Where to Save on Your Kitchen Remodel

C.E. Larusso
Written by C.E. Larusso
Updated March 14, 2022
Remodeled Contemporary Kitchen with blue cabinets
Photo: YinYang/ Getty Images

Wow your dinner guests with your kitchen remodel (and the price you paid for it all)

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Kitchen remodels cost $75 to $250 per square foot, on average. But even on a budget, there are improvements you can make to boost your home’s value and replace all those chipping tiles that have been eating at you for months. Read on to learn where to save big on your kitchen remodel and make your dollars stretch for miles.

8 Budget-Friendly Kitchen Remodel Tips

1. Hire Yourself as the Designer

Rather than hiring a kitchen designer, you can roll up your sleeves and design it yourself. Many online tools exist to help you map out your kitchen layout, such as Kitchen Planner and Google SketchUp, and you can get lots of inspiration from Pinterest and design magazines. Ikea also has a kitchen planning tool available.

2. Make a Budget

Before you do any actual remodeling, make sure you’ve drafted a detailed budget. List every expense: appliances, tools to rent or buy, accessories, cabinetry, labor costs, etc. After you’ve done that, tack on an additional 20% to 30% to account for any unexpected costs that may come up.

3. Stick With the Footprint You’ve Got

Tearing down walls and moving appliances around will drive up the cost of your remodel—fast. Changing the floor plan usually requires calling in a bunch of experts, such as a local plumber and electrician. Consider making only aesthetic upgrades that will maintain the existing layout.

4. Don’t Replace Your Cabinets

man installing new hardware on kitchen cabinets
Photo: photovs / iStock / Getty Images Plus

There are many ways to spruce up your kitchen cabinetry without yanking them out of the wall and replacing them; new cabinets are expensive, and the labor costs required to tear down and install a new set will quickly add up. Consider these DIY-friendly improvements to give your cabinets a new look

  • Repaint in a fresh, bright color

  • Have a cabinet maker build new doors and use ones with glass inserts for an open, airy look 

  • Replace upper cabinetry with open shelving

  • Swap outdated hardware for modern pieces for a budget-friendly kitchen upgrade

  • Upcycle an old table or cart to create a kitchen island

5. Update Your Lighting

Bright light emanating from a chic lighting fixture can instantly make a kitchen seem more modern. Depending on the fixture you choose, the installation should only cost between $100 and $600.

6. Shop Around to Save on Appliances

Replacing your clunky oven from the early aughts with something sleeker and shinier is tempting, but appliances are costly. Shop around to look for sales, and once you find a well-priced fridge, call every other local appliance shop to see if they can beat the price. You can also ask about floor models, which are usually significantly discounted. They might have small cosmetic imperfections or dings, but it’s a small price to pay for the big savings you’ll get.

7. Purchase With Functionality in Mind

If you cook a lot and require countertop materials that are extra durable, purchase with that in mind—rather than focusing solely on aesthetics. Some of the more hard-wearing materials are less expensive than the glitzy ones: consider butcher block or engineered stone, both of which are super sturdy, in place of marble countertops. 

8. DIY Anything You Can

woman repainting old kitchen cabinets
Photo: photoman / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Many tasks can be completed over a weekend (such as repainting your cabinets), especially if you have a friend or family member to lend a hand. There are some things—electrical work, demolition on load-bearing walls, and plumbing—that need to be handled by local kitchen remodeling pros. Try to tackle DIY kitchen projects where possible, and save big on labor costs.

Affordable Kitchen Remodels on Any Budget

From $5,000 to $20,000, there are options to design a remarkable kitchen remodel.

Under $5,000

  • Repainted cabinets ($100 to $200)

  • Install open shelving in place of upper cabinetry ($100 to $300 per linear foot)

  • Addition of a kitchen island cart ($100 to $500, if you DIY)

  • New lighting fixtures and hardware (pricing depends on the fixtures you choose)

  • Some appliances upgraded (pricing depends on the appliances—pick the ones you use the most)

Under $10,000

  • New custom cabinetry ($5,000 on average)

  • New countertops ($25 to $100 per square foot)

  • Backsplash installation (average of $1,000)

  • New hardware and lighting (pricing depends on the fixtures)

  • Some appliances upgraded (pricing depends on the appliances)

Under $15,000

  • New custom cabinetry ($5,000 on average)

  • New countertops ($25 to $100 per square foot)

  • Backsplash installation (average of $1,000)

  • New hardware and lighting (pricing depends on the fixtures)

  • Some appliances upgraded (pricing depends on the appliances)

  • Addition of a kitchen island ($4,000 on average)

  • New flooring (Between $1,510 and $4,650, depending on the material)

Kitchen Remodel Materials Alternatives When On a Budget

If there’s a look you just got to have, try some of the following tips for choosing materials while planning your dream kitchen. 

If You Like Hardwood Cabinets, Try High-Quality Veneer

You’ll save roughly $200 per linear foot, and no one will be able to tell that your cabinets aren’t solid wood.

If You Like Decorative Tiles, Consider Arranging Subway Tiles in Patterns

Rather than splurge on pricier decorative tiles, consider playing with the layout of less expensive subway tiles for an exciting and modern spin on your backsplash or flooring.

If You Like Marble, Consider Granite or Quartz

Granite and quartz countertops are known to withstand heavy beatings and still offer the elegance of natural stone without the hefty price tag of marble. 

FAQs About Kitchen Remodeling on a Budget

Should I splurge on professional appliances?

Unless you’re a professional chef, pro-level appliances are probably not worth it. The price difference can be anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 for a higher-end, pro set of appliances, while fully-loaded, energy-efficient mass-market models will likely have everything you need to cook everything from cassoulets to crepes. 

Where should I spend any extra cash?

If you’re coming in below your budget, consider custom cabinetry. Or, you can opt for soft-close drawers and storage solutions for your pantry. Spending a little more on a kitchen island can be very useful if you cook a lot or would like seating in the kitchen.

What’s the best kitchen flooring option that won’t break the bank?

Without hesitation, it’s porcelain tiles, which resist stains and scratches very well. Depending on the tile you choose, porcelain flooring costs $13 to $50 per square foot, including labor.

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