11 Strategies for Kitchen Remodeling on a Budget

Dina Cheney
Written by Dina Cheney
Reviewed by Robert Tschudi
Updated December 14, 2021
Cute white and wood kitchen
Photo: 4595886 / Adobe Stock

You can renovate your kitchen on a tight budget if you stick to these tips

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Remodeling a kitchen is one of the priciest renovation projects you can undertake. Depending on where you live, the cost can range from as little as $4,000 to as much as $143,000. Yet, it’s well worth it: Potential buyers tend to shell out more for homes with upgraded kitchens. But with these 11 cost-saving strategies, you can give your space serious value—without breaking the bank.

1. Stick With the Same Layout

Changing the layout of your kitchen will create a domino effect of costly tweaks. If you move fixtures such as the dishwasher or oven, you’ll need to hire local plumbers and electricians near you to change the position of gas lines, water lines, and electrical outlets. Plus, because flooring doesn’t typically run under cabinetry, if you move your cabinets around you’ll probably have to contend with unsightly gaps. 

“The best way to save money on a kitchen or bathroom remodel is to stick to the original plumbing and drainage layout,” says Bob Tschudi, Expert Review Board Member and general contractor in Raleigh, NC “Moving plumbing—and even electrical lines—not only takes time, but adds a significant amount to the budget.”

2. DIY as Much as Possible

Because a lot of your renovation costs will be for labor, doing a lot of the work yourself will save you a bundle. Of course, only take on tasks that you feel well-equipped to handle to avoid having to hire pros to fix mistakes later. 

The best DIY projects include light demolition; removing wallpaper; painting the cabinets and walls; and installing vinyl or laminate flooring, appliances, hardware, lighting, and backsplash tile. 

If you choose to rearrange your appliances, or if you’re converting from gas to electric or vice versa, always hire a pro for your safety. It’s also worth turning to experts to measure and install cabinetry and countertops, as these complex jobs can be difficult even for the most determined DIYer.

3. Give the Walls a Fresh Coat of Paint

Changing up the wall color will give your space a dramatic new look, and it’s one of the least expensive renovation projects you can undertake. After all, the supplies are relatively affordable and the work is easy enough to DIY.

4. Paint or Reface Existing Cabinets

Dark kitchen cabinets
Photo: Laura / Adobe Stock

Because it takes up so much room in the kitchen, cabinetry is definitely worth upgrading. The only problem: Installing new cabinets tends to eat up as much as 25% of your total remodeling budget. To save cash, see if you can salvage what you’ve got. If your cabinetry sits squarely on the wall and doesn’t have cracks or peeling veneer, you shouldn’t need to replace it.

You can give cabinets a new look in a few different ways. The easiest strategy is to clean, sand, prime, and repaint any exterior wood or laminate surfaces. As for picking the right cabinet colors, white is a smart bet, as a few coats can modernize a kitchen, especially one with outdated cherry-stained cabinets. 

For a new look, shell out a bit more money and reface those cabinets. This involves adding new veneer to the outsides of cabinet boxes and purchasing new doors. Another way to pare down this expense is to remove upper cabinetry altogether and replace it with simple, open shelving. Not only is shelving affordable—it will lend your kitchen a more open, airy look.

5. Buy Used or Ready-to-Assemble Cabinets

Even if your cabinets need to be replaced, you can still save money. Look for used cabinetry online from local groups or kitchen demolition companies. If you can’t find anything suitable used, purchase ready-to-assemble cabinets from big-box stores or order custom cabinetry with laminate fronts. (Even though custom cabinetry tends to be the most expensive option, choosing laminate fronts will lower that cost.)

6. Replace Hardware

Think of handles and knobs as the jewelry of your kitchen. If your room is on the older side, odds are your hardware is outdated. Even on a tight budget, you should be able to spring for new handles and knobs, which aren’t too costly and are a cinch to install. Bob Tschudi says, “To save even more, look for handles or pulls that use the same holes as the existing hardware. Then you don’t have to fill holes and refinish the surface.”

7. Choose Vinyl or Laminate Floors

New flooring makes a major statement but usually comes at a steep cost. To save money, opt for vinyl (in sheet, plank, or tile form) or laminate, all of which can give the illusion of wood or natural stone. 

Plank and sheet vinyl and laminate are easy to install on your own, too, so you might be able to save on installation costs as well. Just be sure, if you’re going the laminate route, to choose a product designated as “waterproof,” because regular laminate flooring is not very water-resistant.

8. Refurbish Existing Appliances or Purchase Bundled Appliances

New appliances can cost up to 20% of your total kitchen renovation budget. To avoid this expense, consider refurbishing your existing appliances if they’re still operating OK. 

If you need to shell out for new appliances, though, you can do it in a cost-effective way. Earn some of the money to buy new by selling your existing appliances, then purchase used or new mid-range models in black or white (rather than pricier stainless steel). If you buy more than one appliance from the same manufacturer, you’ll likely be able to benefit from bundled pricing too.

Whether you opt for used or new, choose the same appliance sizes so you won’t need to deal with switching out cabinetry. If buying new, skip the extended warranty because repairs in the covered timeframe are rarely necessary and eventual fixes are generally inexpensive. 

9. Go for Butcher Block or Laminate Countertops

Butcher block countertops will add warmth to your kitchen for a cost less than quartz or granite. Meanwhile, economical laminate countertops can take a lot of abuse, like heat and spills. If you’re set on quartz or stone, though, try to score a deal at a stone yard.

10. Paint or Install Tile Backsplash

Tile backsplashes add color and detail to kitchens and (bonus!) protect your walls from spills and splatters. If you already have a tile backsplash, a thorough clean and a fresh coat of paint will give it a fresh look. 

If your current kitchen doesn’t include a backsplash, choose a more affordable material such as tile. You should be able to install the backsplash yourself.

11. Purchase an Inexpensive Free-Standing Island

If you have space, add a free-standing island. The addition adds workspace and storage (try to find an island with cabinets or shelving underneath). Plus, because many high-end kitchens have built-in islands, it will lend your room the look and feel of a more luxurious atmosphere. And even if you’re unable to afford natural stone for your countertop, you might even be able to find a free-standing island with a marble top.

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