Designing a budget kitchen remodel can feel daunting. With a list of must-haves and would-loves for the room, you can soon feel as if getting the look and the layout you want will take a far bigger spend than you have available.
But the good news is that kitchen remodel costs can be cut without compromising the style or the practicality of the room if you get in the know about your choices for all the elements of the room from cabinets to countertops, and flooring to faucets, and use the right strategies.
To help you achieve the room of your dreams with a smaller spend we asked the experts to share their top tips on planning and designing big and small kitchens on a budget, and this is the lowdown.
16 ideas for a budget kitchen remodel
Thorough planning for all kitchen remodels is essential, whether you have a lot of budget or not. ‘Create an itemized list of all the appliances, fixtures, building materials, and finishes that you want for your kitchen,’ advises John Bodrozic, co-founder and CEO of HomeZada (opens in new tab). ‘This includes everything including base cabinets, upper cabinets, countertops, garbage disposal, fume hood, flooring, light fixtures, every appliance, and more. Developing a realistic budget starts with identifying all the project items required.’
Use our expert guide to see where you can save and still create the look you love and include the features you need.
1. Assemble your own cabinets
For a kitchens remodel that comes in on budget, opt for ready to assemble (RTA) kitchen cabinet ideas. ‘The most expensive part of a kitchen remodel is the cabinets, so the opportunity to save is huge,’ says Sean Walsh, CEO of Walcraft Cabinetry (opens in new tab).
‘RTA cabinets come unassembled and used to be known only for their price. As the demand has grown, so has their quality,’ he continues. ‘You can end up with a kitchen that looks like you paid way more, for much, much less.’
2. Consider kitchen style
The style of kitchen you select can help you spend less. ‘Going for a modern, minimalist design can help a lot since the essence of the style is moderation – slab cabinets are a great way to give your kitchen a chic touch without breaking the bank,’ says creative director at Block Renovation (opens in new tab) Jeff Lai.
‘This will let you focus on smaller details and decorations to really define your space.’
3. Incorporate shelves in the design
Think about providing some of the kitchen’s storage via shelving for a cheaper kitchen remodel.
‘Instead of installing closed cabinetry which requires more material and more time to build, using open shelving for upper cabinets can not only save on material and labor costs, but also offers a great opportunity to display beautiful dishes and glassware that are often hidden,’ says Amanda Gunawan, the founding partner of boutique architecture and design firm OWIU (opens in new tab) studio.
‘Open shelving can be used to showcase some more sculptural pieces or pottery,’ agrees Jeff Lai.
4. Avoid changing the layout
If the reason for your remodel is to update rather than because the original layout isn’t working, you can spend less.
‘In order to keep the cost down, avoid moving the location of any appliances because that would require additional rough plumbing/electrical work which adds a lot to the overall cost,’ says residential real estate developer specializing in rehabbing houses and renting/selling them in the Chicago area Bill Samuel of Blue Ladder Development (opens in new tab).
That goes for other elements of the room, too. ‘Taking down walls, moving faucets, ovens, all that will cause the cost of your renovation to skyrocket,’ says Jeff Lai. ‘It’s a good rule of thumb to keep the layout of your place the same to keep costs lower.’
5. Repurpose furniture
Give items a new lease of life to get a high-end look without a high-end outlay. ‘Use thrifted furniture to create a custom hutch to serve as a pantry or coffee bar that looks expensive but costs you significantly less than buying a brand new piece,’ says Amber Shay, national VP of design studios, Meritage Homes (opens in new tab).
And consider pre-loved items as accessories to create individual style and a characterful finish as well. ‘I would advise people to look for items in thrift stores,’ says Lily Will, founder and designer at Ever Wallpaper (opens in new tab). ‘Thrift stores usually have vintage items that you can use for your kitchen displays.’
6. Don’t just get one quote
When it comes to calling in the pros you’ll need for a budget kitchen remodel, take the time to get multiple quotes. ‘There is no universal price book for any trade,’ explains Jake Romano, who manages John the Plumber (opens in new tab). ‘Some people’s prices have no rhyme or reason – they just want to get as much as they can get.’
7. Focus on hardware
The selection of hardware offers an opportunity to give your kitchen a boost. ‘Cabinet hardware can be a way to add lots of style and dress up less expensive cabinets,’ says Amber Shay.
Want to give the room the latest look? ‘The new trend is to combine multiple styles of knobs, pulls, bin pulls, etc in the same kitchen,’ she says.
8. Be clever with countertops
It’s possible to save, on say, the cost of quartz countertops and other materials, but still introduce the surfaces you want. For example, think ‘stocked quartz countertop options from a local countertop fabricator vs well-known brands’, says Carla Bast (opens in new tab), a freelance interior designer based in the Twin Cities, Minneapolis, St Paul. ‘Often you can get the same look as the name brands for less.’
You might also consider combining different surfaces to get a great kitchen on a budget. ‘Use multiple products for countertops,’ says Esther Dormer, of Dormer Designs (opens in new tab). ‘Mixing granite with wood countertops is both beautiful and economical.’
9. Consider used or overstock cabinets
Look out for ways to save on cabinets yet make your kitchen look its very best. ‘There may be a local store nearby that sells high-end kitchen cabinets and fixtures that are gently used or overstock items,’ says Melanie Hartmann, owner of Creo Home Buyers in Dundalk (opens in new tab). ‘These can really set off the look of your kitchen and make it look high-end while being able to keep to a tight budget.’
10. Make the vent hood a focal point
Faking a finish for the vent hood can be transformative. ‘Create a high-end looking vent hood to act as the focal point of the whole kitchen with painted trim or drywall that can be made to look like metal or plaster with easy to create paint finishes,’ recommends Amber Shay.
11. Research appliances
It pays to do product and brand research on big-ticket items like appliances. ‘Luxury brands like Subzero and Wolf versus moderate brands such as GE Monogram and entry level brands like Whirlpool (opens in new tab) will have dramatic price difference for each appliance,’ says John Bodrozic.
That doesn’t mean you need to save on every option, of course, but it does mean you can concentrate your spend on, for example, the range, and save on a dishwasher.
12. Shop for the faucet at big box stores
Save on a kitchen faucet by visiting a big box store. ‘Upgrading your kitchen faucet can instantly transform both your kitchen’s aesthetic and the functionality of one of the hardest working parts of the space,’ says remodeler and designer Laurie March (opens in new tab).
‘If you’re designing on a budget, look for trusted brands off the shelf at big box retailers or online. I love the Crue kitchen faucet by Kohler for both its design and functionality, including the convenient high arch and sweeping spray for tough dishes, a must-have in any cook’s kitchen.’
13. Reface rather than replace cabinets
It could be that you don’t need to replace kitchen cabinets entirely to get a whole new look for your space.
‘Updating your kitchen by refacing your cabinet doors and drawer fronts with a new style and color is a budget-friendly way of updating your kitchen,’ says head of design and marketing at Nieu Cabinet Doors (opens in new tab) Teri Simone. ‘And, you can do it yourself. If your layout functions well for you, but the style of the cabinets is a bit outdated, you can save big by keeping your cabinet bases and replacing the faces.
‘You can save money on professional installation costs and the inconvenience of having contractors in the house,’ she continues. ‘Cabinet boxes suffer less wear and tear than doors, so they are usually in good condition, even after years of use. For the average kitchen, replacing just the cabinet doors and drawer fronts could cost as little as $1800, depending on the size of your kitchen, compared to up to $50,000 plus for a brand new kitchen. Fresh doors with modern hardware can completely revitalize a dated or tired-looking kitchen and make it look like a brand new room.’
14. Look to the flooring
Wood flooring is desirable but if you want to spend less, check out the alternatives. ‘We prefer to use luxury vinyl plank flooring in most of our kitchen remodels,’ says Bill Samuel. ‘The product is very durable and most are 100 per cent waterproof as well.’ Save on labor costs by installing vinyl plank yourself.
Or consider concrete flooring. ‘As an alternative to wood and more expensive options, concrete flooring is great for those looking to save on material costs,’ says Amanda Gunawan. ‘For those worried about the space feeling cold or industrial, add warmth with rugs, plants, and lighting.’
15. Create a feature wall
For a high-end look without a huge spend, hang wallpaper. ‘Add some beautiful wallpaper to an accent wall,’ says Esther Dormer. ‘It will direct the eye to something beautiful and is an easy do it yourself tip.’
16. Lavish attention on the island
One of the most important aspects of designing a budget kitchen remodel that is still super stylish, is concentrating on spending in the right places – and one of these could be the kitchen island.
‘Make the island the star with specialty cabinets and/or countertops and less specialty finishes on the perimeter,’ recommends Amber Shay.