Thursday, March 13, 2014


Wouldn't most of us like to redo our kitchen?  It seems like everyone on HGTV has granite countertops, high-end cabinets and stainless steel appliances.  But I don't have $20-40,000 for a kitchen remodel, what about you?

We had, I think I could honestly say, the ugliest kitchen known to man. (I'm NOT kidding - look at the picture).  However, with some decent choices and creativity, and a whole lotta sweat equity, we redid the whole thing (including replacing all the appliances except the refrigerator) for less than $4000 (that's a high estimate, I think it was closer to $3000).  I'll break down some of our cost-saving decisions below.



1. Patience.  We didn't do all the work at once.  In fact, it took us a couple of years to get all of the work done, so we lived with ugliness for a while (See below for an in progress picture.  As you can see, I did do a temporary paint job so I didn't have to live with different paint colors when we removed the upper cabinets, but we still lived with plywood subfloor for 2 years).  However, this allowed us to buy supplies as we had money, and we never needed to take out a loan.


2. Labor.  We did all the floor and backsplash tile work ourselves, and Mike was able to do the basic plumbing for the sink and dishwasher.  We just had it looked at briefly by a plumber.  Obviously, not everyone can do that, although tile work really isn't that hard - give it a try!

3. Good choices.  We didn't choose anything we hated, but we made many decisions based on price point and how well it worked with items we already had, not what our dream kitchen might look like.  For example, we already had a perfectly good updated white refrigerator, so we went with white appliances.  The backsplash I chose was a lower price point compared with glass tile backsplashes (my favorite), and I chose it based on the colors that tied the white appliances together with the darker cabinet color.  It wasn't my favorite of all the options, but it still looks expensive and custom, and I like it now that it is all together.  The cabinets are unfinished stock builder cabinets that I stained and varnished myself.  I chose the stain to match our existing woodwork, and because it looked more custom.  In a perfect world, I would choose mahogany cabinets. The floor tile is a good quality porcelain tile, but there were lots of similar choices, so we picked one with a nice neutral look that was on sale at our regional building supply store, as opposed to a tile shop.  We went with a high dimension laminate countertop, instead of solid surface, which saved thousands, and still looks nice.  My sink is a drop-in style in stainless steel (not recessed under the counter top and solid surface, which I would have LOVED), but again, it looks nice and functions fine.  We were flexible (within reason) with our choices, having a general idea of what would work, then finding something within that look at a lower to medium price point.  

4. Consider buying used.  We got an almost-new stove from my mom for less than $400 (that was just happenstance, she was selling a home in an area where appliances are sold separately from the home just when we needed a stove, and my brother-in-law generously drove it up to us), but we also managed to get a used microwave/range fan and dishwasher through the online classified ads at my work.  We got both the hood and dishwasher for $125 total and they worked fine for 5 years.  When they did each finally bite the dust, we were ready to bargain hunt at local appliance stores, and found good deals that should last a long time.  Since so many people are crazy for stainless, maybe you'll find a deal for someone upgrading from black, white or tan to stainless.  Craigs list it up! 

More comments (sorry such a long post!): Keep in mind the area where you live.  Our home is definitely a starter home, and will always be such, regardless of how much money would be sunk into it, just because of the size of our lot, our shared driveway, and the neighborhood where we live.  So we always kept in mind to not over-remodel, since we would only get so much back no matter how much we spent on this house.  If you live in a ritzier area, it might be worth saving longer to get certain upgrades (solid surface counters, undermount sink, etc), but just keep in mind a LOT can be done with little money if you are flexible, creative and resourceful.

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