Practically everyone taking on a kitchen remodel is fettered by the ‘b’ word–budget. While the National Association of Realtors puts a budget remodel at around $15,000, a mid-range remodel at $40,000 and a high end at $80,000 and over, those numbers seem kind of outdated and low to me. Another take on how to estimate your kitchen remodel budget is to not spend more than 10-15% of the value of your home. With dropping house prices, that may not leave you with much spending power.

Our remodel, which I considered upper mid-range, set us back 33% the value of our home. Although compromises were made on certain aesthetic considerations, I definitely feel I got a lot of kitchen bang for our borrowed bucks. The first step in figuring out your kitchen budget truly relies on figuring out what you are going to use your kitchen for. Seriously.


Ask yourself these questions:

Do I cook? Some people just want a space that will look good. Others see the kitchen as a workhorse. The answer to this question will help you prioritize your needs and evaluate what materials will work for you. There are many great looking options on cabinets and appliances that won’t break the bank. However, if durability is important to you because you are a water sloshing slob like myself, you may be guided towards products due to their quality, even if they lack that certain designy je nes se quois.

What about my current kitchen works or does not work for me? A real money saver is sticking with the same footprint. This means keeping the plumbing, electric and gas lines in place. Some kitchens are functional but just ugly. But some need a total gut job and a layout overhaul. This involves real labor, sometimes even an engineer if you plan on moving supporting walls. 

Does my plan fit with my neighborhood? Personally, I didn’t even bother with this question because I so new what I required to make my kitchen function for me and my family. And those requirements were more like “surpassing the Joneses” than keeping up with them. But for the general citizen, it is not an unwise consideration. If you drop $60k on a kitchen in a neighborhood where the houses are selling for $115,000, you should at least do it knowing that this is a lifestyle upgrade, but not an investment. You will not get that money back should you sell your house 

How long do you plan to live in your house? Of Mice and Men and all that stuff aside, do you plan on this being your forever house or is it a starter home that you predict you and your family will shortly outgrow? So far we have had two forever houses. The first one we dropped way too much money on the kitchen and will be lucky just to even back what we paid for the house. Oh, the pain. We spent double on our latest forever house’s kitchen remodel and, despite a bunch of unforeseen financial setbacks, don’t regret it one bit.

Where is your financing coming from? We took out a HELOC for our remodel and a week into the project I learned I was pregnant. And not be working that full time job to pay off the HELOC. Back-up plan? We are still working on it. In this economy, credit is harder to come by, home equity is often in the negative and jobs–well, you are lucky if you have one. So whatever you decide your budget is and where your funding is coming from, I recommend a Plan B. And don’t forget that most remodels tend to slide 10% over the projected budget once the things get underway.



There are other ways, besides sticking to the same footprint, to keep your remodeling costs down.

1) DIY the job. Seriously, I only recommend this to people with skills. In our case, if we DIY’ed, we would have definitely been the misers paying twice.

2) Act as your own contractor. This is an excellent tip and will save you at least 20% on the cost of your remodel. The only headache is that you actually have to be on top of things and talk to the workers. It may not  work for you if someone in your house is not a stay-at-homer, but if you do have someone at home, there is no reason that person cannot schedule and oversee stuff.

3) Price the internet. Okay. I say this with a heavy heart because I definitely feel that supporting local small businesses, even giving your business to the big box store in your hometown, is a good thing. But we’re talking your money here and, well, sometimes you just really need to stretch it. The internet is the easiest way to price compare and you will find good deals. And you can always see if your local store can match the prices.      

4) Prioritize. Ask yourself what are your “must haves.” My sinks, faucets and countertops were not negotiable. I had to have them in order for the kitchen to work for me. My big compromises that actually came without any pain, were:

*lighting (didn’t get the totally hot looking Hudson Valley fixtures I coveted)

*tile (lots of tile in my kitchen but it is bottom line the cheapest stuff you can get)

*mixed stained with painted cabs (I’ve been totally sucked into the white kitchen craze but went for a stained island to save bucks)

*door style (the door style I went with is 5 piece raised panel, half inch overlay. Totally unfashionable but was very affordable. I made the choice between fancy door style and painted cabs and don’t regret it. The color is what you really notice)

*open shelving (instead of more uppers)

*two 30″ ranges instead of one 60″ (and a brand that is great quality but not high status).

5) Be ready to buy! I got an astonishingly good deal on my marble countertops. Not too-good-to-be-true good, but realistically good. I had spoken with the owner of the company a few times over the phone during the year, knew business must have been slow for him when we talked, made him an offer that he accepted if I was willing to put a deposit down *right away.* Quick phone call to the husband and we had a marble contract!

6) Do your homework. Everyone has easy access to the same information on the internet. Research what you are buying. Read product reviews, pros and cons, online merchant reviews. Be informed so that when the time comes to snatch up a good deal, be it an advertised sale or an offer you make to the store manager, you can do so with no regrets.

7) Get your bargain on. Nothing wrong with scratch n’ dent, closeouts or refurbished when it comes to appliances. Our dishwasher was on clearance at Lowe’s (supposedly it has a scratch that we have yet to locate). And our hood was thousands of dollars less than hoods with comparable cfm’s because it was discontinued by the manufacturer. Great deals.


The next few posts coming from me will indulge your sense of style and penchant for thrift. I’ll be using the Akurum Ikea cabinet system as a starting point for designing kitchens that appeal to a variety of budgets while embracing different design trends. By pairing Ikea’s cabinets with different details–such as quality lighting, Horton Brasses line of kitchen hardware and interesting textiles, I’ll put together and share kitchen design ideas that are replicable and affordable while elevating the Ikea kitchen from the predictable styling of the catalog to something you can imagine matching the quality of your home.

Until the next post, check out Jen @ Magic City Modern’s kitchen remodel and just try to tell me that you knew the cabinets were Ikea. I dare you. They really personalized the space with their choices, keeping the old brick tile floor and mixing in higher end elements, like that mosaic backsplash and KitchenAid appliances. The whole shebang was DIY’ed, following the original footprint, for under $15k. The end result reflected the essence of  this Eichler influenced Better Homes and Gardens house better than the original kitchen.


My friends Kera and Chris also Ikea’ed their kitchen and were very pleased with the results. They chose to splurge on new appliances, quartz countertops, refinishing their wood floors and a way fabulous, pricy recycled backsplash from Hakatai tile. Kudos for their green choices and living within their means!


So bookmark the Horton Brasses blog, because lots of colorful, designy fun is soon to hit these pages!


  1. MLC says:

    Great post, very informative!

    I’m with you on the internet vs local business conundrum–I found in our remodel that I was able to stay local and competitively priced with appliances (but just barely–they technically made a delivery exception for me), a cabinetmaker, countertops, flooring, and obviously labor.

    It was the little details that sent me online; being 3 hours away from the nearest big city, I really had no great options for things like cabinet hardware, faucets, and lighting. The internet opened up a whole host of options I never would have seen otherwise, and of course as a research tool it is also invaluable.

    Looking forward to your future posts!


  2. Barry N. says:

    Really interesting and empowering article. Love the writers way of drawing our attention to all the things that could be overlooked. I surfed in here but will be bookmarking site. Really informative article. My new kitchen will be great.


  3. Cristina says:

    I love cooking but am not in any sense a designer. I’m also quite indecisive so reading more about kitchen remodels is helping me get a better idea of what is out there and what I might like. All I know is that I don’t like plastic so I think Horton’s Brasses is a good place to check out 🙂


  4. KGD says:

    Great advice for those doing a kitchen remodel mostly on their own. I particularly like the mention of Ikea cabinets – their kitchen cabinetry is stylish and good quality. Saving money on cabinets can definitely loosen up your budget for other more expensive items.


  5. John says:

    A very informative, practical and to-the-point article on something many home owners will do someday: remodel their kitchen on a budget. Love the older photos (really adds class) and the way the writer uses phrases like: ” the ‘B’ word” and “kitchen bang for our borrowed bucks”. The financing information regarding the “back-up plan” is very much appreciated and the use of the internet certainly is a valuable source for research. Since I’m always on the bargain hunt, all the larger stores (Lowes, Home Depot, etc) always have many great selections of discontinued or damages applications sitting in the rear of the store.
    Whenever I buy anything for the kitchen, one of the first things I look for is “how cleaning friendly is the product?” That’s anything from a counter top to a simple kitchen utensil to a door knob. If it can’t be thoroughly cleaned simply, then bacteria sets in. It has been said that the kitchen is dirtier than the bathroom. It would be nice to see more information regarding this subject.
    Please keep these wonderful informative/inspiring articles coming. Thanks a lot and happy shopping.


  6. Jen says:

    That’s my kitchen! We planned for more than a year and bought sale items as we went along (open box sink, returned dishwasher, 40% off annual sale on backsplash tile, etc.). We had planned on IKEA cabinets all along so that we could upgrade in other areas, like the backsplash and quartz counters. Thanks for the shout out, and I hope we’re able to provide encouragement to other budget-minded kitchen renovators!


  7. deva says:

    Jen–meant to tell you that I was blogging your kitchen. Definitely a great reference for people remodeling on a budget. Your kitchen looks glam!


  8. Antony Brennan says:

    This is great information re the “B” word, that seems to be an area of renovation that most don’t risk manage well enough. This blog is almost a budget checklist. Maybe that plan to renovate from 10 years ago is still around here somewhere


  9. KML says:

    Your kitchen remodel is great. I love the tiles you refer to that are made from recycled material! Great tips to save money without giving up style, I’m always looking for ideas! Thanks!


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