Could you live with this kitchen?
Neither could we. When we purchased our 1971 ranch-style house, this is what the kitchen looked like. The people who bought it 5 years before us actually remodeled it to look like this! Shocking, I know.
According to Realtor magazine, in 2005 the average “minor” kitchen remodel in my area cost approximately $15,200. A minor remodel is defined as this:
“In a functional but dated 200-square-foot kitchen with 30 linear feet of cabinetry and countertops, leave cabinet boxes in place but replace fronts with new raised-panel wood doors and drawers. Replace wall oven and cooktop with new energy-efficient models. Replace laminate countertops. Install midpriced sink and faucet. Repaint trim, add wall covering, and replace existing flooring with resilient flooring.”
This is basically what we wanted to do, but we definitely didn’t want to spend $15,000. By using a variety of frugal strategies, we were able to achieve dramatic results for about a fifth of the price of an average kitchen remodel. This is what our kitchen looks like today:
When we were finished, this was our cost breakdown:
Flooring: Solid red oak hardwood -$1620, installed
Cabinets: Cleaned, sanded, painted, new hardware -$81
Countertop: Mid-range laminate -$275
Stainless steel backsplash: $80
Portable kitchen island with stainless steel top: $400
New faucet: $35 (after rebate)
New dishwasher: $226
Crown moulding: $50
Walls: Wallpaper removed, walls painted-$70
Dining area rug: $400
(2) light fixtures: $60
Closet organizers, curtains, blinds: $65
Total cost: $3352
The flooring was the biggest expense, but we wanted high quality, durable, beautiful flooring that wouldn’t go out of style. With the proper care, wood floors last forever, and can be sanded and refinished if necessary. Because the existing Berber carpet and padding was like new, we carefully removed it, and stored it in our storage shed. We eventually reinstalled it (ourselves) in my husband’s basement office.
The cabinet varnish was sticky, worn and discolored, and the hardware was dated. However, the cabinets were of good quality, so we cleaned them well and sanded them. I painted the frames with a small trim roller, and my husband sprayed the doors with top quality, high gloss paint. The finish is beautiful, with no brush marks, and can be cleaned easily. We purchased white, ceramic knobs and pulls on clearance at Ace Hardware for 50 cents each.
Instead of Corian or granite, we purchased a mid-grade, laminate countertop which is attractive and durable, and serves our needs well. The faucet needed to be replaced, but the stainless steel sink was in good condition. My husband lightly sanded it and buffed it to a shine. We kept the existing stove, which was only a few years old, and reused the refrigerator from our previous home. We purchased a basic, low cost Whirlpool dishwasher that got a good review in Consumer reports.
We bought a portable kitchen island online (shipping was free). The island has a drop-leaf top for extra work space, and provides additional storage below. I keep my flour, sugar, and other baking supplies in it. We reused as many materials as possible. For example, we painted the scarred pantry closet door, rather than buying a new one. We painted a recycled bulletin board white, and mounted it to the front. I bought a used Waverly kitchen valance for $5.00 on eBay. The result is an attractive, functional kitchen at a very reasonable price. The secrets to our success are:
1) With the exception of the floor installation, we did all of the work ourselves. We’ve found that there are few skills that we cannot master if we work together and follow instructions. Library books and the internet offer do-it-yourself instructions for almost anything.
2) We were patient, and had realistic expectations. This was a big project which was completed over the course of about a year. We took our time, did careful work, and purchased materials and supplies gradually. Therefore we didn’t have to dip into our savings or borrow money.
3) We separated our needs from our wants. We needed the hideous wallpaper, ridiculous carpet and ugly, dirty cabinets to go away. However, our kids also need to go to college, so though we may want a granite countertop and other fancy-pants amenities, they are not a priority for us.
“We can tell our values by looking at our checkbook stubs.” ~Gloria Steinem