How to Remodel Your Kitchen for Less Than $5,000

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When it comes to home remodeling, the kitchen is almost always near the top of the wish list. It’s easy to understand why, especially right after Thanksgiving: Kitchens can be one of the most beautiful rooms in the house, and everyone wants an attractive space where they can prepare food and socialize over a good meal. Appearance aside, it’s also one of the most practical remodels.

Unfortunately, many people put off kitchen remodeling because they think it’s too expensive. And it certainly can be – once you start talking custom cabinets, new appliances, fancy lighting, and all the rest, you’ll end up with a total easily more than $20,000. But it’s also possible to pull off a makeover with less than $5,000 if you plan carefully and get creative.

The best part of a budget remodel? It’s easier on your bank account in the long term, too. According to Realtor magazine, smaller kitchen remodeling projects get a better return on investment than complete overhauls – 72 percent of the average “mid-range remodel” cost becomes added home value, but only 63 percent does with an “upscale re-do.”

If you’re seriously thinking about it, the next question is where to start. Here are some ideas for the four areas mentioned in the video above:

  • Cabinets. These are often the most expensive part of a kitchen and are a large part of how the room looks. Having a lot of cabinets makes for a cozy feel, while having fewer cabinets can open a space up visually and literally. Consider how much cabinet space you actually need: If you have more cabinets you’ll certainly find things to put in them, but sometimes using pantry shelves or racks can be a lot cheaper than wall-mounted cabinets. And you don’t have to get a whole new set, either. The cheapest improvements are a fresh coat of paint on the exterior, or peel-and-stick veneers. According to, the national average to repaint kitchen cabinets is about $550 in a pro’s hands or $110 in yours. has instructions for using veneers and suggests the price can be as low as $50 per cabinet. If you’re building or buying cabinets and looking for cheaper materials, try a salvage shop like Habitat for Humanity’s resale outlets.
  • Islands. This is largely dependent on the area of your kitchen. If you don’t have one already, you’ll want at least 42 inches of space on all sides so your family has room to maneuver. But this could add more cabinet and counter space if you need it and can provide an upscale appearance. For less than $1,000, you can brag to all your friends that you own an island – even if you don’t own a boat. Smaller islands with wheels can be found for $300 or less. One of the cheapest places to buy islands is at restaurant supply stores, according to CBS News.
  • Backsplashes. This is one area where price allows for a lot of creativity and diversity in designs. Here are some affordable original suggestions, including mirrors and chalkboard paint. If you’re going with more traditional tiles, you can still be creative with mosaics or patterns and expect spend $10 to $40 per square foot. You could also buy cheaper white tiles and spend to have an artist paint you an amazing backsplash.
  • Appliances. There’s also both visual and practical appeal in upgrading appliances. Stainless steel matches almost any decor, and because many modern appliances are more energy-efficient than ever, they’ll pay for themselves over time with lower utility bills. Now is the best time of the year to buy appliances, while all the big sales are going on. Home Depot has its lowest prices of the year through the end of November, some as much as half off.
  • Labor. If you hire help, be sure and get the right people. One thing I normally do is use sites like Angie’s list to find contractors with good reputations and positive feedback from actual customers. Be sure and talk to several and get written estimates.

Add it up, and you might be able to pull off a dream kitchen for less than $5,000. If you’re thinking about colors, Realtor magazine recommends neutral warm shades like off-white and beige. For more specific creative and inexpensive design ideas, check out DIYNetwork’s kitchen remodel tips and photos.

For even more advice and ideas, check out our stories Is Now the Time to Remodel Your Home? and 16 Tips to Save on Home Remodeling.

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