Introduction: Kitchen Renovation on a Budget

Well, my wife and I bought a house, and the kitchen needed to be brought out of the 80's and into the 21st century, but we didn't have $10-15k to spend on a pro to do it. This is our attempt at getting the best we could with about $2000-3000! It helps to have the right tools, but you can probably do it with less than I have. You will definitely need some woodworking skills, and lots of patience. This project has it all, woodworking, tiling, painting, plumbing, electrical, pretty much every type of home improvement. Google is your friend, I'm a self taught dude!

Enjoy the pics, and hopefully it inspires you too!

Step 1: Before Pictures and Planning

Here are the before pictures, as the house was when we moved in. As far as planning was concerned, we were very flexible on many things, we were just going for the minimum amount of cost...trying to keep it all under $2000 (not including appliances). We ended up getting a new stove, and a new dishwasher, but both of those combined were about $1200. We liked our fridge, so we kept was pretty new.

By the end, we had lost track of the money, but we can guess it was about $2000-2500 plus appliances.

To keep costs down, I did as much shopping as I could online, we re-used some old things (like the kitchen faucet and the cabinets), and I did all the labor myself. We also were patient, waited on sales, and I was able to use the 10% military at Home Depot (but not on everything). It took about 6 months from start to finish.

We really liked the country theme, which you will see in coming pictures.

Step 2: Tools and Supplies (a Very General List)

Tools I used:

Router with various bits

Oscillating multi-tool

Circular saw

Miter saw

Palm sander

Hand tile cutter






Paint brushes, tape etc.

Paint sprayer (loaned by my brother in law - not necessary, but REALLY nice)

Supplies and where to find them:

Backsplash tiles (discount building supply or home depot)

Thin set, grout, sponges, tile spacers etc...(home depot)

Wood counter (lumber liquidators)

Stain, polycrylic (home depot)

Paint and primer for cabinets (sherwin williams)

Paint for rest of walls (home depot)


Drawer slides if you want to replace the current ones (home depot)

Sink (amazon)

Plumbing stuff, like drains and pipes (amazon or home depot)

Disposal (amazon)

Step 3: Where to Begin??? Modify the Cabinets and Get New Appliances!

I planned and planned and planned...this was our kitchen we needed every single day while I did the reno! So I had to be careful about when and how I did each step so that we had a functional kitchen for dinner each night!

We actually started by getting a new stove. We wanted a regular one, with controls on the back so the kids couldn't mess with it. So I started there, and had to perform surgery on the current counters as the old stove was a different type. Luckily formica is really easy to cut, and I was removing it, so the cut didn't have to be perfect.

I also took out the vent hood, and put in a new microwave over the stove. Again, had to modify the cabinets to make that fit nicely. Thankfully the width was a standard size for microwaves.

Next, the old microwave hole in the corner had to go. The "abyss" as we called it, wasn't going to be useful at all. I carefully cut it out, and raised it about a foot, creating a new little cubby, now the "bread box". This also allowed us useful access to the corner counter back there.

Finally, we wanted to do something with the wall behind the sink. We do quite a few dishes by hand, and I thought "why not put the dish drying rack right there above the sink?" There's no window to look outside, and it's such a huge space above the sink. A little non-standard, but we love it!

Step 4: Choosing Paint and Then Painting

To save LOTS of money, we repainted the cabinets. They were good solid oak cabinets, good bones, so no real reason to change them out. This paint is totally different than the paint on the walls.

My brother in law is a contractor, and recommended this stuff by sherwin williams. "Pro Classic Waterbased Acrylic-Alkyd". It's VERY expensive if you buy full price (like $80/gallon), so wait until they have a 30% or 40% sale going which is every other month. Theres a primer that goes with it, again just wait for it to go on sale. I think we ended up using about 3 gallons for everything inside and out 2 coats (not including 1 coat primer)

This stuff goes on like oil based, but cleans up with soap and water, and is VERY durable. Finishes like glass. Prep is everything! Get this stuff called "TSP" at home depot. It comes in a cardboard box, and is a powder. Follow the directions, and it will clean your current cabinets like new! It's specifically meant for paint prep - gets off old oily gunk. Don't forget to sand everywhere to rough up the surface, then wipe clean - preferably with a tack cloth.

Take your time. This process took the longest out of anything else in the kitchen. I did the uppers while the family was gone for a few days, waited a couple of weeks, and then did the lowers with my wife's help.

Step 5: Countertop and Sink

Again, with budget in mind, we went for wood counters. I'm a woodworker, and we wanted a rustic/country feel to the kitchen, so it was really a win-win because wood was the cheapest, gave us the look we wanted, and I'd be able to install it myself. Lumber liquidators had the best price for pre-made slabs. All I had to do was cut the slab, cut the hole for the sink, and deal with the 2 joints. All in all, I think the raw counters were $800. Again, we got the cheapest, oak. Other grain woods will cost more. We needed two 8 ft sections, and one 6 foot peninsula. The larger peninsula top was sold as an "island top" if you are searching.

Now, we had to buy the sink comes amazon to the rescue! Found a really nice undermount for about $150. Also bought the plumbing parts there too - look up "snappy trap" - totally worth it. Also on amazon - got the garbage disposal - "waste king". All the sink stuff was about $300-400 - we re-used the faucet from before.

Back to the counters. I measured about 12 times for the location of this sink (don't forget about the faucet hole too), because there's no turning back once the hole is cut. Thankfully it worked out nicely. For the two joints, I used a biscuit joiner, combined with pocket screws, and quality wood glue. Worked out perfectly.

We had to wait for the peninsula top on backorder. I was able to leave the old formica in place for that section, but still installed the rest of the counter and sink, so we still had a nice functioning kitchen. The front edge was routed with a standard round over bit, and the sink with a smaller diameter round over - nothing fancy

I stained it with regular minwax stain, and then put literally 5 coats of clear - "polycrylic" Read the directions - it doesn't behave quite like normal polyurethane. It won't fade, and cleans up with water. No smell either. Dries to crystal clear. It's been installed for about 6 months now, and it's holding really well. I've never put any hot stuff directly on it, at it does scratch if you drag something sharp across it, but we've adjusted well, and I'd say it's really durable. The only drawback...if you leave standing water on it (like overnight), it will eat through the finish. We went with this stuff so that every couple of years, the upkeep would be just to sand and recoat the top. We didn't do mineral oil like most wood tops because we didn't care about using it as a cutting board (food grade), and also wanted to be able to disinfect it effectively with a clorox wipe.

Step 6: Electrical

Sorry, not really any pics to add here. I moved one outlet, installed all new tamper resistant GFCI where needed, and changed the switches out as appropriate to make all three entrances to our kitchen have a switch to control the overhead lights. Lastly, we put in undermount and over-mount cabinet lighting. The wiring was mostly already there, but we put in peel-and-stick LED strip lights. VERY nice. And cheap. Found em on amazon for about 10 bucks a roll - and supposedly they last several years.

Step 7: Backsplash

Thankfully, we have a local store that sells building materials at a super cheap price - over stocks from local business or contractors. The stock is constantly changing, but we had been frequenting it because of the renovation, in case anything came in that we liked. We hit the jackpot! I happened to find these glass tiles that were on liquidation sale for $5 a BOX. Not a sheet, but a box (25 squares per box). So I got 4 boxes, (way too many in hindsight), and was able to use them in combination with some normal white ceramic tiles to give a decent looking backsplash. Everything including the mortar and grout was about $75. Probably the best buy of the whole project. Hopefully you have a store like we do.

Now, this was my first tile job ever, and I definitely screwed some stuff up, but I think I was able to hide most of it. Some of the grout lines were a lot wider than I wanted, in particular close to the cabinets, and I should have rented a tile saw to cut some of the edges, but I made it work. To the non-pro, it looks fine. White grout with white cabinets and white caulking makes it all blend together nicely.

A note about the outlets. We changed all the outlets to new ones. In the process I put in GFCI where required. If you are adding a tile backsplash, you will need "outlet spacers" to bump out the plug from it's current electrical box. This will make it flush with the new tile wall you just put in. They are a few bucks in the electrical aisle.

For the transition from the tile to the wood counter, I bought a 1x2 strip of oak at home depot, and scribed it to fit nicely between the bottom row of tiles and the counter. Came out really well.

Step 8: The Transformer Cabinet

I really hated the weird desk thing next to the fridge, so I decided to build something from scratch to fit there. We also really didn't want a tiny trash bin under the sink, so I made a trash and recycling cabinet. Start to finish was about $150. I had some leftover wood counter from the other side, and at the same building materials place that we got the tiles I was able to find cabinet doors that matched and fit. Yes, it's a junk collector, but at least it's somewhat organized and now functional with the trash under it.

A final touch, it's also a USB charging station! We splurged on some USB plugs, and I added a double plug where there was only 1 before. Best purchase ever. Now we never have to hunt for the charging bricks.

Transformer for sure!

Step 9: Entryway Cubbies and Shoe Bench

We considered this part of our kitchen a little out of place. It's obviously for a table and chairs, but we already have a dining room, and a peninsula breakfast nook to sit and eat right in the kitchen. It's right by the door to the garage, so I thought "why not put a bench and some cubbies for all 1000 pairs of shoes in our house?" Excellent storage.

So, instead of just one, I built 2...

One is built in, the other in front of the window, is actually moveable in case we change our minds later. Came out great!

Step 10: Finished Pictures, and Final Thoughts

What a change!

It took roughly 6 months, and it was practically a one man show, with the exception of about 3/4 the painting done by my wife. Some of that time, I did take off from work, but the majority was done one weekend at a time or at night after work.

Lessons learned: I royally screwed up some of the grouting - worked too large of an area at one time, and didn't remove the excess in time before it dried. It was so bad that I had to come back with a wire brush and scrape off the excess to make it look ok. Also, buy/rent a tile saw and cut your tiles exactly. I was lazy and it shows on some of the joints. I hid them well, the average eye will never see them, but do yourself a favor and rent the tool.

Absolutely buy an oscillating multi tool if you need to cut any cabinets in place. What a life saver.

We absolutely love our renovation and hope it lasts for years to come!