Making every dollar count in a kitchen renovation

 This is what our kitchen looked like when we purchased the house. I felt happy it seemed clean and bright, but it had three strikes against it.

1. The window sat far too high for me to see into the backyard where the children played and it was difficult to open.

2. It was very outdated.

3. Although the picture doesn’t show it, the kitchen had three doors in the tiny space; one from the dining room, one from the hallway, and one leading to the back door and basement. The only usable wall is the one you see in the photo.

Unfortunately for me there were many other items on our to do list that trumped the kitchen. This needed to be done on a tight budget if it was going to be done at all. It took about three years of working in stages, but it is finally cleaned up. Working in stages and looking for deals on kijiji, at Habitat for Humanity, and in second-hand stores may have lengthened the work schedule but it sure kept the price down.

Our first money-saving move was a decision to keep the current layout and the cabinets. We saved money by not moving electrical or plumbing. I priced potlights but we went with track lights because the install fee was too high. We found a dishwasher and an over the stove microwave at RoseHill Auction for a great price. I was thrilled to add both to the kitchen but the dishwasher stole valuable storage space.

To gain space we closed off the doorway leading into the hall. It gave us a corner to add another cabinet and in the hall it gave us another closet (and who doesn’t need more closets?). We found a freestanding cabinet like the one below on Kijiji. Kevin built a riser so it sat higher, popped off the top and make a third shelf so the cabinet reached from floor to ceiling. He trimmed it out so it looked like a built-in unit and I painted it black.  Voila!

We used bead board to cover the damaged walls and I found our floor (inexpensive peel and stick floor tile) at the dollar store to cover the red and grey beauty we found under the old laminate. The new corner unit helped a bit with the lost cabinet space but I still struggled to find a place for everything – especially the recycling bins.

We had an old dresser we purchased years ago at a barn sale and Kevin never really loved it. We popped off the top, added a countertop that had a generous overhang and found bar stools on Kijiji. We removed the bottom two drawers and had a friend build two sliding drawers that hold our recycling bins. Recycling problem solved!

We updated the countertops, reused a second-hand faucet, second-hand pendant light, installed a second-hand window, and found glass tile at an online outlet store that offered free shipping in Canada. I painted the cabinets, updated the hardware, and Kevin added new trim to the top and bottom of the upper cabinets. We found battery operated under cabinet lights at the dollar store (of all places!) and I made our roman blind with fabric purchased on sale.

The pictures don’t show it, but we switched out the hollow door that led into the basement and to the backyard with a ‘new to us’ french door. It lets so much more light into the tiny space.

The project was long (almost three years) but I am thrilled with the results. We worked in stages and the kitchen steadily improved in functionality and looks. The experience showed me that updating a kitchen doesn’t have to blow the budget. We made choices that both satisfied my desire for pretty things and kept us within our comfort zone. We compromised on lots of things we thought we wanted to save some dollars, but now that it is finished I don’t even miss the more expensive options.

The total cost from top to bottom (includes paint, trim, dishwasher, microwave – everything) came in under $1800. Splurges included new counters and glass tile @ $600 combined. Biggest saves include pendant light @ $14, used window @ $50, corner cabinet @75, and the floor @$45.


6 thoughts on “Making every dollar count in a kitchen renovation

  1. Dawn pereira says:

    You are a very patient woman. It looks amazing and such an improvement. I am not sure I could wait 3 years to get a job done. You are amazing at finding deals and not going over your budget. Working on the boys room has shown me that if you have patients things will come together. Great job Stacey!! You are an inspiration to all of us :0)


    • staceyweeks says:

      It sounds like it would have been hard to wait 3 years, but really it wasn’t. First we just painted the kitchen and covered the damaged walls because it was all we could afford. Then we changed the hardware. Then Kevin filled in the corner doorway with the cabinet.
      After about a year we replaced the countertops with the help of Kev’s mom (a christmas gift) and a discount from my Uncle Mike (Mylen Kitchens in Chatham). We put up a cheap wallpaper backsplash and kept that for two years. Etc etc. Every small improvement made it look better so it wasn’t hard to keep plugging away at it.
      I didn’t consider an island until I was at a friends house and saw her island in her small kitchen. We only used the dresser because when we priced islands we knew they were out of our reach. Desperation breeds creativity!
      We did things as we found the deals knowing that was the only way the kitchen would ever get done. It was never high on the to do list until we found the next deal. But I didn’t mind waiting. I love the hunt for a good deal 🙂
      I have plans to outfit the inside of the cabinets to make them more usable as I find deals on the needed supplies and we might one day reface the cabinet doors. But we’ll have to wait and see.


  2. Debbie says:

    Hi Stacey,
    You are our kind of people! We too moved into a house with a very unfortunate kitchen which we lived with for three years before putting a hammer through a wall. Although it can be aggravating to do a reno bit by bit, it’s also worth it when you realize that something you planned to do once you had the money for it, would not have been very functional or would have been better with this or that added.
    We too did our kitchen without a cent of debt, and we made our needs prayer items. We found flooring that way, our dishwasher, and our comfy “new” chairs that only needed re-covering with fabric I already had. It also helps that my husband is a carpenter and works at a kitchen company. DIY is really the way to go!


    • staceyweeks says:

      Thanks Debbie. It sounds like you totally understand the renovating process 🙂 Yes, DIY is the way to go – but that’s easy for me to say since Kev does the hardest part! I love that we didn’t sink into debt for this project. We weren’t even out of pocket the whole amount since we bartered for some items and others were Christmas gifts etc from family. Slow and steady wins the race!!!


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