Architectural Home Designs & Decorating Ideas

Unlock the Potential of Your Kitchen with a Cheap Remodel

Gabriela Connell
7 minute read

Want to give your outdated kitchen a fresh new look but don’t want to break the bank? With some creativity and smart planning, you can remodel your kitchen on a budget.

Focusing your makeover dollars on high visual impact changes can give you the beautiful kitchen of your dreams at a fraction of a full renovation cost. Keep reading for money-saving tips, before and after inspiration, and a complete overview of budget-friendly updates that make a big difference.

Determine Your Remodel Budget

For an inexpensive kitchen refresh, plan to budget $5,000-$15,000. This targeted approach focuses on one or two elements like cabinets, countertops, or flooring rather than a whole kitchen gut job.

Prioritize changes based on visual impact and cost-effectiveness. Allocate your budget to updates that will give you the most bang for your buck.

Set Spending Priorities

cheap kitchen remodel before and after

Consider the current state of your kitchen. Make a list of changes ranked by necessity and desired order of completion. This helps direct funds where they are most needed according to your goals.

For many homeowners, cabinets provide the biggest visual impact. Refinishing or replacing cabinet doors and hardware is a top priority. Countertops are another element that registers high on the visibility scale.

Fresh paint color instantly modernizes the space. Lighting and flooring updates also make a noticeable difference without breaking the bank.

Calculate Project Costs

Crunch the numbers for each desired update, including appliances, fixtures, finishes, and labor if not DIY. Research material costs. Estimate fees for professional installation. This gives you a realistic spending plan.

Factor in expenses like tools, shipping, disposal of old materials. Budgeting 10-20% over your estimates allows a buffer for unforeseen costs.

Focus your dollars where they will get you the most impressive transformations. With smart planning, you can renew your kitchen without tapping out your wallet.

Update Existing Cabinets

Replacing old kitchen cabinets with new custom versions can cost thousands of dollars. Consider refreshing what you have for a budget-friendly facelift.

Refurbish the Boxes

You can give worn cabinets a makeover without removing them. Degrease then sand to rough up the finish. Fill any holes or imperfections with wood filler. Apply primer then topcoat with cabinet-grade enamel paint.

Painting boxes, rails, and frames white or a light color helps old cabinets look fresh and new. Accent with bold island or wall cabinets.

Replace Doors and Hardware

Install new doors and drawer fronts to replace dated ones without replacing the whole cabinet box. This lets you change the look for a fraction of the cost.

Swap out old knobs and pulls with modern brushed nickel handles and hardware. Add trim molding for a built-in custom style.

Replacing doors yourself costs around $2,500 on average. Hiring a carpenter ranges $3,000-$8,000 depending on materials and labor involved.

Maximize Existing Storage

Work within your current layout but maximize function. Add roll-out shelves, lazy susans, and other organizational elements. Improve accessibility with pull-out cabinets.

Glass front doors on wall cabinets make contents visible. Open shelving offers handy display space.

Little upgrades make living with your existing cabinets more enjoyable while staying on budget.

New Countertop Options

Countertops take a beating and often show their age. The good news is you have budget-friendly options to give your counters a fresh new look.

Tile Countertops

Ceramic, porcelain or glass tile provides an easy upgrade. Use mosaic sheets or individual tiles. Consider borders and patterns. Tile costs less than slab materials.

Mix tiles with solid surface inserts around the sink for an eye-catching combo. Consider eco-friendly concrete leaf stamped tiles for a rustic vibe.

Reusable Alternatives

For a temporary makeover, coat existing laminate in concrete resurfacing material. Or cover counters with reusable alternatives like stained wood cutting boards, metal sheets, or tempered glass.

Thrifty solutions disguise worn counters when replacement isn’t in the budget. Protect new counters when funds become available.

Quartz and Solid Surface

While still an investment, materials like quartz and Corian cost less than natural stone. The man-made materials resist stains, scratches, and heat better than laminate.

Get the look of high-end counters for less with budget-friendly options. Estimate $40-$100 per square foot installed.

Fresh Paint Color Scheme

Nothing transforms a tired kitchen faster than new cabinet and wall paint colors. A fresh coat in a trendy hue rejuvenates the whole look of your cooking space.

Cabinet Paint Colors

Painting drab cabinets injects character and style. White, light gray, navy and sage green are popular cabinet colors. Choose a lighter tone to brighten and modernize.

Keep walls light. Accent with a colorful or metallic island for a striking focal point. Or use complementary two-tone cabinets.

Wall Colors

Paint walls a light neutral or soft color like almond, tan, light yellow or pale sage green. Keep things light and bright.

Bold accent walls in navy, emerald or brick red add drama. Consider two-tone walls with a chair rail divider.

Ceiling and Trim

Painting the ceiling a lighter color than walls adds height and a spacious feel. Replace wood trim with bright white for crisp contrast.

Crisp white trim framed by updated wall/cabinet colors keeps things fresh. Paint is an affordable kitchen refresher.

Update Lighting Fixtures

Improving the lighting instantly modernizes a dated kitchen. The right lighting illuminates while setting the mood.

Task Lighting

Update undershelf lighting to properly illuminate countertop tasks. Look for slim LED strips or pucks. Install dimmers for ambiance control.

Recessed ceiling cans focus light on cooking areas. Islands benefit from pendant lights or mini-chandeliers.

Accent Lighting

Use track lighting or directional fixtures to spotlight display areas or accent architectural details. Wall sconces flank a decorative hood.

Ambient lighting like mini-pendants over a dining table provides overall illumination on a budget.

DIY vs Professional

Swapping out old pendants, flush mounts or overhead fixtures is an easy DIY if wiring allows. Installing new circuits or cans requires an electrician.

Updating built-in lighting costs around $125 per fixture. Pendant lights start at $100. Compare DIY to pro installer costs.

Update Flooring

Nothing updates a kitchen faster than new flooring. Materials like vinyl, laminate and tile offer beauty and durability on a budget.

Luxury Vinyl Plank

Luxury vinyl plank flooring mimics hardwood looks for less cost. Waterproof construction makes it highly durable. Easy DIY installation saves on labor fees.

LVP costs $3-$8 per square foot. A 12×12 kitchen costs around $1,000 plus moldings and labor if pro-installed.

Sheet Vinyl

For even bigger savings, opt for sheet vinyl flooring. At $2-$4 per square foot installed, it costs half of LVP. Super easy DIY install.

Look for stone and wood looks incorporated in the sheet for a clean, seamless appearance. An affordable flooring update.

Tile Floors

Ceramic, porcelain or mosaic sheet tile make a stylish impact. Use large tiles with slim grout lines for a modern look that’s easy to clean.

Estimate material cost at $5-$15 per square foot. Look for DIY-friendly tiles that don’t require specialized cuts.

Replace Appliances

Replacing all major appliances at once busts a remodeling budget. Consider updating them one at a time as funds allow.

Shop Strategically

Watch for sales on individual appliances or bundled packages. Check outlet and clearance for discounted scratch and dent models. Plan purchases around seasonal sales.

Shop warehouse or discount retailers for budget brands. Take advantage of tax-free weekends. Set deal alerts for price drops.

Set Priorities

List appliances by order of necessity. Replace the problem child first, then upgrade others over time. Buy trios like fridge, range, dishwasher for a cohesive look.

If your layout allows, consider downsizing. Apartment-size fridges, ranges and dishwashers cost less. Portable dishwashers attach to sink.

Cost Comparison

Expect to spend $700-$1,200 on a basic refrigerator, $500-$1,000 for a freestanding range, $300-$1,000 on a dishwasher. Compare brands, features and prices.

Look for energy rebates and incentives. Balance features with your budget for the best value.

Finishing Touches

After big upgrades, don’t forget the finishing touches that add polish. Small details make a kitchen feel pulled together.

Sink and Faucet

A new sink and faucet instantly update kitchen style. Add interest with an apron-front or farmhouse sink. Choose a high-arc faucet in brushed nickel or black.

Kits including sink and faucet start around $300. DIY install saves on plumber fees.


Protect walls while adding visual interest with backsplash tile. Peel-and-stick tile offers easy application. Use removable wallpaper for renters.

Frame the range area with an eye-catching backsplash focal point. Cost for materials plus labor if pro-installed.

Display Upgrades

Open shelving provides handy display space in place of upper cabinets. Floating shelves let you highlight decor.

Curtains, valances add warmth, color and texture. Update knobs and pulls throughout for finished style.

Display upgrades customize the space and optimize storage with savvy organization solutions.

Before and After Inspiration

Seeing the dramatic transformations possible on a limited budget provides motivation and ideas. Here are some real-life examples of stunning inexpensive kitchen makeovers.

Big Impact Small Budget

This dated 1990s kitchen was given a whole new look with just paint, new hardware and a tile backsplash for under $2,000. Open shelving increased display space.

The homeowner refreshed cabinets with paint and switched hardware. A subway tile backsplash added eye-catching contrast. New lighting fixtures and trim completed the mini-makeover.

Creative Solutions

Laminate counters were updated using wooden cutting boards as inexpensive “countertops” paired with bright walls and pendant lights. Total spent: $350.

Sometimes small out-of-the-box ideas make a memorable statement. Work within your existing framework for a budget win.

You can transform the heart of your home without transforming your bank account balance. Focus your budget on elements with maximum visual impact.

Paint, lighting, counters and backsplash makeover kitchen style for little cost. Strategic upgrades give you an updated cooking space to enjoy.

With smart planning and creative solutions, you can remodel your outdated kitchen on a budget. Use these affordable ideas for a beautiful new look for less.