The $5K, Chic-yet-Frugal Kitchen Remodel

From on June 25, 2009 in Kitchen Remodel

As a mother, I can tell you, most of my time is spent in the kitchen—especially on weekends and holidays. When we built our home I had one rule for the kitchen—I get the final say on EVERYTHING. Our kitchen was not cheap, but there are ways to remodel a kitchen with a tight budget, especially if you’re handy enough to be able to do some of the work yourself. 5k-kitchen.jpgPhoto Credit: iLoveButter So, let’s break this down, one step at a time, and I’ll show you how you can transform a 10’x 10’ kitchen with $5,000 and come out with something beautiful, functional, and easy to spend time in.

Step 1: Make a To-Scale Drawing

Whenever I plan to remodel any room, I get out a sheet of graph paper and a pencil and make a to-scale drawing. In this drawing I will outline a square 10 blocks long by 10 blocks wide. Immediately I know that the flooring we look for will need to be 10’x10,’ or 100 square feet.

5k-kitchen-flooring.jpgPhoto Credit: BetterthanEveryone

Step 2: Measurements and a Shopping List

In my experience (in a past life I was a kitchen and bathroom designer), I’ve found that a kitchen works best when the stove and refrigerator are near each other and the sink and dishwasher are in close proximity to one another. So, in our theoretical kitchen, I’ve planned an L-shaped kitchen with the fridge and stove on the right leg and the dishwasher and sink on the opposite side. I can now see where cabinetry is needed and what sizes they should be. I’ve come up with 16 lineal feet of wall cabinets and 10.5 lineal feet of base cabinetry.

So, I now know about the flooring and cabinets, but there are other details to nail down before we start shopping and making buying and installation decisions. We’ll need a new shiny countertop to place upon our cabinets. Based on our 10’x10’ drawing with the cabinets I’ve specified, we’ll need an L-shaped countertop that is 10’ long on the left, turns a corner and extends three feet - the stove is next, so we won’t need countertop there. On the other side of the stove we have another 18” cabinet, which will need a top.

Other small items we’ll need to find include 8.5’ of toe kick, a valance for over the window, 19’ of crown molding, and 19 door/drawer handles.

Step 3: Bargain Hunting

Now that you know what you’re looking for it’s time to go bargain shopping. That past life I mentioned? I worked at Lowes, so I’m going to use them as an example. Lowes carries in-stock cabinetry and there are basically two types to choose from: knocked-down cabinets or unfinished cabinetry. Both of these options will require you to put in some elbow grease—you’ll either need to assemble the cabinets or paint or stain them yourself—and they both cost about $59 per lineal foot for base cabinets and $45 for wall cabinets. The knocked-down cabinets come in a much bigger variety of style choices, but they can be difficult to assemble if pre-drilled holes don’t line up or pieces aren’t cut exactly correctly. They are, however, much easier to load up and get home since they come in relatively flat boxes. The unfinished cabinets are rather plain in style and difficult to transport since they’re large and assembled, but they come completely put together and give you the option of making them any color you choose.

5k-kitchen-cabinets.jpgPhoto Credit: karen.tkr

With our kitchen example, either of these choices will run us approximately $720 for wall cabinets and $620 for base cabinets. Add another $200 for toe kick, crown molding, and a valance for a grand total of about $1,540 (plus sales tax).

Since this is my imaginary kitchen, I’m going to opt for the knocked-down cabinets and assemble them myself to save money by being able to transport them home without paying for delivery and by not having to buy paint or stain to finish them. Personally, I’m partial to maple, so we’ll go with a natural maple Mill’s Pride cabinet at Lowes.

My next stop is in the hardware aisle to pick out some door and drawer pulls or knobs. I’m all for simple elegance, but that can run $6-10 per pull and since we need 19 (I’ll be getting 20 - it’s always good to have an extra on hand), that would cost an extra $200.

There are several very stylish knobs available for anywhere from $4-5 apiece in a variety of finishes. I’m fond of the

Gatehouse Aged Bronze Birdcage knob,

which looks like it’s just been reduced from $5.57 each to $3.97.

Our total has now reached $1,620.

5k-kitchen-colors.jpgPhoto Credit: Pingu1963, very busy

Since my days at Lowes, they’ve started carrying many more colors and patterns in their stock countertops. The only problem with these is that we’ll need a contractor to cut them to the proper length and make a sink cut-out in it so that we can properly place our kitchen sink.

Moderate countertop colors are best – too light and you see every speck of dirt, but too dark and you see sponge swipe marks and fingerprints galore. With this in mind, I’m going to choose the laminate top called

Milano Amber

. It really makes no difference, the in-stock counters will all cost about the same. We will need a 10’ countertop with a right-hand miter cut, a 3’ piece with a left-hand miter cut, and an 18” straight piece. Since there aren’t any in-stock pieces as small as 3’, we can just buy one larger piece with a miter cut and use what’s left over for our 18” piece. The Milano Amber top will cost $105 for the 10’ piece and $64 for a 6’ piece.

We’ve now spent $1,790.

Flooring will take a little more thought since the in-stock choices are numerous and can be overwhelming in the comparison process. You’ll generally always find that vinyl flooring is the least expensive option and Lowes has several available for about $1 per square foot. For about $1.67 per square foot, though, you can buy the

SwiftLock Fireside Oak Laminate

flooring. It’s a nice dark wood-looking floor that comes in planks and has an interlocking, glueless installation method. Sure, it costs a little more, but it looks so much nicer.

The Fireside Oak comes in packages of 8 - 51” planks for $35.80, so we’ll need five packages to cover our 10’x10’ kitchen floor.

We’ve now spent $1,970.

Step 4: Installation

This is good - we’ve bought all of the essentials now and not even used half of our budget. Keep in mind though that we’ll need a contractor to help us with installation. Assuming the average homeowner doesn’t have the tools or skills to cut and install the countertop and flooring or hang the cabinets, we need to reserve some funds for this. I just so happen to be married to a very experienced


who tells me that you can probably find a reputable installer in your area that can install your flooring for about $5 per square foot, the cabinets at about $100 apiece, and the countertops at $35 per lineal foot plus $25 for the sink cutout.

Since this is a very small job he suggests trying to find a handyman or installer versus a contractor because they won’t need to be as highly skilled or experienced in order to do a good job, and so they’ll charge a bit less.

5k-kitchen-sink.jpgPhoto Credit: Fazimoto

With Mr. Handyman’s installation calculations, we come up with a budget for installation at $500 for floors, $1,100 for cabinets, $532 for the countertop, plus another $300 for installing the sink and faucet in the countertop and connecting to the plumbing and installing the dishwasher. This brings our installation costs to about $2,432.

We’ve now taken about $4,400 of our $5000 budget.

Step 5: Use the Extra Money for Appliances

This gives us another $600 for other items. I’m thinking appliances. Hopefully when planning to remodel our kitchen it isn’t essential to replace ALL of the appliances, but a new sink and faucet can really help spruce up a kitchen and we can afford to replace one other appliance - I’d choose the one that’s the oldest, most beat up, or dysfunctional.

I used to have a white porcelain sink and no matter what I put it through I could always use some

Soft Scrub with bleach and it came out looking new. For $189 at Lowes you can get a white porcelain double bowl kitchen sink made by the very reputable American Standard and an AquaSource stainless steel faucet

with a pull-out sprayer for $100.

5k-kitchen-appliances.jpgPhoto Credit: tandemracer

Our total is now up to $4,700.

When making this scale of purchase in one place, you have a bit of leverage with pricing. I would take a list of the items you plan to purchase to the manager and see if they are willing to give you a cash discount. You might mention that if you were to open a charge account (which I HIGHLY do not recommend: plastic = BAD), they would offer you 10% off, so see if they’ll match that for a cash purchase. You’re already under budget by about $300, but if you could save 10% of the material purchases, that’s another $227 in your pocket (or a nice microwave).

Another bargaining chip that you can use at retail stores is the scratch and dent section. If you can find any cabinets that are slightly damaged (hopefully in places not visible after installation), countertops with chips in them (at places you’ll be cutting off anyway) or appliances that were display models, you may be able to get them to reduce the price.

You can see that it’s not so difficult to remodel an entire kitchen with a small budget by planning and purchasing the materials at your neighborhood big box hardware store, but there are other options as well. One of my husband’s favorite stores is the Habitat for Humanity


because they are constantly getting surplus items in from builders. Several visits spread over a few weeks can yield various brand new or slightly used (or slightly dented) appliances, entire kitchens’ worth of cabinetry, flooring, hardware, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, and perhaps other items you hadn’t even thought of buying for your home. The more you go, the more you’ll find and they’re pretty good about making deals.

The only thing to be aware of when shopping at places like the ReStore is that you’re never guaranteed to find the same item twice or the correct amount of what you need, so be sure if you buy, say, your flooring there that they have at least as much as you need and hopefully a little extra.