10 Kitchen Remodel Ideas on a Budget

Transform your kitchen with projects that won't require you take out a loan or spend your entire savings.

U.S. News & World Report

10 Kitchen Remodel Ideas on a Budget

Modern interior. Spacious  kitchen  with white brick tile wall.

About one-fifth of of U.S. homeowners spend less than $5,000 on a home renovation, according to a Houzz study.(Getty Images)

Kitchen renovations can easily consume – and surpass – your budget. The median investment in a kitchen renovation reached $14,000 in 2018, according to the 2019 Houzz & Home study, a 27% increase from spending in 2017.

Not everyone has that kind of money to spend updating their kitchen, let alone other parts of their house. But there is good news: If you’re part of the 19% of U.S. homeowners spending less than $5,000 on a home renovation, according to the report, and you dedicate a majority of your budget to your kitchen, you can still make a difference.

Here are 10 ideas for remodeling your kitchen on a budget:

(Getty Images)

One of the simplest projects to transform any room is to change the paint color on the walls. If your kitchen is still rocking a 1990s look or has the all-white palette that's been popular in recent years, pick a new color to help update the space. Warm neutrals are always a safe option, but if you’re looking to break up a kitchen that’s all one color, introduce paint in a contrasting color.

Update Appliances

(Getty Images)

A new refrigerator or dishwasher can modernize a space and help it function more efficiently. “If your appliances are white – or they used to be white but now they’re taupe – you might want to think about spending your money there,” says Leneiva Head, owner of Welcome Home Realty, a real estate management company in Nashville, Tennessee.

Appliances can get pricey, but Head recommends visiting big-box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot, which offer kitchen appliances at a bundled price. Plus, if you visit on a holiday weekend, like Labor Day or Columbus Day, you may see those bundled appliances discounted even more.

Rather than having to shell out a lot of cash for new appliances right before selling your home, consider upgrading now since you know you plan to live in the house for a few more years, "and you’re still enjoying it,” says Mischa Fisher, chief economist for ANGI Homeservices.

Find Used or Overstock Appliances

(Getty Images)

You can also outfit your kitchen with appliances purchased at a discount on clearance, or you can buy slightly used pieces that will be new to you for much less than new versions.

Companies specializing in lightly used or dented appliances are often local ones, so it’s best to conduct an online search of potential resources in your area. For clearance items, check with brand manufacturer websites to see if they have outlet locations or a site that specializes in selling clearance pieces.

Paint or Reface the Cabinets

(Getty Images)

New custom cabinetry is often one of the biggest costs of a kitchen renovation. But when you’re working with a smaller budget, you can still achieve a whole new look for your cabinets. “Spruce up and refresh what you already have,” Head says.

In lieu of new cabinets, many homeowners opt to either reface their existing cabinets or paint them. Head says having the cabinets professionally painted can make the space look completely different, and you won't have to shell out more money for customized carpentry work.

Install a Backsplash

(Getty Images)

Installing or replacing backsplash in your kitchen can add new color and texture to the room at a low cost since it accounts for little square footage. You can cut the cost even more by limiting your backsplash to a smaller area, like the space over your stovetop, to create a focal point in the room.

If you’re looking to dip your toes into DIY renovations, “a backsplash is a relatively easy one,” says Mark Page, a construction estimator for Pro.com based in the greater Boston area.

Opt for Countertop Remnants

(Getty Images)

Countertop suppliers often have discounted materials that are leftovers from another homeowner's custom countertop design – whether they were broken in transport or have been scrapped for a different material. Buying from these suppliers can make new custom countertops far more affordable.

However, because the size of remnants and partial slabs were likely based on a different home renovation, there’s not a guarantee you’ll be able to outfit a large kitchen with lots of counter space with remnants.

Bring in More Light

(Getty Images)

An old kitchen will look even more dated if you don’t have enough lighting to help make the kitchen feel usable at all hours. Under-cabinet lighting, for example, can help illuminate meal prep when there’s not a lot of natural light, and lighting along the tops of cabinets can make the empty space feel more intentional.

Upgrade or Remove Doors

(Getty Images)

A kitchen that opens up to the living room or dining space is considered standard in many homes today, but the cost to remove walls – especially if they’re load-bearing – may be beyond your budget. You can still take a step in the right direction by getting rid of any outdated doors that stand between the kitchen and the rest of the house.

You can also make the kitchen feel a bit lighter by removing the doors from a few cabinets. Open shelving is popular in current kitchen designs, but it may not be feasible for homeowners with lots of mismatched dishes or overloaded glassware. By opening up just one or two cabinets, you can get a similar look without showing off your disorganized kitchen odds and ends.

Free up additional space by replacing a traditional pantry or kitchen closet door with a sliding barn door. The door doesn’t need to swing out, and the fresh design can make a big visual impact on the space.

Focus on Organizing

(Getty Images)

If your kitchen doesn’t require as much cosmetic updating, increase the utility of the space by focusing your small budget on organization. In-cabinet racks can keep pots and pans in order, separators can conquer the ever-messy junk drawer and attractive, matching containers can make items on the counter look more purposeful.

Keep an Eye on the Accents

(Getty Images)

A new granite countertop or floor can quickly eat up your budget, but you can make your kitchen feel new without changing out those big-ticket items.

If you have multicolored counters or tile flooring that you had previously tied in with the wall color or decorative accents, Head recommends picking a different color in that marbling to focus on. The new accent color will make the surface stand out in a different way. “That keeps you from having to spend money to change out your floor,” she says.

Take a look at your cabinet pulls as well, and consider switching them out for something new and trendy. Brushed nickel cabinet hardware – especially on freshly painted cabinets – can make the entire kitchen look like a new design.

Anticipated cost: Sets of brushed nickel cabinet hardware sell on Amazon for about $16 for 10 handles, or you can buy single pulls for as little as $1 in stores like Lowe’s and Ace Hardware.

Updated on Feb. 21, 2020: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

Wealth of Knowledge Podcast

Wealth of Knowledge is a weekly podcast featuring tips and expert insight on all things money: personal finance, careers, investing, real estate and more.

Wealth of Knowledge logo