7 Budget-Friendly Ways to Remodel a Kitchen

There’s no denying it – a kitchen remodel is an assault on your wallet. In a survey of more than 4,800 kitchen remodels, HomeAdvisor found that the average cost was $21,675! That represents 36% of Americans’ average yearly household income. Who can afford to shell out more than one-third of their yearly salary on a kitchen remodel? (See Kitchen Remodeling Tips for a Smart Investment.)

7 Ways to Save on a Kitchen Remodel

The same HomeAdvisor survey found that many people could tackle a kitchen project for much less. Here are seven ways to remodel on a budget, starting with the things that tend to cost the most.

1. Don’t gut the place.

Often, homeowners go into a remodel with some pretty grand ideas. If you plan to completely demolish the kitchen and start from scratch, there’s a good chance that you’ll pay a high price. If you’re a little more strategic and keep some pieces and parts, the price could go way down. Deciding to keep your cabinets and just replace your countertops, for example, could save you thousands of dollars.

2. Consider rehabbing the cabinets.

The biggest expense in any kitchen remodel is the cabinets. HomeAdvisor found that the difference between mid-range stock cabinetry and high-end versions could be $10,000 or more. If you start from scratch, you should plan to spend at least $10,000 on cabinets. To save a bundle, rehab them with some refinishing work and a fresh coat of paint. Or, you could simply purchase new cabinet fronts. The cost to refinish cabinets? Around $2,500, on average.Do the work yourself and you may be able to shave $1,000 off that price.

3. Check out remnant stone for the counters.

The next most expensive part of a remodel: the countertops. A significant portion of kitchen remodels now use granite or some other solid surface, driving the cost three to five times higher than laminate. Laminate has come a long way in the past couple of decades, so don’t count it out. But if you’re set on a solid surface, head to a granite-supply yard and ask about remnant stone. These are pieces that were left over from another job. If you don’t have giant-size countertops, you can probably get a good deal on a remnant cut to your liking.

4. Don't pay full price for appliances.

Have you priced a refrigerator lately? No wonder your kitchen remodel could cost more than a new car! If you don’t mind a scratch-and-dent model, you could save a ton of money. How does a $3,000 fridge for $1,000 sound? Not only are appliances that have little cosmetic defects marked down drastically, stores are often willing to haggle. And if the scratches and dents bother you that much, spend a little of the money you save to order a new part to fix the damage.

5. Do it yourself – to a point.

Labor will account for 30% to 35% of the bill, so doing some of the work yourself might be money well spent. With minimal home improvement knowledge you can probably handle some of the demolition, painting and a few other jobs. But unless you have skill and experience in this area, it’s best to hire professionals for the labor, especially if you don’t plan to spend a lifetime in the house. Homebuyers don’t want a house that has an amateur-looking kitchen. Invest the money it takes to get quality work. (See Home Improvements That Really Pay Off.)

Of course, if you have a few friends with the needed skills, hit them up for some help.

6. Lay it out first (and shop online).

Set your budget, design your kitchen within that budget and purchase everything you need before starting the project. Look for closeout deals online, settle for off-brand lighting and faucets when you can, and understand that some of what’s important to you now probably won’t be once everything is done. Do you really need a TV screen on your refrigerator?

7. Leave room in your budget for the unexpected.

It’s great that you set a budget and kept your plans barely under that amount. The bad news is that you need to be at least 10% below budget because unforeseen expenses – such as extra paint or grout or replacements when your first choice (and cheapest) option falls through – will add up fast.

The Bottom Line

You don’t have to spend $20,000 on your remodel. There are plenty of ways to cut that price drastically. Keep in mind, too, that a remodel isn’t all or nothing. As long as you are satisfied with the overall footprint of your kitchen, there is nothing to keep you from spacing out the upgrade over time: Do the appliances this year, the cabinets next year and the flooring the year after that. A plan like this lets you stay within your budget and still wind up with the kitchen you want. (See also: Top 5 Home Renovations for Your Money in 2017.)