Budget Kitchen Remodel
September 27, 2005 1:55 PM   Subscribe

Budget kitchen remodel advice for someone at that "too clueless even to know what I don't know" stage.

I am embarking on a kitchen remodel after a water leak ruined the floors and bottom cabinets. Insurance money + what I already had saved for the project = $8000. I'm really only expecting this to cover the cabinets and (hopefully) the contertop, sink, and fixtures. The footprint will not change and there will be no new appliances. No lighting change or fancy floors until the budget is replenished.

My husband and I would like to DIY where possible, but I can't see our skills extending much beyond the demolition stage.

The general consensus seems to be that this budget is impossibly small. But we have to do something about the water damaged cabinets and now-bare concrete floors. we are not high-end, granite everything people, our tastes are more like funky linoleum/retro/modern.

So ... advice on doing this kitchen remodel? I'd like to hear everything from cabinet brands and countertop ideas to managing the timeline to hiring professionals.
posted by kmel to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
We outfitted a commercial kitchen on a shoestring. A very thin shoestring. The key is to be flexible.

You said the footprint won't change, so you probably have a good idea of what the sizes and shapes are that you need. Go to a salvage yard -- you never know -- and see what they've got for cabinets, tiles and/or countertops. Another option is to contact countertop manufacturersand/or dealers in your area to see if they've got remnants or miscuts you can use. We got a gorgeous 4' x 5' granite countertop for $80 this way. They just polished the edges and delivered it.

We also have a Habitat for Humanity store where we live. We got a Hobart dishwasher there for $30 that runs like a champ. They have everything from toilets to cabinets to tiles to fixtures. Usually for a song.

Check to see if there is a cabinetmaking school near you (yes, they exist). Maybe you could be a class project.

You've got a concrete floor, huh? What about staining it? Is that an option?

As for hiring a professional, GET REFERENCES AND CHECK THEM. I can't stress that enough.
posted by Atom12 at 2:13 PM on September 27, 2005

I redid my kitchen completely about 3 years ago. I think your budget sounds OK. Ours was more like $20K but that included new drywall, electrical work, putting in a new sliding door where there used to be a wall, moving plumbing and lots of other stuff.

I got cabinets at Ikea. We had them installed, but like everything at Ikea, you could probably do it yourself. They're pretty simple to assemble. The bottom cabinets are easier and if that's all you're doing, it should be no problem since they just sit on legs on the floor and won't fall down if you screw them into the wall wrong. Home Depot cabinetry is fairly straightforward too for what I've seen.

Ikea also had countertops and sinks, as did Home Despot. Actually, they both had exactly the same countertop samples. They both use the same local subcontractors for all I know.

I'd suggest getting someone to install the countertop for you, since that's a bit tricky, but a basic formica countertop isn't expensive.

Once that's done, it's just the sink and appliance installation that's left and that's fairly easy. You could probably find a local handyperson/carpenter who could do all the installation for a pretty reasonable price. We had one guy who did it all, except for the cabinets and countertops and he could probably have done the cabinets too.

One thing I would suggest is that you paint everything before the cabinets go in. That way you don't have to worry about getting paint on your brand new cabinets! Are the walls OK? Do you have to replace the drywall behind the cabinets as well? If you have a little extra money, maybe plan on backsplash tile. It may sound fancy, but it looks nice and again, tile can be really cheap if you get the basic stuff.

As for the floor, there are lots of options, many of which are quite cheap. engineered hardwood laminates (like Pergo) can go over concrete without any worry. We went with tile. Again, look at a few places in town and you'll see tile with prices all over the place. You can find perfectly good tile for a reasonable price - don't feel compelled to buy the expensive stuff. Floor tile is all about the installation though - get someone who knows what they're doing. Our do-it-all guy, while nice, didn't do a perfect job. We have a few cracked tiles around the edge of the floor, which is not so cool.

To help with the budgeting, you might want to shop in "waves": go out, see what's out there and how much it costs. Once you've seen it all, then you can decide on whether you want to spend more on the cabinets versus more on a fancy flooring, etc. You may find one specific element that you love and want to spend more on, which is great, as long as you know you can go with cheaper tile, a plain cabinet, etc in exchange.

Lastly, don't completely rule out a little layout change. We have our washer & dryer in our new kitchen, which was very different than before. It has its plusses and minuses, but on the balance we quite like it. (We have under-the-counter euro-style machines)

After-lastly, we know people who have used second-hand kitchens. We removed an entire kitchen on our second floor and someone else took all the cabinets and redid their own kitchen with them (they were in great shape). I haven't seen it, but my wife has re-visited our old kitchen and says it looks great in the other house. So second-hand is definitely an option, though I think you can get new for $8K. But secondhand would leave a lot of money for something more enjoyable, like having dinner out.

Good luck!
posted by GuyZero at 2:28 PM on September 27, 2005

we blew a wall out on my kitchen redo some years ago and added a small breakfast bar - integrating our living/dining/kitchen rooms ... best part of the renovation by far.
posted by specialk420 at 2:47 PM on September 27, 2005

I am also contemplating some kitchen work on a new-to-me house. We priced out new cabinets at Home Depot and Lowe's; Lowe's came in somewhat cheaper, all-up. I've learned that the major cabinetry suppliers (Kitchen-made, Thomasville, whatever) give you a price per linear foot of cabinetry as a rough guide to how much their cabinets will cost; this seems to run $100-$200, depending on how fancy you want to get. That includes the base and wall cabinets, but not a countertop or installation (and I believe either HD or Lowe's will insist on installation as part of the deal).

Even if this is totally out of your price range, it would be educational to take copious measurements of your kitchen and then go to one of these places and price out a kitchen with one of their planners, because it'll give you a better idea what your options are, what you want/need/can find.

If you like maple butcher-block counters, you can get them in continuous lengths up to 10' ($462 at 10') from McMaster Carr for a fraction of what a kitchen-designer would sell them for. This is an option I'm seriously considering. You'd need to cut a hole for a sink, of course.
posted by adamrice at 4:17 PM on September 27, 2005

You can do it. We moved our kitchen to another room for that. We bought kit cabinets (Mills Pride from Home Depot, maple finish, very nice), watched the papers for fairly new used appliances, did most things ourselves and hired out the expert work. Email me if you like!
posted by LarryC at 4:51 PM on September 27, 2005

It really depends on the size of the kitchen, but $8000 seems reasonable for what you want to do.

We got American Woodmark cabinets through Home Depot (though not the bottom of the line Value Line ones) and they've turned out great. They are semi-custom (i.e. you don't just walk out of the store with them, you order them from their massive catalog of cabinets and accessories, and can customize dimensions of them to fit your kitchen) and not too expensive. We kept costs down by installing them ourselves, though it sounds like this may be out of your comfort level.

Laminate countertops are the budget option, and we resisted them at first, but we just didn't have the budget for granite, etc. But it turned out pretty well because laminate today doesn't have to be the ugly crap you've had in every rental place you ever lived. We got a bullnose front edge and a pattern that was stone-looking, and it worked out nicely. I think the installed cost for that was around $1200, but we have only a 120 sq. ft. kitchen.

You can get a sink and faucet for under $300 easily. Again, installing it yourself will save money, but if that's out of your range, install may run you another $300ish for a plumber.

Once you decide what you want, I would buy everything as soon as you can, so that you're not waiting around for one thing that's holding up the whole process (this is assuming you have a place to store everything.) Because being without a working kitchen is miserable, you want to minimize the downtime. We waited too long to get our countertop ordered, so it wasn't able to go in right after the cabinet install was done. Then the sink took a while to get after that, because it was a special order that we didn't order soon enough...
posted by pitchblende at 4:59 PM on September 27, 2005

Home Depot does NOT insist on installation as part of the deal. That's were we purchased our new cabinets and we installed them ourselves. The easiest way to save the hugest chunks of money is to do the work yourself. Other than plumbing, electrical and gas lines, the work is just labor with very little knowledge. I know because we did it. You just have to be willing to research each project.

When you order cabinets from Home Depot they will charge $100 to have a person come out and do the measurements before ordering (includes measurements for counter tops). The $100 is refundable towards paying labor to that person. If you don't use the person, you lose the $100. It's $100 well spent imho, since measurement is one thing you don't want to mess up on.

The person who measured for our cabinets messed up on one of them. We got an easy and free replacement. I don't think that would have happened if we'd done our own measuring.

Tile is easy to lay, very easy. Cutting it is not as easy, but it's also not hard to learn. Patience with yourself!

Installing cabinets only requires a drill and a level. I think you can operate both!

Counter tops - ease of install (meaning ease of cutting the sink hole) is determined by the type of material.

Home Depot and Lowes have classes. TV has real life fix-it shows. Internet has free how-to articles. I think you'll have a blast.
posted by LadyBonita at 5:00 PM on September 27, 2005

This months "Fine Homebuilding"magazine has a good article on hanging kitchen cabinets, worth at least a trip to the library and a dollars' worth of copy machine change. While you are there, browse/borrow a few kitchen books, it's easier to plan your work out before doing it.

I don't know what your old space was like, consider hiring an electrician to add wiring for under cabinet lighting and sockets if they aren't already there.

I like the Ikea cabinets, but might also consider freestanding "furniture" style storage. The only fixed pieces in my mom's kitchen are the sink, a cast iron stand alone with washboards on both sides, and shelves on two walls. She also has a "Hoosier kitchen", an old buffet/hutch she found at an estate sale for $100, and two roll-around carts she uses as a movable island. She uses her roll-around dishwasher as an appliance stand as well.

I see bunches of used cabinets on Ebay, you might want to search for the ones closest to you as shipping would be a monster.
posted by Marky at 8:09 PM on September 27, 2005

You may want to consider concrete countertops. There's a good site and book about them. Cheap, attractive, DIY-able (with strong friends if you don't cast in place).
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 8:42 PM on September 27, 2005

My father and I have been renovating his 41 year old house (that he's selling to me). The kitchen had original everything - cupboards, countertops, oven and stove. We gutted the room and changed the footprint, but we did almost all of the work ourselves.

The cabinets came from Lowe's - the Kraftmaid line in particular. They're very sturdy, look great and were mostly inexpensive. In order to save money, I ordered a Kraftmaid catalog and did the layout myself. The expensive part of cabinets is all the little doodads, like a wooden vent hood (which cost like $900, plus a motor for $400), cutlery trays, and end pieces. Explain to the layout person that you need to conserve funds and they'll work with you.

Installation is NOT included and Lowe's wanted $1500 to do ours. Dad said "no thanks" and we did it ourselves. If you pick up a comprehensive "how to" book (I got one from Home Depot for $20), it will give you instructions on how to install everything.

For countertops, do NOT go through Lowe's or Home Depot. Instead, check your local Better Business Bureau website and find countertop companies. I actually ended up contacting one that is the local subcontractor for Lowe's and found that if I cut out the middleman (Lowe's), it was lots cheaper. We ended up with Capri, which is a solid surface like Corian. I think we had 56 sq ft and it cost us right at $1,000. They cut out holes for the range and sink too.

You'd be surprised how simple many of these projects can be. I'm surprised how much I learned during the project, but at least I now know several new things.
posted by Serena at 8:48 PM on September 27, 2005

Best book to read if you can find it is Weimar's _Kitchen Redos, Revamps, Remodels, and Replacements Without Murder, Suicide, or Divorce_ which has alot of advice without the eye candy. It has in one place all the design ideas, theories, equipment and supply issues including how to deal with your contractor and rate of errors on the job. It made my kitchen remodel much less painful because it forced me to be brutally realistic.

A good website to get a lot of advice and hand holding is here and for the best on local contractors and reviews try Angie's List . Always have an eye for detail so you get what you want.

To save the maximum amount of money you have to devote a lot of time including previous advice such as, salvage yards, calling around and be aware that you can get the local Kraftmaid dealer to undercut Home Depot and Lowe's. I got custom cabinets which ended up being cheaper than Depot so don't exclude price checking from people because you think it is unaffordable - ask anyway. Also look for building suppliers who take care of the builder's market -- they are willing sell to the public which means you get builder quality and pricing.

Hope this helps.
posted by jadepearl at 9:39 PM on September 27, 2005 [1 favorite]

I assume the bottom cabinets are damaged beyond compare. However, could you consider replacing those and simply stripping the top cabinets? If you matched the wood, you would just need to replace the hardware and doors for the top. (Or maybe you could even keep the doors, if you like the style.) As others have noted, you can buy prefab cabinets at various stores.

If you are at all handy, you could make your own cabinet doors. My father made the doors for our cabinets when we renovated a condo. We stripped our cabinets, which were birch. He bought 3/4" birch laminate and cut to size. Then he applied stain and several coats of varnish (to protect against steam, water, etc.). We added new hardware and some modern knobs. All for under $300!

If you keep concrete on the floor, I highly recommend finding some way to make it anti-slip. Wet concrete is a hazard. You could probably lay stone tile yourselves. Given installation can be $3 - 6 per sqft, you can save a bundle.

The Globe and Mail's style newsletter had a review of a book called Dollar Store Decor today. You might want to go a little more upscale, but it may provide inspiration.
posted by acoutu at 10:29 PM on September 27, 2005

If you do go for new cabinetry, I strongly third Ikea. The quality of their cabinets is perfectly good, and much less expensive than Lowe's and HD, not to mention kitchen suppliers. And assembling them yourselves is straightforward, then work with an installer to keep costs down.

NB: Be very careful with your measurements before ordering components. If you buy from a full-service supplier, many will send a professional to measure, who can be good to bounce questions and suggestions off.
posted by rob511 at 3:49 AM on September 28, 2005

My parents redid their kitchen with an Ikea kitchen. They had friends help tear out the existing cupboards, and then my 5'6" cosmopolitan-drinking not-very-DIY stepmother put together and hung the new cabinets herself. Then professionals did the countertop and plumbing; electrical stayed as-is. Easily within your budget, AFAIK.
posted by mendel at 8:22 AM on September 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

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