10 Tips for a Budget-Smart Kitchen Remodel
A dogged DIYer shares ideas for where to save when taking on a kitchen renovation project.
A few months ago, on FHB podcast episode 180, we touched on the topic of budget-friendly kitchen remodeling ideas. In response, we heard from listener Brent Dallimore, who is a project planner for commercial, institutional, and building-renewal projects in Canada—and an avid DIYer with a few solid kitchen remodels to his credit. He shared some great tips that I wanted to pass along, so I invited Brent to contribute the following guest post.
I have no formal training as a builder but I have learned, via osmosis—starting at the age of six, when my parents built their first house. I have a bit of experience with keeping the costs down on a kitchen remodel, as I have hacked my way through two apartment kitchen projects. (The first place was so bad the dishwasher caught fire when the inspector turned it on!) Both projects cost around $15,000 CAD (or about $13,000 USD). Given I am an engineer, it’s fair to say I overanalyzed the costs. Here are some takeaway lessons I learned for saving money:
1.) Tally costs. It sounds geeky but without keeping track of the costs—preferably on a spreadsheet—of your different options, you won’t know where you are spending or where you could save. Scrutinize the big-ticket items first, and then work your way through to the less expensive things.
2.) Buy standard-size appliances. You won’t be able to find as many deals if you need a 27-in. refrigerator. (And don’t forget about the option of buying a floor model.)
3.) Stick with a basic range. Going for a slide-in range with a downdraft or a separate cooktop and in-wall oven will add thousands.
4.) Keep things out of the island. Resist the temptation to put the sink or range in the island. The ventilation, electrical, and plumbing costs will explode. (If the electrical inspector tells you to put an outlet in, put the island on wheels.)
5.) Consider wood countertops. You can replace the wood countertops eight times before you’ll hit the cost of quartz countertops. The wood holds up pretty well and it acquires character over time.
6.) Install a full-depth sink. Find an inexpensive farmhouse sink that goes the full depth of the counter. You can save a few hundred bucks on countertops and the install is super easy.
7.) Go with IKEA cabinets. The next cheapest option is a minimum of 50% more. The hardware is great, the boxes are fine, and they come with a warranty. If you want to step it up, you can order custom fronts. Also, keep the number of drawers to a minimum and consider open shelving.
8.) Don’t go bonkers with finishes. Pay attention to the costs of tile—the difference between the high and low end can be as much as 10x, and you can make the cheaper stuff look good if you are creative.
9.) Know how to work with contractors. Prepare a super detailed plan before meeting with the contractor. Have him or her charge you for time and materials rather than a flat rate, and hang around while the work is being done. For my projects, I planned the routes for wires and plumbing, marked out exact locations for fixtures, opened up walls ahead of time, had the key to the building’s electrical room in hand, and got all of the fixtures onsite before the contractor came. If you are paying $100-plus per hour, you want the person to be spending time doing what he/she is trained for—not discussing whether you want an outlet at 18 in. or 24 in.
10.) DIY. Do as much work as you can on your own—duh.
Photos by Brent Dallimore
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