Lower Your Kitchen Remodeling Costs
But Not Your Expectations

Kitchen remodeling costs can be downright scary. One rule of thumb says to budget 10% of your home's value for a kitchen remodel.  But a major remodel can easily run over $50,000, and people don't usually recoup the full amount in the resale value of their home.

So what do you do?

If that $50K number scares you (it does me!)... use my budgeting method instead:

1. Decide on your ideal kitchen layout and materials.
2. Estimate your total kitchen remodeling cost.
3. If you can afford it and aren't planning to move, go for it!
4. If it's too much money, get as close to the design as possible within the budget, using the Three Ways to Lower Kitchen Remodeling Costs outlined below.

But if you are planning to move, you need a kitchen design to please buyers, instead of yourself!  Ask your real estate agent what sells well in your area.

Why use my budgeting method?  It may seem a little simplistic, but it's that way on purpose.  Life is short.  And in my opinion, as long as you aren't moving in the next 5 years or so, who cares if you "under-improved" or "over-improved" for the neighborhood?

You're the one living there, the one who will enjoy your kitchen (or not) for several years. 

It's your money. 

If you are the one you're remodeling for, spend it wisely for you, not someone else.

No matter who you design a kitchen for (yourself or potential buyers), you need to learn techniques for lowering each and every expense

Leave no stone (or slab of stone) unturned! 

Sorry, I couldn't resist a little countertop humor...

The three basic ways to lower your kitchen remodeling costs:

1. Limit the scope (do a minor remodel).
2. Design the kitchen layout with cost savings in mind.
3. Decrease individual item costs.

Do a Minor Remodel with Major Effects

Can you cheat on the budget by just doing a minor remodel? If your kitchen layout is basically good and cabinets structurally sound, keeping the plumbing, electrical, gas lines, and walls in the same place will save you a ton of money on kitchen remodeling costs.

With a minor remodel you might be able to add an island, a cabinet or two, or freestanding storage. If you can keep all or part of the current kitchen cabinets, it's a huge savings. 

You can update the finishes everywhere, or just in the most needed areas:

*cabinet doors and drawer fronts
*lighting fixtures

You can change all of those, or just a few.

But if you need structural changes to walls, or need to change the location of appliances or sink, you're definitely in for a major remodel.  Focus on lowering the costs of things you buy, and designing a layout with savings in mind.

Create a Design that is Cheaper to Build

Here's a surprising way to save on kitchen remodeling costs...

If you have to redesign the kitchen layout so it will function better, you should know that some designs are simply cheaper to build than others.

For example, if you need to take out some or all of a wall, sometimes it's a structural change.  It might require either thousands of dollars to hide a beam, or a few hundred to let it show.  Consider making the beam look like it belongs where it will show, and you can save thousands.

Anytime you introduce complicated shapes or curves in a design, it costs more to build.  Even corner cabinets cost more for each cubic foot of storage than a regular kitchen cabinet.  Keep it simple and you'll keep more dollars in your pocket. 

Extra details like heavy trim, furniture legs, and glass front cabinets can run the bill up by surprising amounts!

Non-standard size cabinets are usually only found from custom cabinet shops, and can cost a good deal more than stock sizes.

In general, be aware of how design decisions can affect your costs. 

Ask your contractors questions if you aren't sure.  Sometimes, open ended questions can help.  "How can I save money on this project?" is a good starting point. 

Kitchen Renovation: How to Lower Costs on Absolutely Everything

Q: The biggest costs for a new kitchen design?

1. Structural changes
2. Kitchen cabinets
3. Counter tops
4. Appliances
5. Labor

Everything else is usually a smaller piece of the total budget.  But the same principles apply to reducing their costs, too.

We addressed structural changes above- if you can avoid them, great.  If you can't, you may have to cut back elsewhere to stay on budget.

For everything else in your new kitchen, brainstorm a little:

*Can you reuse anything at all?
*Can anything be repainted, refinished, or refaced? (Think cabinets, appliances, floors, backsplashes, even lighting fixtures!)
*Can you lower the quality without being able to tell in the finished kitchen?
*Would pitching in on labor help?

Reusing items like cabinet boxes can significantly lower your kitchen remodeling costs.  You can refinish, repaint, or reface them for a completely new look.

Especially in the case of refacing kitchen cabinets (where you change out the doors, drawers, and can change the finish), you might never know that they are "recycled."

If you want custom cabinet details like these pull out spice racks hidden behind furniture style legs, forget the minor remodel... you'll need all new cabinets if you have your heart set on specialty cabinets that can't be retrofitted. 

However, if you want things like pullout trash cans hidden behind cabinet doors, and pullout shelves for pots and pans, it can be done in your current cabinets.

Kitchen cabinets are an enormous chunk of kitchen remodeling costs, usually the largest.  If you are buying new cabinets, consider a cheaper grade of cabinet boxes if you aren't planning to live in your home forever.

There are also discount sources, cheaper types of doors and drawers, and a few tricks that will help you save big bucks.

Explore these tips and more ways to do kitchen cabinets for less.

For all the other kitchen remodeling costs, consider alternative materials that are similar to what you want but cheaper.  Porcelain tile is usually much cheaper than stone, but you don't have to maintain it (yippee!). 

There are new laminate countertops without the "telltale seam" at the edge, in some pretty convincing (stone-like) designs.  Plus, countertops are easy to change out later.

A beadboard backsplash fits right in to a country kitchen, and costs so much less than tile.

Discover even more ways to save with cheap kitchen remodeling.

How about doing some of the work yourself?  Even small tasks can add up.
Removing that tacky wallpaper  instead of hiring it out might allow you to upgrade your sink, for example, without increasing the budget. 
How else can you decrease individual expenses on that huge list of kitchen remodeling costs?

Prioritize! Choose either countertops, appliances, or cabinets to be the most important, and get the best deal you can.  Then, allocate the remaining budget on the other kitchen renovation costs.

Cheat Sheet: Bargain Granite Countertops

Granite is one of the most coveted things in a renovation, and as far as kitchen remodeling costs, one of the wisest investments.  So if you're daydreaming about granite countertops during HGTV commercials, go with your gut and get those countertops! 
Granite is common enough now that you can get a serious discount. 

1. Price shop and negotiate. 

Find a granite type you like (some varieties are much cheaper than others), and ask for it by name. 
To anyone who gives you a quote, ask if they have any cheaper but similar options.  Maybe they had too much of some other type with similar colors and will give you a deal. 

Ask suppliers if they have any "leftover" pieces big enough for your kitchen.  Give them your number and let them call you if they get one.
You may even find large pieces on Craigslist where someone else is remodeling and wants some other granite or stone instead- especially in large cities.

2. Go Pre-fab.

There are now prefabricated granite countertops available at many retailers.  Sold in long pieces (a lot like laminate), these are sold in volume, saving consumers money.

3. Think thin.

You can also check out companies like Granite Transformations, which apply a thinner piece of granite over your existing countertops.

4. Reduce the square footage.
Put granite on an island, and something less expensive elsewhere.

Where else can you save money on kitchen remodeling costs if you're splurging on granite countertops?
Save on the backsplash, cabinets, and flooring. 
You'll be too busy looking at your gorgeous countertops to notice the other stuff.

Cheat Sheet: How To Get A+ Appliances at Below Average Prices

If you are dreaming of flames dancing around All-Clad during Food Network commercials, go ahead and get that range of your dreams.

1. Find a deal.
Appliance deals can be found online if you are patient.  Check often and check early- both ebay and craigslist, and don't expect to find what you are looking for right away. 

Search online for the exact model number you want to get the best deal.  Your local appliance specialist might match the price.  You'll have to ask, though, and be prepared if they laugh at the price you found. They can keep laughing while you send your money elsewhere.

2. Look for dents.
If can live with a small dent on the side of your range (that's going to be hidden by the cabinet next to it anyway), go ahead!  Nobody will pull your range out to inspect it after it's installed.

3. Your kitchen is not a Game of Memory
Do not, whatever you do, get instantly suckered into the "matching brand" rebate.  Buy 4 appliances from the same company, and they may "give" you a several hundred dollar rebate.  And the handles match. 

Big whoop!

I've yet to find a single company that offers an oven, refrigerator, range/cooktop that could meet my needs (for space, features, and longevity requirements). 

The savings aren't worth sacrificing function (unless maybe you're remodeling for resale). 

Do not worry that the handles don't match.  Nobody cares but the appliance salesman. 


Where should you save on kitchen remodeling costs if you're splurging on appliances?  It depends...

If you want them for their beauty, save on cabinets and countertops, and even the range fan.  Splurge (a little) on the backsplash over the range, where you'll notice it.

If you're splurging on appliances because you plan to use them to death, save on countertops, flooring, and backsplash. 

Do not economize too much on cabinets- you need sturdy stuff for your Creuset and All-Clad.  And don't go too cheap on your vent hood guts.  You're going to need it!

Cheat Sheet: Customized Cabinets at Rock Bottom Prices

One of the biggest kitchen remodeling costs is cabinetry.  But...

If you've got every kitchen cabinet brochure under the sun and maybe even salivate a little when you see the cabinets with built in lid holders, go ahead and splurge on custom kitchen cabinets (or at least semi-custom with some cool accessories).

There's more than one way to store your kitchen gear, though.  And some are much, much cheaper than others. 

1.  Explore all the options for kitchen storage.

Storage accessories and specialty cabinets purchased from the manufacturer can be pricey, but if plastic drawer dividers won't do anymore, they may be the way to go.

Still, check out aftermarket accessories to see if you can save any cash that way.  For example, I have aftermarket bamboo drawer organizers for cutlery, which I love.

They are adjustable, easy to clean, waste less space because of thinner wood, and much cheaper than a built in solution.  So explore all storage solutions before deciding!

2.  Price shop your cabinets.  Hard.

The easiest way to do this is to have a kitchen plan in hand, and simply have several places give you a quote.

Make sure you are comparing apples to apples.  Construction, materials, special cabinets, and the work you are pricing (installation or not, delivery, etc.) must be the same. 

You can't price shop if you let each place design your kitchen for you!  Design it yourself and ask for a quote (not an estimate). 

Tell them you are open to suggestions, but you want a quote on the original plan.  If you are pricing stock or semi-custom cabinets, find out what is different on their plan than yours. 

I had to eliminate Kraftmaid once because they didn't have a single wall oven cabinet where the oven was low enough for my short frame to reach!

Also, it's possible (very possible) to get a cheaper quote on custom cabinets from a local cabinetmaker than on stock cabinets from a big box store.  Try it and see.

So where should you save on kitchen remodeling costs if you're splurging on cabinets?

Save on the countertops, appliances, or flooring.  Chosen carefully, any of these can be changed out later without much of an ordeal.

Explore all the ways to save on kitchen cabinets.

The kitchen cabinets are a big chunk of kitchen remodeling costs, no matter how much the kitchen budget is. If you're getting all new cabinets, there's a right way to estimate and a wrong way (by linear foot).
Don't accept a rough estimate.  Get a quote.  Actually, get several quotes.  Make sure all your big ticket items are specified in detail and the price is guaranteed. 

Kitchen Remodeling Costs: Wrapping it Up

Q: How do you avoid buyer's remorse:

"I spent $XXX on a doodamaflat? What was I thinking?!?"

A: After you've got all your estimates, be sure to do a cost/benefit analysis for each line item on your list of all kitchen remodeling costs.  See if any one expense seems too much compared to the others, according to what value that item brings.

Even something that is relatively cheap may need to be postponed or decreased even more, if the cash is needed for something more important.

If you want even more ideas for reducing kitchen remodeling costs, learn more about how to do it super cheap.

Yep, I said it.  Cheap!

No shame here, just smart spending.

Want all the latest info from this site?  I update and add pages regularly!

Don't miss a thing- sign up now for the Kitchen Cabinets University E-zine to come directly to your email Inbox:

Enter Your E-mail Address
Enter Your First Name (optional)

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Kitchen Cabinets University.

Also, if you've got questions or comments, please feel free to contact me.

› Kitchen Remodeling Costs