, Southwest), tile will be less expensive as homes are usually built on slabs.
If you want to find a more practical and great value product, check out the engineered luxury vinyl planks. These products are relatively new and have rapidly grown in popularity. They look like wood, but they are waterproof. They’re less expensive, and they are relatively simple for a Do-it-Yourselfer to install.
4. Do things in the right order
This is a common mistake I see, and it can cost money and time on your project. And, even worse, it may limit your options, especially as it comes to your flooring choices.
Generally, you first demo everything down to the floor and then you build it back up…from the flooring up. So you install your flooring, then you cabinets, then countertop, then backsplash and finally molding and painting.
When you skip steps, things don’t come out as well, and they need to be redone. That costs extra money and extra time.
A very common mistake I see is when people can’t afford to do the whole kitchen at once, so they do it in piecemeal. This is fine…as long as you do it in the right order and plan ahead. Too many times I’ve seen homeowners do the cabinets and countertops first…and then the flooring two years later when they can afford it.
The problem with this is that often there is not enough room for hardwood floors (which are 3/4″ thick) or tile for that matter (which comes out to a similar height when you factor is a mud job or backer board.
You see this makes the cabinets too low. So the new flooring creates a weird height difference and makes the cabinets feel and look too low. Worse than this, the dishwasher won’t fit (or will get locked in). And the stove becomes higher than the countertop.
Plan ahead. If you’re going to do this, add 3/4″ plywood underneath the cabinets so that everything will be properly aligned when you add the flooring.
5. Get multiple estimates
Always get various estimates from contractors (and estimates for different materials). This will enable you to see a range of prices and negotiate. Ask the contractors lots of questions (e.g., what sort of materials so they recommend and why? How long will it take? How can we reduce costs without sacrificing quality? What are the most substantial price drivers? How much would it save if we don’t do XYZ? Where are the potential places that the project can run over in cost and timing?
Check their reviews and ask your friends, neighbors (check some of the local Facebook groups) and ask other contractors (or real estate agents) who they recommend.
Ask your contractor if there are any discounts at different times of the year. Usually, contractors are less busier during the winter, so they may offer a 10-20% discount if you do the work then.
6. Save money on paint by planning ahead
Many don’t realize that they can get some excellent discounts on paint just by taking a few simple steps if you buy from Sherwin Williams. Here are some easy ways to save on paint:
- Sign up for Sherwin William’s email list and Paint Perks program. They will tell you when sales are coming up, and these are usually a 30-40% discount. Plan and buy ahead for the discount. You can choose the color and pick up the cans later when the time is right. Their Paint Perks program will also get you $10 off your purchase that is $50 or higher.
- In terms of paint lines, we prefer, when possible, to buy Sherwin Williams’ Duration line. It comes out better and smoother than their more expensive Emerald line. If you want a value-priced paint that is good quality and lower-priced, ask about their Promar 200 line. Most homeowners don’t know about this as it’s a special line for contractors so they can charge a premium to their customers. Great value.
- Use the same paint color in multiple rooms. It makes your home look more upscale and makes your home look larger. And, it will save you money as you won’t have to buy as many gallons of paint.
- If you’re painting a lot of ceilings, buy the 5-gallon buckets of ceiling paint to save some money.
- Use a tinted primer. Doing so can save you one coat of paint.
- Ask about their “Oops” paint. This is when people return extra paint that they didn’t use. They sell this at a considerable discount. Sometimes you get lucky, and you love the colors they have available.
- Sherwin Williams has a military discount, too.
7. Keep your appliances in the same place
Many people don’t realize how much moving plumbing or gas lines cost. Not only is plumbing expensive, but moving appliances involves tearing up portions of the wall, and you need to re-sheetrock afterward. If your appliance positions are “good enough” where they are, I’d encourage you to leave them there.
Upgrade the appliances for sure (especially as many are more energy-efficient and will save you money on a going basis). Pro tip: Ask your contractor if they have an account/contractor discount at one of the appliance stores. You may just save a big chunk of change.
Final thoughts for saving money on kitchen remodels
Do your homework and plan out your kitchen remodel before you start. This will help ensure you make the best selections and get the best value for your money. It will also make the project go smoother and faster.
And go in with your eyes open. Expect some surprises…they almost always happen in kitchen remodels. If you plan for these (with a contingency budget of 10-20%) and expect the job to take a bit longer (e.g., +25%), you will remove a lot of stress.
Kitchen remodels are like a breath of fresh air once they are finished. It feels like you moved to a new home.
Debbie Gartner, aka The Flooring Girl, has owned her own flooring store and been in the home improvement business since 2008. She’s also a professional blogger and you can find her at TheFlooringGirl.com, where she blogs about home décor.