7 Secrets That Slash Your Kitchen Remodeling Bill in Half

Remodeled kitchen
Roy Mehta/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Confronted with the prospect of a $75,000 full-scale kitchen remodel project–contractors, designers, vacating the house for months–many homeowners start wondering if cheap remodels exist.

Keeping a few things in mind, you can refresh your space for a much lower budget. Consider these tried-and-true secrets to cheap kitchen remodeling. If you apply all of these ideas, you can easily chop 40 percent or more from your kitchen remodeling bill.

1. Retain Kitchen Footprint

Most kitchens come in one of several pre-determined shapes; few kitchen designers ever do anything different, mainly because these shapes work so well. Whether it's the one-wall kitchen layout, corridor or galley, L-shape, or U-shape, your existing kitchen layout probably works better than you may think. The problem may be more in the arrangement of your services within that shape than the shape itself.

2. Keep Appliances In Place or Move Modest Distances

Anything that involves moving plumbing, gas, or electrical will add to your budget and timeline. This often works hand in hand with the concept of retaining the kitchen's footprint–but not always. You can retain the footprint, but still end up moving appliances all over the place. However, you can still move some appliances without moving their hook-ups. For example, a dishwasher can usually be moved to the other side of a sink, because the washer's hook-ups actually come from that central point under the sink and it doesn't matter if it's on the right or left side.

3. Functional Flooring

Along with bathrooms, kitchens are one space where the flooring really needs to perform. A less attractive resilient or ceramic tile that does the job well may be a compromise over a high-end hardwood that soaks up spills and drains your budget. Vinyl sheet or tile are cheap and an easy DIY install. Do you really need that Tuscan marble? Whatever you do, make sure the flooring resists water, though it doesn't necessarily have to be waterproof. Laminate flooring can often be installed over existing flooring, obviating the need for demolition.

4. Install Off-the-Rack Cabinetry

Stock kitchen cabinets are getting better and better all the time. No longer are you forced into choosing between three melamine-faced particle board cabinets. It's easy to find kitchen cabinetry from places like The Home Depot, Lowe's, and IKEA in standard sizes for far cheaper than custom builds, and almost any general contractor or handyman can install it. Another shortcut is cabinet refacing.

5. Purchase Modest But Effective Countertops

Kitchen countertops can break your budget. Concrete, stainless steel, and stone can get pricey. Instead, consider ceramic tile or laminate countertops.

6. Avoid Electrical Heavy-Ups

Completely rewiring the kitchen can take up 25 percent or more of your budget. If your existing system is safe and can carry the current load, consider whether or not you really need big, power-sucking appliances like double ovens, super-sized electric ranges, and ancillary appliances like trash compactors.

7. Stay Away From Permits

It's not that permits cost a lot of money. Rather, anything that requires a permit is a signal that this job has ratcheted up your costs. Plumbing, electrical, and changing exterior walls all involve permits.

You should not avoid permitting where permitting is necessary. Instead, scale down your remodel to the point where permits are not required. 

For example, in some areas, a permit is not needed to lay a tile floor. However, adding radiant heat below the tile triggers permitting, creating a domino effect. Unless you are a confident amateur electrician–properly certified by your jurisdiction to perform amateur repairs–adding radiant heat usually requires an actual, licensed electrician.