Update Your Kitchen on a Budget

Let these ideas guide you to create a beautiful kitchen on a budget. Don't sacrifice style -- plan ahead and make smart choices when choosing where to splurge and save.

Kitchen Makeover on a Budget

If your kitchen dreams are bigger than your budget, try some of these ideas. You can scale down your project by doing less construction, trimming luxury materials, or rethinking the ingredients that make up traditional kitchen design. Let these ideas help you get a lovely kitchen for a little less money.

Substitute Furniture

Not every wall in the kitchen needs to be wrapped in cabinetry. Use furniture creatively to achieve an unfitted look on a budget. Create a pantry from an armoire or an island from an old table.

Research Before You Buy

Shop the web to compare prices. Most big-box stores carry additional products online and will special order just about anything from top manufacturers at below list price.

Give your floors a new look by installing laminate flooring. Learn how with these step-by-step instructions.

How to Install Laminate Floors

See just how easy it is to take this project on yourself.

Refinish Your Cabinets

If your cabinets are in good working condition, but you don’t like the style, refinishing them is the best way to get a new look for less. Homeowners with basic do-it-yourself skills can give them a fresh coat of paint. Or, send them out to a paint shop for a factory-finish spray coat.

Panel Walls

Nothing covers large expanses of wall space like bead-board paneling. Sold in 4- x 8-foot sheets, it can be applied as a backsplash, on the ceiling, or on walls. It always delivers a cottage charm.


The sky is the limit with wall coverings. Use them to dress up a wall, to apply to a cupboard door, or to line the back of an open cupboard. They deliver an instant style upgrade.

Splurge Sensibly

If your heart is set on a material, then splurge. But to keep costs in line, choose the material in a way that will make a big impact for less. Take marble, for example. Use it on a small island instead of all counter surfaces. Or shop for a marble tile to use as a backsplash.

Assemble Your Cabinets

Flat-pack or ready-to-assemble cabinets reward homeowners who are willing to invest a little elbow grease with deep discounts. The cabinets come flat and unassembled. Each box needs to be built before it can be hung.

Get a Built-In Look

Surround a freestanding refrigerator with wood walls and a deep upper cabinet. Check fridge ventilation needs first.

Accents & Appliances

Consider replacing sinks, faucets, lighting, and appliances as part of a total makeover. If these elements are more than 10 years old, they're probably showing signs of wear and may not have some of the convenience, style, and operating features that today's products offer.

Labor Lessons

By acting as your own general contractor, you can save roughly 10 to 20 percent overall. Just be absolutely sure that you’re qualified and that you have the time to oversee every detail of your remodeling. If you are unskilled and have to choose between expensive materials and labor, choose the labor. A good craftsman can make even mundane materials look great.

Eliminate Upper Cabinets

If the budget is tight and you can do with less, install lower cabinets only for a significant cost savings. In place of upper cabinets, you can display art, hang a shelf or two, or create a focal wall.

Pay for a Pro

Talk to a professional designer about your dreams and budget. It just might be that hiring an architect, kitchen designer, or general contractor will help you get more kitchen for your money. In fact, it can help you prevent costly mistakes that could more than make up for their fees.

Paint Anything!

Without a doubt, paint is the fastest way to a fresh look for the least amount of money. Use it to freshen old wood floors, to remake tired cabinets, and to add a focal point wall to your kitchen. With careful prep work, you can even paint counters and backsplash tiles.

Tile the Backsplash

Replace dated backsplash tiles on a budget. The tile showrooms display expensive and inspiring solutions, but don’t despair. These tiles might be out of range, but  with a little creativity, you can get the look you want with less expensive tile. Think about interest applications: linear stacks or thoughtful accents with a few well-placed expensive tiles.

Install New Floors

If your kitchen needs new flooring, shop around before committing to your replacement. Flooring is sold in different formats (sheet, linear foot, square foot), so be sure to compare cost per square foot before buying. Don't rule out modest materials: Creative application by mixing colors or finishes can yield a one-of-a-kind (and inexpensive) solution. Look at vinyl, linoleum, and laminate for affordable choices.

Forgo Cabinetry

Substitute traditional cabinetry with carts and shelves. Shop at a restaurant supply store for freestanding metal counters and shelves found in professional kitchens. Stack dishware, platters, and small appliances on shelves. Use baskets and trays to corral smaller items. Crocks on the counters organize silverware.

Little Changes

Sometimes just upgrading cabinet knobs and pulls with those in a current finish or show-stopping color can be just the lift a tired kitchen needs.

Shop Carefully

Contractors and plumbers often cover their costs by charging list prices for materials. If you buy direct, your costs will be significantly lower. Let those who bid on your projects know which materials you plan to buy.

Easy to Clean

There are unlimited options for paint and wallcoverings to spruce up the walls -- just make sure that whatever you choose can be easily cleaned. There are also many kinds of window treatments, but for ease of installation and cleanup, keep the design uncomplicated.

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