We called up 12 contractors to get quotes on our kitchen renovation and got quotes between $12,000 and $25,000. The average kitchen renovation cost in the US is $23,500 ($75 to $250 per square foot) and many people spend upwards of $30,000 on their kitchen renovations! Lucky for us, Reddit user NotElizaHenry shows us how she transformed her kitchen and kept her total low budget kitchen renovation cost under $100. Checkout her awesome blog here!
Finished product first!
This kitchen was so gross. It was yellow and sticky and sad and ALWAYS dirty. I had a roommate who cooked like Jackson Pollock and cleaned like a blind toddler so I knew any kitchen renovation would just be covered in beer and marinara sauce a week later. I put up with this for two years before it occurred to me that I didn’t have to live like this. So, long story short, she moved out and I went nuts with a ton of Simple Green and diatomaceous earth.
I don’t have any pictures of painting the walls because who takes pictures of that? The color is Waterscape by Sherwin Williams. I primed and painted the inside of the cabinet doors while they were still hanging because I’m always worried that I’m going to get bored in the middle of a project and abandon it. This way, I could just close the cabinets and pretend it never happened. Also, this minimizes the time that your apartment floor is covered in cabinet doors.
Apparently I didn’t take pictures of this painting process either. Basically I scrubbed all of the cabinets–we don’t have an extractor fan so everything was covered in two years of a dust/cooking oil sludge and this step made me want to die. Then I took them down and removed all the hardware, sanded everything with a power sander and a sanding sponge, vacuumed off the sawdust, and slapped on a coat of Kilz. Then over the Kilz I did two coats of SW Pro-Classic in Snowbound because that’s what the guy at the store recommended. I didn’t bother with grain filler because
a) this is a rental so, you know, f*** that, and
b) the grain showing through doesn’t bother me.
If it bothers you, feel free to add a ton of steps and products and time to this portion of the project. I mean, if it *really* bothers you, just buy some new cabinets. But I promise nobody is going to judge you for wood-grain showing on your wood cabinets. At the end of the day it’s a very low budget kitchen renovation.
Choosing flooring! Again, this is a cheap rental and the existing floors were SUPER shitty, so I wasn’t prepared to spend more than $1/sf. I considered sheet vinyl because I thought it would be easier, but it turns out all the vaguely okay looking sheet vinyl is mega expensive, and still kind of looks awful. I spent weeks scouring the Internet before I found the Style Selection line from Lowes (here’s a good alternative I found online). It’s under $1/sf, doesn’t require additional adhesive, and it’s totally tolerable looking. As an extra bonus, it’s sold per box AND per plank, which is awesome because my kitchen is like 5 square feet bigger than one box would cover. I went with the Woodland Oak color because it looked the least cheap. (Still cheap, but not, like, Applebees-break-room cheap.)
I decided to do a herringbone pattern because I hate myself. I had a brief delusion that I was going to cut all the planks into six pieces and it was going to look all cool and vintage, but my boyfriend shut that down pretty fast.
Whew, that’s better. Only one cut per plank instead of four.
This was my cutting setup. The planks were 36″ long, so I cut a piece of plywood to exactly 18″ and backed it with some cork to stop it from slipping, then used my square thing to align it with the plank. So resourceful! Also, SO WRONG. THIS WAS A TERRIBLE IDEA.
First, it turns out the planks weren’t 36″, they were 35-7/8″. WHAT THE FUCK, LOWES. I didn’t notice until I was halfway through cutting the planks. I don’t know how I didn’t catch it sooner, but I didn’t. Ugh.
Second, plywood isn’t a great cutting edge, and the thickness of the cork added to it made my cuts very slightly uneven. Probably if I weren’t doing herringbone none of this would have mattered, but herringbone requires that everything be exactly perfect. I should have used a metal cork-backed ruler and actually, you know, measured shit.
HOWEVER, there was no way I was going to go back to Lowes and buy more planks, so I made it work.
THIS WAS FUN. For some insane reason the baseboards in the kitchen were gross industrial vinyl. Vinyl baseboards flare out at the bottom, which means you can’t just throw down some quarter round on top of it to cover the expansion gap in the new floor. They are also horrifyingly ugly AND apparently provide a really cozy home for bugs. I had like three near heart attacks dealing with this garbage. The only reason I can think that my landlord would have done this is that this wall appears to be brick with a very thin coat of plaster on top, so nailing in a wood baseboard wouldn’t have been possible.
IF ONLY THERE WERE ANOTHER WAY TO ATTACH WOOD TO THINGS…
Putting down the floor. I do not own a floor roller because I am a normal human being, and there was no way I was going to rent one and then figure out how to get it home on the subway. So, rolling pin. It worked. Remember, this is a low budget kitchen renovation.
Note about floor prep: this was the most annoying part of the whole project. The internet has all kinds of conflicting information, but what I took away from many, many google searches is that I needed something called “embossing self-leveling primer.” I called five hardware stores and they had no idea what I was talking about. I tried to buy it online but as far as I can tell you have to mix two things together to make it but I couldn’t find anywhere to buy those two things. Then I read that you can use feather finish concrete skim coat (I also read that you absolutely CANNOT use feather finish skim coat concrete, but whatever), so I picked up some of that, but during that trip I talked to three guys who said
a) I didn’t need to use anything
b) I needed something else that they didn’t sell and cost eleven billion dollars per gallon, and
c) I absolutely had to buy additional adhesive, despite the fact that the floor’s instructions said not to.
When I arrived home and told my boyfriend we were going to cover the floor in concrete, he shut it down pretty quickly. Again, it’s a rental. I decided to trust the minority of random internet people who said it was cool to just stick the planks right on top of the old vinyl because it sounded like much less work than the alternatives, so, you know, yolo.
One more note: Simple Green worked great for getting the layers of embedded grease off the floor but left a film that the planks refused to stick to. We went back over everything with Windex and that totally took care of it.
Baseboards! And quarter round! I glued the baseboards to the brick. I have no idea how well it will hold up, but literally anything is better than the vinyl.
Almost done with my low budget kitchen renovation! So the shitty cuts I mentioned up there? They caused a lot of gaps in the floor. I found almost zero information on the internet about how to fill in gaps in vinyl peel & stick floors, I guess because nobody is dumb enough to do what I did. There’s apparently a grout product specifically for vinyl flooring, but I couldn’t find anywhere that sold it in quantities less than a gallon. I went to my local hardware store and they had zero ideas for me (other than “Yeah, you’re the first person to ask about this. I guess most people would have just ripped it up and started over?”) so I spent $3 on a tube of brown caulk and went to town.
It looks okay. It’s definitely not super noticeable, at least. I’m not sure how well it’s going to hold up, but again, yolo, and if it starts to fail I can just peel it out and resume my search for vinyl grout.
The End! It’s not perfect, but it’s better! (Also, I’m aware I need to fix the paint in places, but I can barely stand to look at a paintbrush right now.)
If you liked this DIY low budget kitchen renovation then make sure you check out our other DIY projects!