10 Tips when redesigning a kitchen on a budget

Did you know that remodeling your kitchen is one of the best ways to add value to your home? It’s the most lived-in room of the home, so it’s important to keep it up to date, for your own satisfaction as well as for any potential buyers. The downside, however, is that kitchen remodeling can also be incredibly expensive. So how do you maximize your home’s value on a budget? We’re glad you asked. Here are some easy and affordable solutions to revamp the look of your kitchen for far less than a costly remodel.

Kitchen Cabinet Dark

Table of Contents

  • Reface existing cabinets
  • Add new trim
  • Add new hardware
  • Convert a table or an old cart into a kitchen island
  • DIY your countertops
  • Add a backsplash
  • Shop local for custom kitchens
  • Use your existing kitchen layout
  • Shop floor models or dented appliances
  • Buy refurbished

Reface existing cabinets

Hands down, this is the easiest way to give your kitchen an inexpensive yet dramatic makeover. If your cabinet drawers and doors are in good shape and don’t need to be replaced, you can save thousands of dollars by simply refacing them. It can be a tedious project once you get started, but within a week, your kitchen will look refreshingly new. Here are a few tips if you plan on refacing your kitchen cabinets on your own:

  • First of all, ensure that your cabinets can be refaced. You can only reface cabinet faces that are real wood or made from MDF board—laminate doors can not be refaced.
  • Prep all cabinet faces to be painted by sanding them first with 220-grit sandpaper.
  • Choose a darker stain than your existing cabinets. You can use a gel-stain, latex, or oil-based, but regardless of the type you choose, it’s very important to buy a top-quality paint, since the paint is what will make the most difference in your kitchen. Gel-based stains produce a robust color, since the gel sits on “top” of the wood, versus other types of stains, which permeate into the wood fibers—thus losing some of that deep, rich color. 
  • An oil paint with a semi-gloss gives a more polished, professional look. 
  • Consider buying a spray gun. They’re inexpensive, relatively easy to use, and can be found at any home hardware store. For around $150 you can buy a quality spray-gun and an air compressor—compared to the cost of brand-new cabinets, which could run you close to the $15,000 mark. If you choose latex paint, you may have to thin out your paint with distilled water; if it’s oil-based, you will want to use a compatible thinner, so check the can for more details.
  • Remove all of your doors and spray or brush-paint them flat for the best results. You can actually construct your own “painting station” by easily installing two screws into a board to lay the cabinet flat and allow you to paint both sides. If you’re unable to lay your cabinet doors flat, you can hang the doors from a ladder with wire to paint or spray them, but be on the lookout for more paint runs if you choose that method.
  • To save yourself time, simply brush-paint the boxes of the cabinet instead of spraying them—they don’t get as much visibility as the cabinet doors.
  • Finish your refacing with a clear coat for a polished, even gloss.

Crown Molding Trim

Add new trim

Even if you hire someone to make custom trim for your kitchen, you’ll still save thousands of dollars by using your existing cabinets—and you’ll see just how drastically a change in trim can revamp your kitchen’s look. Adding crown molding trim or under-trim can transform your box cabinets with the look of custom built-ins—and if your cabinets have a lot of space at the top, adding crown trim will draw the eye upward and make your kitchen look bigger. Plus, with newer trends of mixing wood colors, it’s not as important to have uniform color anymore, so you may even save money by mixing wood trim color. 

Kitchen Cabinet Modern Hardware

Add new hardware

Whether you choose to add new cabinets or reface existing cabinets, adding new hardware will really spruce up the look of your kitchen for less. You can even scour online or local resale shops for complete hardware sets for an upscale and unique look.

Granite Kitchen Countertop

DIY your countertops

Depending on your level of DIY savviness, you can save a lot of money on countertops. Granite is the most popular option, and you can check to see if you can score a granite remnant, although for kitchens, it can be difficult to find enough remnants to cover all of your kitchen’s surfaces.

Outside of the classic granite, you can actually make your own countertops out of cement—although it will take some serious work. For the easiest and most affordable option, choose to install your own new laminate countertop. All you’ll need to purchase is trim router with a flush-trim bit and a laminate roller, dowels, and glue and you can have a new laminate countertop in a single afternoon. Some types of new laminate even allow you to apply the new layer to an existing laminate. However, if you do choose to install your laminate countertop, don’t forget to factor in the cost of a plumber to put a new sink in or replumb your sink.

Vegetables ready to cut in a cutting table

Add a backsplash

A kitchen backsplash is a very manageable project that makes a big aesthetic impact. There are different options for different DIY levels, ranging from “lick-and-stick” backslashes that don’t involve a lot of cutting, but for the most custom look with real tile, you will need a trowel and tile cutter to get the job done, along with finishing with a pre-mixed grout. You can also go with a beadboard backsplash for one of the fastest, easiest, and most affordable  options for a kitchen. 

Shop local for custom kitchens

If you have to install all-new cabinets, consider all of your options. Put-together box cabinets might be the cheapest option at first glance, but keep in mind that those types of cabinets may not have long-term durability. There may be many custom local woodworkers who will tear out and install a kitchen for the same price as some higher-end cabinet prices, so you may get more bang for your buck by asking for local recommendations for small business owners.

Use your existing kitchen layout

If you’re happy with your kitchen layout and are just craving a fresh update, work with your contractor or kitchen builder to maintain as much of your current layout as possible for a huge cost savings. Moving the actual layout of a kitchen—such as moving the position of an oven or a sink or a wall—will involve changing wires and plumbing, at much higher costs.

Shop floor models or dented appliances

For discounts on appliances, ask your local store if they have any floor models for sale. Many stores will offer discounts on floor models or even offer steep discounts for dented (but still fully functional) appliances. If the damage is cosmetic, you may be able to fix it yourself and still save some serious cash for the appliance. Also consider where the appliance will fit in your kitchen—if you can save a hundred dollars on a refrigerator with a small dent that will never be seen, it may be worth overlooking a minor imperfection. 

With a little creativity and elbow grease, you can still save money on a kitchen remodel that will add value and beauty to your home. By evaluating your current kitchen layout, shopping local, and exploring ways to do the work yourself, you can save the money in your kitchen remodel budget for the pieces—like cabinet refacing and new hardware—that will really make an impact.