February 8, 2012 at 7:00 am , by Beth Roehrig
If you saw Holly Burns’ kitchen transformation in our March issue, you’ll know that she and her husband pulled off an amazing feat of DIY derring-do. So we asked her to share what she learned about saving money on the process. Holly blogs at Nothing But Bonfires. And is still working up the courage to renovate her bathroom.
How to Remodel a Kitchen on a Budget (Without Losing Your Mind)
Three months after we bought our fixer-upper house in an uncool part of San Francisco, my husband Sean and I decided to remodel the kitchen. Actually, that’s not quite true; we decided to remodel the kitchen before we’d even signed the papers in the realtor’s office—if you’d seen that hideous flowered wallpaper, you would have too—but we needed a little time to save up. I like to joke that we also needed a little time to get our wills in order. You know, in case we murdered each other in the process.
Renovating your kitchen yourself isn’t easy. It isn’t even particularly fun. And it certainly isn’t always cheap. But when you approach the project with a little humor and a lot of knowledge, it’s definitely a whole lot more manageable. If you’re thinking of tackling a DIY remodel, here are a few ways to keep your budget bearable and your sanity intact. Mostly, anyway. (You may also need wine.)
Spend where you care, save where you don’t
Coming in at around a third of our total budget, our counters were the priciest part of our kitchen remodel. Sure, we could have gone with a cheaper wood or vinyl, but the sleekness of Caesarstone appealed to us—as did the promise that it would be virtually indestructible (a year and a half later, the counters are still good as new!) To justify the splurge, we used basic white subway tiles for our backsplash. At 21 cents each, they were an affordable way for us to save that dough for what we really wanted.
Invest where it makes sense
Renting a tile cutter was going to cost us $60 a day. Buying a tile cutter, however, came in just under a hundred. Because we were going to use it for both the floor and the backsplash tiles—which we’d probably need to do on different days—investing in the purchase seemed to make the most sense. (Plus, now we have no excuse not to remodel our bathroom.)
Leave room for extras
No matter how carefully you budget, surprises are going to creep in; for us, it was the expense of hauling away the old counters we’d ripped out. If you can, give yourself an emergency buffer of $200. And if you don’t need it? Champagne for everyone!
Do your homework
My husband is good at many things, but he had never before laid a tile floor. Luckily for him, YouTube was packed with professional, educational videos that walked him through it step by step; he also talked extensively with the folks in our local Lowe’s, who were more than happy to help. Before tackling a project, see what free resources are out there at your disposal. Then use them.
But know your limits
Technically speaking, we probably could have figured out how to install our own counters, but since we were doing pretty much our entire renovation ourselves, it was a huge relief when our quote included installation anyway. Sometimes, you’ve just got to leave it to the professionals. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means you won’t end up with a bad back and a botched job.
Give yourself time
All in all, our entire kitchen renovation took about six weeks. By all means, plan out your steps, but try to assume that everything will take twice as long as you think it will; I still cringe when I assumed we could rip up our old kitchen floor, lay a sub-floor, then tile and grout the whole thing in a weekend.
Have a lot of takeout menus handy
Remember those six weeks I just mentioned? You’re going to be living without a sink, stove, or dishwasher for quite a few of them. If the delivery guy at your local pizza place knows your name by the end of it all, then you can probably assume you’ve done something right. Congratulations on a successful kitchen renovation.
Have a question for Holly? Ask away in the comments.
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