How We Renovated Our Kitchen On A Budget

In 2017 Ben and I bought our first house, a 1930s Cape Cod that was going to need a lot of work. When I say the house needed a lot of work I mean, the house needed A LOT of work. The bathrooms would need to be done, the kitchen was a disaster, even the walls were in rough shape. And those projects were just the beginning.

If you didn’t know, house projects take money and if you aren’t smart about it that can add up quickly. Take our kitchen renovation for example. If we had hired someone to do the renovation we would have been looking at a figure of at least thirty thousand. We did it for way less than that, but we will get to that part. I like to save the best for last!

First up, let’s take a look at what we were working with:

Our Kitchen Before The Renovation

When we moved into this house, the kitchen was in a state of we can make this work. There was one wall of cabinets, half of which was a pantry and the kitchen sink. I won’t even get started on the 60s style half wall tile, painted over with ceiling paint, and the dijon mustard yellow walls. It’s still painful to think about.

To make up for the lack of countertop space or storage we got creative. The bistro table we had bought for our apartment became counter space. We lined bookshelves along one wall for our storage and made do.

Exhibit A:

Alongside the missing counters and cabinets were an old stove that seemed to overheat when turned on and an old refrigerator that was actually in decent shape, just missing a few pieces.

Exhibit B:

Like I said, we made do, as you do, and for a few months we just stuck with it. Until I touched the side of the stove while baking chicken, or something, and nearly burned my hand. That’s when we made a plan for the appliances.

Planning the Renovation

Kitchens are expensive. If you take a look at Home Depot, cabinets start somewhere around $200 and quickly increase. The 2021 average cost of kitchen cabinet upgrades, according to Home Guide, is $3,200-8,500 for materials and installation. And that is just the stock cabinets. If you’re going custom, this jumps up to a range of $12,500-18,000. JUST. FOR. CABINETS.

We couldn’t-and wouldn’t have wanted to-spend that kind of money on cabinets alone. As we took a look at what we wanted to do in the kitchen, we knew that we were going to have to do this in phases. We didn’t want to put $10,000 worth of a kitchen renovation on a store credit card but there were things that needed to be upgraded sooner rather than later. The appliances were first on the list.

Upgrading the Appliances

The old kitchen stove was the very first thing to go. It worked but we weren’t a fan of how hot the exterior of the oven got whenever the appliance was in use. We knew we weren’t going to be able to upgrade the kitchen within the next year or so. On a trip to Menards-one of our favorite places in the world-a few days before Memorial Day, we spent a good half hour staring at the different stove top/ovens.

What we realized that day was this: home improvement stores typically have pretty decent appliance sales over holidays.

That day we walked out of the store with a new and gorgeous stove:

Over labor day, we upgraded the refrigerator:

I was incredibly excited about this one, if you can’t tell.

The dishwasher we replaced shortly after the refriegerator. Ben went to Menards while I was at work one day and bought the display model (hello savings!). I came home to a new dishwasher installed and ready to go. Man…this man does love me!

One day you are young, hot, and carefree. The next day you are crying over new kitchen appliances. Am I right?

The Game Plan

We lived with our one wall of cabinets/counters, bookshelves and crappy table for over a year. In October of 2018 we had our first, Isaac, and by the new year that boy was working on moving around. We were pouring our coffee one morning when I looked at Ben and told him we needed to do the kitchen before Isaac was crawling. The bookshelves with all of our pots and pans weren’t going to cut it with a young boy running around, and the idea of him throwing everything around made me nauseous.

On February 24th, 2019 Ben took a sledge hammer to see how hard it was going to be to take down, and there was no turning back.

Ben and his dad spent the next week pulling down walls and reconfiguring outlets. We added 12 outlets to our kitchen during this time and Ben’s dad put the kitchen on it’s own breaker so that we were less likely to blow a fuse.

Two weeks after that first hit, we had new walls.

After the paint was up, it was time to install the floors. We went with a click-lock laminate flooring. It cost us just under $200 for the flooring. Looking back, I wish we had spent a little more money here. The laminate is not water proof and, though we haven’t had any issues yet, it is a constant stress. Especially with two kiddos under 3.

BUT click-lock is honestly the way to go. It was so easy to install. It took Ben and I (mostly Ben) about three hours to compelte our kitchen floors.

Ben and I stood in the middle of our “new” kitchen that night and just looked around in awe. As I said above, neither of us thought we’d ever actually get to the kitchen and here we were, halfway done with this remodel. The hard part, honestly, was over.

Planning and Installing Cabinets

While Ben and his dad took care of the walls, I kept busy by configuring the kitchen cabinets and deciding where everything was going to go. We were kept the sink in front of the window but upgraded to a large sink cabinet. We flipped the location of the refrigerator and stove and moved the pantry. We bought everything from Menards, they honestly always have the best prices, and I was able to create multiple design ideas for the layout using their U Create Cabinetry Planner.

After completing our design, we headed into Menards to finalize and order the cabinets. Their design consultant was flipping great. She was able to answer all of the questions we had and completed the order with us. All in all, we spent $2,231.80 on the cabinets. However, we ordered during one of their 11% Mail In Rebate weeks so we got $245.50 back that we used on our bathroom renovation! This included all of the installation hardwhere, foorplates, shelves, etc. In case you are wondering, the 2021 average cost for kitchen cabinets is $3,200 – $8,500 according to Home Guide.

When the cabinets came in, I think it was about three days after we placed the order

For the hardware, we went with simple black pulls that were $1 each. We did the same thing for drawers and doors just to keep things easy.

By this point, we could see the finish line and man did she look sweet. For nearly a month we had squeezed an entire kitchen in with the dining room. The crock pot became my best friend and we ate out more than anyone should. But, it was all worth it and I’d do it again to see the end results.

Heres a sneak at the dining room kitchen we were working with during this renovation:

The worst part, honestly, was not having a kitchen sink. You don’t know how much you rely on your kitchen sink until it is not there. But there was only one step left before we could get that sink back, and everything would come together.

Countertops + Finishing Touches

Finally, after a long month, we were at the finish line. We had replaced walls, added outlets, installed cabinets and placed the appliances. The last thing on the list were the countertops, which you can’t actually order until the cabinets are installed.

We went with a high resolution laminate. We didn’t have the money for any fancy stone and we didn’t want to out price the neighborhood we are in. If this were our forever home, I would have gone with quartz.

The ordering was easy. We brought the cabinetry planner plans into Menards, who sent the order to Midwest Manufacturing. A few days later we recieved our template. We laid the template down to check that the measurements were all correct, and were super happy to be able to give the all clear.

Two weeks later we recieved our countertops, delivered to our driveway, and were able to give a huge sigh of relief. Everything fit, with some wiggling on one side of the sink counter since our walls aren’t all straight, and we had a fully functional kitchen!

Do you ever get 97% of the way through a project and then come to a halt? Every house project we complete we do this. In the kitchen we ignored the trim work for a good 2-6 months. The kitchen worked, it was amazing, and the trim was just minor details. By the end, we were burnt out. But…it really did make a difference when we finally buckled down.

When I look back at these pictures I am still a bit shocked. Of a few things, honestly. First of all, I can’t believe we lived in the before pictures. Can you say , ew. If we walked into a house today, in the condition that this house was in then, we would run out screaming. Unless of course it was the right price and in the our number one choice school district, but that is a story for another post.

We took a just above unfunctional kitchen and transformed it into this beautiful space that I am still in love with. We did everything correctly, stayed on budget, and got to design every piece ourselves.

So…what was that budget?

The Final Budget

As I said earlier, the kitchen renovation was a two step process. First, we slowly upgraded our appliances, then we did the full renovation. This helped with the influx of cash out, which eased our minds. It gave us time to buy things without throwing a whole kitchen upgrade onto a credit card or loan, and saved us a bit of cash.

SO, here is the breakdown of our kitchen renovation budget:

Appliances: $1,600*

Cabinets: $2,304.59

Laminate Counter Tops: $746.28

Range Hood: $139.09

Paint, Trim, Finish Work: $296.29

Flooring: $186.36

Drywall + Electrical Materials: $200**

*The appliance is a rounded-up estimate. Each appliance was $500 or under but we have since switched accounts and I don’t have access to find exact numbers.

**The boring materials, ie. drywall and electric stuff is also just an estimate. I couldn’t find the actual reciept like I did for the cabinets, countertops, range hood, finish work.

Add this all up and the grand total for what we spent on this kitchen renovation is: $5,472.61

We flipped the kitchen from this:

To this:


Under $6,000!

I mean, holy sh*t.

Now, the one thing I will say is that this total doesn’t take into account time. It was about a month and a half without a kitchen. Ben used two weeks of vacation to work on the kitchen, and there was a decent amount of waiting. The frustration of not having a kitchen got harder as the month dragged on and waiting two weeks for the counters just about drove me nuts. But looking at those before and afters….wow. I’d do it all again to see those puppies.

I’m proud of us and really impressed with my husband. He did a really good job and learned a ton in the process. Today, he looks at his mudding work on the ceiling and he laughs about how bad he was and how much better he has gotten.

Would you and yours tackle a DIY project like this one? Or have you? If so, drop us a comment below, we would love to see your work too!

And stay tuned, we have a lot of other DIY home renovations to share including our bathroom renovation, basement renovation, bathroom addition and bedroom renovations.

Until next time!

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