originally from diynetwork.com

You can make big changes to your kitchen even with a small budget. Inexpensive is relative, but let’s assume that a modest kitchen renovation is less than $5,000.

Lower budgets have their benefits, in that you might just select a renovation that you can tackle with minimal hired assistance.


You’ll be able to make some modest-but-significant updates during an inexpensive renovation, and maybe that’s enough to turn a space into your dream kitchen without it falling into the “luxe” category with high-end finishes and brand-new everything. If you’re doing the project DIY-style, time is going to be a disadvantage for you personally; if you’re doing the renovation on top of doing a full-time job, you’ll be sacrificing lots of evenings and weekends for the betterment of your home.

Where are the costs?

Big costs:

How you classify big expenses in a modest renovation depends on where you’re putting your money. Like with a major renovation, brand new cabinets are going to be one of the biggest expenses. If you want a new look without draining your budget on new cabinets, here are a few examples of pricy “modest” upgrades:

  • Cabinet doors: $10-$40/sq. ft. based on materials chosen and whether the products are pre-manufactured or custom. This allows you to keep the same floor plan and base cabinetry, but update the look of the cabinets.
  • Countertop: $15-30/sq. ft. Installed. I upgraded an old linoleum countertop for a solid surface countertop. It was the biggest expense when I did my own modest DIY renovation, and had a price tag of $2,000.
  • Flooring: $3-$8/sq. ft. You can find some great products in the $3-$8/sq. ft. range. Consider groutable peel-and-stick vinyl tiles like these used in my home for a great look with a low cost.
  • Appliances: Updating technology goes a long way in visually updating your space. A new range, range hood, refrigerator, or installing a built-in microwave can have a great impact. Budget may not allow you to upgrade all, but replace those most in need of an update, and you can chip away at updating the rest as needed.
Other big costs:

  • Dumpster
  • New windows or skylights
  • New sink
  • Plumbing
  • HVAC
  • Electrical
  • Lighting
  • Hardware
Hidden costs:

Much like a luxe renovation, hidden costs might include rotting joists, water damage, and accidental demolition. In addition, with renovations on a tighter budget you’re inclined to have a narrower cushion for the unexpected costs. If something goes awry in one aspect of the renovation, you might be required to take concessions in another area to keep the project on budget.

Worthwhile Splurges to Consider for a Low-Budget Kitchen Renovation:

Drywall: If you’re hanging drywall, a few ideas: rent a dolly that will help you hoist and lift the drywall into position, and/or hire someone to do the finishing work. If you’ve ever tried to install ceiling drywall by yourself, you know how hard it is. If you prefer to skip DIY drywall installation altogether, the right crew will save you a lot of time. A seasoned drywall pro will be able to hang, tape, and install perfect compound in no time at all. They’ll know just how much to sand off so that when you’re ready to prime and paint, the surface is in mint condition.

Electrical/HVAC/Plumbing/Gas lines: I’m including these in the splurge category due in part to the fact that the professionals can do it with accuracy, up to code, and maybe much more quickly than you can do yourself.

And Where You Might Be Able to Save Money in a Modest Renovation:

Demolition: Any amount of demo that you can do yourself, should be done.

Paint: You can do that yourself with the right brushes and rollers. I’m not just talking about the walls and ceiling either; painting the cabinets or applying a gel stain can go a long, long way in completely overhauling the look of your kitchen. In this related article, here are 25 tips for painting kitchen cabinets.

Install appliances: Most stores will deliver, install, and take away the old appliances. But you can also reserve the old appliances and get a few dollars back by selling them online if they’re still in fair condition.

Finally, if you’re looking to do a remodel somewhere in-between low-budget and luxe, reserve the same kitchen floor plan but consider these upgrades:

  • Updated high-efficiency windows
  • New cabinet doors, or remove several upper cabinets and replace with open shelves
  • New cabinet storage accessories, such as organizational products like these.
  • New high-efficiency appliances
  • New countertop
  • New faucet and dish soap accessories
  • Fresh paint on walls and trim
  • New lighting
  • New outlets and switches