Kitchen renovations are expensive (the average upscale kitchen renovation cost tops $80K!). However, they don’t have to be, with a little DIY effort, planning, and thinking outside of the box. The following story shares how I was able to complete a major kitchen renovation (with high quality materials) for just over $3K!
It all started with a little drip.
My kitchen faucet had started rusting through on a key welding point. The result was a tiny slow leak that would occasionally get big enough to start puddling on to my cheap (and inherited) laminate countertop and seep in at a key seam point. From there, the water was weakening the glue bond and causing the laminate to bubble up in spots. I was done with it.
At this point, I knew that the faucet and countertop needed some changing up. However, when you change a countertop, you also need to change the backsplash (due to the height of the new counter being different. Mine was very outdated and ugly, so this fact did not sadden me.
Meanwhile, a few of my appliances were on their last breath, as they were all nearing the 20-year mark. They were inefficient in their use of energy and had definitely seen much better days. And the mix of black, white, and wear did not match anything else in the kitchen. Normally, I’d be willing to overlook this, but in light of the other deficiencies, it was time for some updating.
To top it all off, my stainless sink was a small, loud, cheap, and scratched-up contractor grade sink, with very little depth for holding and washing dirty kitchenware.
I wish I would have taken a more expansive photo, but here’s a “before” photograph (post backsplash tear-down):
Luckily, my cabinets had always been the bright spot of the kitchen, as you can probably see from the photo. They were custom built, from scratch, by the previous homeowner and have a rustic, natural look, which we like. They could use a bit of resurfacing in areas, but they weren’t going anywhere. After hearing how new cabinets can cost in the upwards of TENS OF THOUSANDS, we were feeling very lucky.
All things considered, it was time for a kitchen renovation!
We set out with the following five goals in mind:
- Minimal cost, without sacrificing quality.
- As much DIY as possible to save money and learn.
- No waste. We didn’t want anything to end up in the landfill.
- A look and functional utility that we’d be happy with for many years to come (and would be looked at as an asset by any potential homebuyer, should we move at some point).
How did do? Here’s a deeper look at each purchase.
We knew this would be our biggest expense and have the highest impact. Given the rustic pine look, we couldn’t go with a wood countertop. Both wood and tile are high maintenance as well. That left us with stone, which is low maintenance, looks great, and is the desirable standard for homebuyers.
Unfortunately, stone is not cheap. After a lot of research, we decided to go with a crushed quartz countertop over granite due to its durability and finish. After looking around, we noticed that one particular style (Viatera Kilauea) at Home Depot that we liked would often go on sale (10% off). On top of that, we also noticed that Home Depot runs “10% off installations” once every 6 weeks or so and it could be stacked on top of any individual style discounts. So we waited… and ended up saving 20% off of full price.
Additionally, we declined removal of the old countertop (we tore it off ourselves) and an undermount sink installation (opting for an over-mount), saving us $500. We put the old counter on Craigslist, listed for free, and within a few days it was picked up. Landfill avoided.
An interesting note to anyone thinking of granite – the installers said they would personally go with quartz over granite any day of the week, because of its added durability – they had seen way to many granite counters break.
Total cost for 36 square feet installed (20% off, plus sales tax) = $1,978.
We decided to go with a crushed composite granite sink, because they don’t scratch and aren’t loud – and we love it. We elected to do an over-mount, which saved us $260 on installation from Home Depot. We went with a Swanstone double bowl on Amazon because it had a perfect 5-star rating and it was 10 inches deep on the large side (for large pots/pans), with a functional lowered partition.
I was able to sell the old sink on Craigslist for $25.
We also re-plumbed the sink and saved about $150 on installation.
Total cost (49% off msrp) = $256
We wanted a stainless steel faucet for their reliability and to have a nice contrast with the black granite sink. We liked the price, functionality, and lifetime warranty (after the failure of our previous faucet) on the Pfister Pfirst Series.
We recycled the old faucet.
Total cost (42% off msrp): $94 (free with gift cards)
Long story short (I previously highlighted 10 appliance shopping tips and where to find the best appliance deals and get at least 25% off EVERY TIME) – we ended up going with highly rated, yet low cost Whirlpool appliances, all from Sears. This was after much shopping around and Craigslist scouring.
All appliances were stainless steel (the fridge was faux stainless) and the dishwasher and fridge were extremely high efficiency and Energy Star (microwaves and ovens are not rated by Energy Star).
Additionally, I was able to sell each of my old appliances on Craigslist for the following:
- dishwasher: $35
- microwave: $35
- refrigerator: $150
- stove: $160
- total: $380
This was very satisfying.
Here is what we ended up paying for each (including tax and free delivery) of the new appliances:
- dishwasher: $290 (regularly $480)
- microwave: $208 (regularly $259)
- refrigerator: $665 (regularly $900)
- stove: $375 (regularly $729)
- total: $1,538 (regularly $2,368) – 35% off!
Considering many newer stainless refrigerators cost $1,500 on their own, I was extremely pleased with the total cost and quality. And when you factor in the $380 I got for my old appliances, my total net cost for 4 new, efficient, stainless appliances was just $1,158!
We self-installed each appliance, which was a learning experience and saved us a few hundred dollars.
Update: unfortunately, our dishwasher already died, so I purchased a replacement at Costco, because the Costco appliance warranty can 4X the manufacturer’s warranty.
The final and most component of the renovation was the backsplash. Many installers charge upwards of $40/sq. foot (!) for backsplash tiling which means you better damn well learn to tile for yourself! We had never done any prior tile work, so this was a great learning experience.
We wanted a 3″ x 6″ subway-style tile. Unfortunately, outside of pricey $10/sq. foot stone tile, nobody makes anything but solid white and black subway tiles. So… we decided to buy 12″ x 12″ ceramic tile and make cuts, with each producing 8 tiles. This had the dual benefit of not only giving us much more variety in choice of tile, but also massive cost savings – at just $0.79/sq. foot! And as you can see, via the photo to the right, we got a stone look with a printed ceramic for about 1/15th the price of stone tile.
We first rented a wet saw from Home Depot to do all of the cutting. Big mistake. Ours was not making straight cuts and it was nearly impossible to guarantee each cut piece was close to identical in size, so we returned it and got a refund. Then, I ended up purchasing a tile cutter and the cuts were near perfect every time. And now I can use the cutter for all future jobs.
Total cost for the cutter + 3 boxes of tile + grout + tools = $140
The End Result:
How did we do against all of our goals?
- Minimal cost, without sacrificing quality. Massive success. We love the quality and not many kitchen renovations can be done with all new materials for a net of $3,329, subtracting what we were able to sell. The total cost on product at full price was $5,806. Additionally, we saved about $2,000 by opting for DIY versus having all the work outsourced.
- As much DIY as possible to save money and learn. Achieved. We were DIY on everything we could have been: tear-down, sink, faucet, plumbing, appliance hookup, and backsplash.
- No waste. We didn’t want anything to end up in the landfill. Huge success! Outside of a few broken tiles, literally nothing ended up in a landfill. Everything was donated, sold, or recycled.
- A look and functional utility that we’d be happy with for many years to come (and would be looked at as an asset by any potential homebuyer, should we move at some point). Mostly successful. We don’t have the most modernized, high-end kitchen, but I don’t think many buyers at our home price point are going to find a much nicer kitchen. Granted, the cabinetry gives it a very rustic look, which is not everyone’s cup of tea.
- Efficiency. We were efficient where we could be: dishwasher, refrigerator, and low-flow faucet.
And here’s the end result:
Not bad at all!
Have you renovated your kitchen? What was the cost and lessons you learned? Share your story and link to project photos in the comments.