10 ways to save money during a kitchen renovation
Follow these tips so you don't spoil your budget.
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If you’re spending more time indoors these days, you may be looking to make a haven out of your home.
Kitchen renovations are a popular choice. Houzz reported a 40% annual increase in demand for this type of project between 2019 and 2020. And, while you’ll no doubt enjoy the space while you live there, kitchen renovations also add value to your home: Many homeowners stand to recoup nearly 78% of the cost when they sell.
“If you play all your cards correctly, you could cut your kitchen remodeling costs down by one-third,” says Dan DiClerico, home expert for HomeAdvisor. “You’ll need to be extremely disciplined, though. Most homeowners end up going over budget on a kitchen remodel, often because they expand the scope of the project after the work is underway.”
Here’s where you can trim the costs of your kitchen renovation.
1. Forgo some upper cabinets for open shelving
Cabinets help define the look and usability of any kitchen, and they usually come as two parts: base cabinets on the bottom and upper wall cabinets on the top. Based on HomeAdvisor’s analysis, cabinetry and hardware tends to be the most expensive part of a kitchen renovation, averaging $6,670. (Some homeowners spend even more.)
You can cut down on this cost by replacing the upper wall cabinets with kitchen shelves. Not only do they open up storage space and add charm and depth to the kitchen, DiClerico says shelves cost at least 10% less than a set of cabinets. Some DIYers reported paying much less, around $60 to $200, to install shelves themselves.
If you have interesting cooking tools, such as copper pots, consider putting those on display. “This gives a kitchen the appearance of openness and allows you to show off these items,” says Ted Roberts, style and design expert for lock manufacturer Schlage.
If you’re not ready to replace your entire cabinet set, you can mix styles and install both upper cabinets and a few open shelves. Just remember to regularly clean the shelves and keep your dishes organized.
2. Dress up budget-friendly cabinets
If you’re not into kitchen shelves but you don’t want to shell out thousands for new cabinets, you have a few other options.
Shopping at discount retailers, such as Ikea, can help you find budget-friendly frames that you can dress up with compatible fronts from companies like Semihandmade and Reform. These can also be easily swapped out in the future. Stock cabinets can also help you keep costs low (as opposed to buying a custom set). These tend to be well-constructed, so “they’re not going to be falling off the wall in a year,” DiClerico says.
But you may not even need to buy a new set of cabinets during your renovation. Instead, you can dress up older cabinets by changing out the hardware. “Drawer pulls and knobs are available in so many shapes, sizes, and colors, and designs,” Roberts says.
If you go this route, make sure the new hardware covers any marks left behind on your cabinetry, and check that any exposed hinges coordinate with the knobs and pulls.
3. Don’t change the plumbing
Most homeowners pay $5,500 to install plumbing for two sinks and faucets, a dishwasher, an instant hot water tap, the disposal, and an ice maker. That price tag includes hiring a licensed professional, pulling permits, and paying for disposal fees.
But you can cut costs here by limiting your plumbing installation or just sticking to upgrades that don’t involve plumbing at all.
4. Look at Reviewed’s best value picks
At Reviewed, finding the best deals—high-quality items at a good price—is where we shine. Over the years, the Reviewed labs have tested hundreds of appliances to make well-informed recommendations, and that doesn’t always mean spending top dollar.
Take our favorite affordable dishwasher, for instance. In our lab experiments, the LG LDF5545ST nearly matched our highest-rated Bosch appliances, but it costs half as much. We’ve also stacked up French door refrigerators that perform well but ring in at a more palatable price point.
You can take a look at the best appliances of the year for even more wallet-friendly picks, and that goes for smaller kitchen needs like knife sets, coffee makers, countertop microwaves, and cookware sets, too.
5. Shop for new appliances during major sales
You can save big time on appliances for your kitchen renovation if you plan the timing just right. Here’s when to expect big sales:
- May: May is “Maytag month,” when retailers offer rebates and discounts on Maytag appliances. And according to research by Trae Bodge, smart shopping expert at TrueTrae.com, appliances have been on sale over Memorial Day weekend for the past five years without fail.
- September and October: Manufacturers typically introduce their latest models during these months, so they’ll discount the previous year’s models to clear space for new appliances.
- Holiday weekends: Many retailers mark down appliances during holiday weekends, and you’ll find the best deals on refrigerators and dishwashers around Black Friday. However, “the pandemic has created a serious supply shortage of major appliances,” DiClerico says, “so the Black Friday deals probably won’t be as sweet this year.”
DiClerico recommends splurging a little on items you use every day. “If you cheap out on the refrigerator and end up with a model that’s too small and lacking key storage features—like pullout shelves and crisper bins—you’re going to regret that decision every day,” he says. The same goes for a bargain faucet or “the dishwasher that sounds like a jet engine and doesn’t get dishes clean,” DiClerico adds.
6. Shop dent-and-scratch appliances
Dent-and-scratch appliances are brand-new pieces that are deeply discounted simply because the external packaging is damaged or the appliance has a few cosmetic flaws. Often, the appliance works just fine—and they typically come with the original manufacturer’s warranty.
Look for these discounted appliances at major retailers, and you could get about 40% off the regular price. Just keep in mind: There’s always a chance the appliance will break down or need repairs. Retailers may also require you to install the appliance yourself.
Once you find a prospective dent-and-scratch appliance, compare the store’s offer against the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. If you’re not saving at least 40%, then reconsider your purchase. You’re bound to find an appliance on sale if you wait long enough.
Other ways to save money during a kitchen renovation
A few extra tricks can help you save money on a kitchen renovation:
- 7. Research contractors in your area. Getting at least three estimates from reputable contractors and negotiating with them can help you keep installation costs down.
- 8. Use smart lighting. Installing LED lighting can achieve “cost savings from both an energy-usage standpoint and having to replace burned-out bulbs far less than with traditional incandescent bulbs,” says Cathy Choi, president of Bulbrite.
- 9. Go bargain hunting. Salvage yards and second-hand stores, such as Renovation Angel, can be great sources for inexpensive remodeling materials. Some retailers even sell entire kitchen suites that are carefully removed from high-end residences.
10. Do some of the work yourself. DIY can help control project costs, but negotiate this part with your contractor. “Low-impact prep work is ideal,” DiClerico says. You may be able to tear up flooring, take away old cabinets, or paint the walls and cabinets to shave some dollars off the final bill.