My Frugal Kitchen Remodel

DSCF2906As everybody knows, we bought our forever home early this year and have been renovating it ever since.  And aside from hanging things up on the wall, I think we’re finally done.  Whew.  It has been a ton of work.  I mean, we literally painted every single room in this house, in addition to all of the other projects we completed.  I’m so glad that it’s finally over and I’m more than ready to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

One of the biggest projects we completed was our frugal kitchen remodel.  This is how the kitchen looked when we started:

kitchen new 2

kitchen newkitchen desk 1























As you can see, the kitchen started out in decent shape.  However, a closer look tells an entirely different story.  Here are the things that bothered me about our kitchen when we bought the house:

  • Mismatched countertops- As you can see, the countertops in the main part of the kitchen were replaced, but the countertops in the desk area were not.  Why?
  • Cracked countertops- Although you can’t tell in the pictures, the countertop had a huge-ass crack near the sink.
  • Oak kitchen cabinets- I hate oak!
  • Funky dishwasher- I’m not all about getting the newest and best appliances, but the dishwasher that came with the house was just plain funky.  Not only did it smell weird, but it did a half-ass job and one of the wheels kept falling off.
  • World’s Ugliest Curtains- Am I wrong?
  • Weird Cabinets- The kitchen cabinet on the right side of the sink made no sense to me.  It didn’t match the cabinets on the other side, and it looked weird.

Although the kitchen had plenty of problems, there was still plenty of good news.  First of all, the refrigerator, stove, and microwave were in top notch shape and clean.  I also loved the wood floors, and planned on keeping them anyway since they were also in the foyer and half-bath.  I also liked the layout of the kitchen which meant that we wouldn’t have to do any heavy demo.  Another bonus: the ugly oak kitchen cabinets were in excellent shape.

My Frugal Kitchen Remodel

With all of that in mind, we devised a plan to spruce up our space.  Here’s what we did:

  • We replaced the countertops- The fact that the countertops didn’t match was one thing, but the huge crack in one was a deal-breaker.  So we gave the countertops to someone off of Craigslist who agreed to come and remove them for free.  In their place, we had new budget granite countertops installed as well as a new undermount sink.  The faucet and reverse osmosis system that came with the home were in great shape, so we just had them reinstalled.  Total cost: $2,100
  • We put up a tile backsplash- Removing the countertops caused some slight wall damage, mostly from the glue that held the old counters in.  So, instead of having someone come and do drywall work, we had a backsplash put up instead.  Total cost: $550 ($250 for tile and $300 for installation)
  • We painted- Once the countertops and backsplash were in, we took the time to paint the kitchen using almost exactly the same colors.  We didn’t want to completely change the look, you know?  We just wanted to freshen it up.  Good news: It worked!  Total cost: $35
  • We bought a new dishwasher- We bought a fairly quiet model this time because our old dishwasher was super loud and annoying.  Total cost: $448 including installation
  • We bought one kitchen cabinet- I had a custom kitchen cabinet made to replace the weird looking kitchen cabinet on the right side of the sink.  The new cabinet is also bigger, so it provided us with more storage space.  Total cost: $350
  • We stained the cabinets- Well, let me rephrase that.  Segment by segment, I hand sanded and stained every single one of our kitchen cabinets in the same way that I did our bathroom cabinets.  Greg watched.  I couldn’t do them all at once because I felt like my arm was going to fall off.  Total cost: FREE (I used the same can of stain that I bought for the bathroom cabinets!!!)

Total Cost of our Frugal Kitchen Remodel: $3,483

In addition to that cost, we upgraded our dining room table to a nicer one from a consignment shop.  But, we sold our old table and a dresser and used the money to buy the new one, so it didn’t cost anything out of pocket.  We also bought new curtains, but they were cheap and from J.C. Penney, so I’m not counting them in the cost, capiche?

Want to see the final results?  Check them out!


I know, I know.  I have amazing taste.  <insert awkward silence here>

Truth be told, we could’ve done it a lot cheaper just by choosing different countertops.  However, that’s the one area where I decided to splurge.  Sue me.  Overall, I’m thrilled with the changes that we made for less than $3,500 and I know that we added much more than that to the value of our home.  Winning!

Have you ever remodeled a kitchen on a budget?  Where are your tips for frugal kitchen remodel success?


About Holly

Holly Johnson is a wife, mother of two, and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She is the co-founder of Club Thrifty and a staff writer at Get Rich Slowly, Frugal Travel Guy, and U.S. News and World Report's "My Money Blog." Holly has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Fox Business, and Daily Finance.


  1. That’s a new side hustle frugal contractors. Looks great, I know I could never get something like that here in that price range. recently posted..Get Rich With Real Estate: Invest In Game ChangersMy Profile

  2. The before and after looks amazing! It’s quite a surprise what new countertops and a backsplash will do for you. My wife has been teasing to change from white to stainless steel appliances. It might cost a bit, but I have a feeling it will really bring our kitchen into the new decade if we do!
    MMD recently posted..Using a Pro for Your Blog or Side Business Taxes Can Be a Great InvestmentMy Profile

    • Probably will!
      All of the appliances in our house were in great shape except for the dishwasher so we just decided to stick with black to keep our expenses down.

  3. We did a really frugal remodel on our kitchen (just a couple hundred dollars) when we first moved in, updating the lighting, removing an ugly DIY stainless steel backsplash the previous owners had installed and updating the hardware on the cabinetry. But now we’re mentally preparing ourselves for a much more expensive kitchen remodel that we’ll probably get into next year and we’re trying to decide exactly how big the project will be…
    Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies recently posted..PoP Balance Sheet – February 2014My Profile

  4. Nice! Looks beautiful, and I love that back splash. Congrats on having all your projects done!!
    Dee @ Color Me Frugal recently posted..Don’t Sweat the Lattes, Sweat the Elephants!My Profile

  5. Wow! You DO have amazing taste! :-)
    Great job and I know that it feels GOOD to be done!
    Catina Mount recently posted..New Logo – Round 1!My Profile

  6. The kitchen remodel looks great! And yes, those are the ugliest curtains I’ve ever seen – though our house came with some horrifying ones as well. The backsplash in particular looks amazing. It’s interesting how older homes don’t typically have a backsplash and how much it adds once you have one. I love reading about success stories like this because it encourages me to renovate my kitchen.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..The Dirty Little Secret of How People Make Money BloggingMy Profile

  7. Very nice Holly, especially when you look at the before and active pictures! We’re still finishing up with our bathroom remodel but our kitchen is starting to look like it needs some of our attention. I really like the tiling you chose for the backsplash – it looks very close to what we used for our bathroom.
    John @ Frugal Rules recently posted..Should We Become a One Car Family?My Profile

  8. Great job and this is my ideal kitchen style, I loved every single picture!!! WELL DONE!

  9. Nice work! I love the layout of your kitchen, and that tile backsplash looks great!
    Lauren recently posted..Weekly Wrap-Up #6My Profile

  10. Love the new look! Considering how much time we spend in our kitchens it has to be a room that you enjoy. So for me, the money spent would be worth it.
    Brian @ Luke1428 recently posted..How Landlords Can Screen Out A Potential Problem TenantMy Profile

  11. Looks great! We are definitely due for some new appliances and new counter tops but hesitant to shell out some cash. Something we’ll have to take a look into in the near future
    Michael Solari recently posted..Estate Planning 101My Profile

  12. I thought it looked nice before (you should see my shitty apartment kitchen) but then I saw the after picture and noticed a huge difference. Nice job!
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted..Life UpdatesMy Profile

  13. I love the back splash. I really want to do that with our kitchen but though it was much more expensive. Actually, I have seen uglier curtains. When I bought my practice, it came with all the furnishings, and the window curtains were kind of like blinds but made of yarn that was orange and brown. I believe they were leftover from the 70′s or 80′s. I really wish I’d taken a picture. Anyway, we put them in a yard sale just as kind of a joke to see if someone would buy them, and sure enough they did. The orange and brown yarn blinds are probably still in someone’s house!
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Preparing To Lose a JobMy Profile

  14. Your kitchen looks great! I love the frugal kitchen and frugal bathroom remodel series. We’ve been looking at places still and I get scared when I see some older/outdated kitchens and bathrooms. I keep thinking it’ll cost an arm and a leg to make it look good. But I’ll keep in mind that it doesn’t always have to cost a lot to fix it up.
    Andrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted..Are Personal Finance Bloggers “Pound Foolish”?My Profile

  15. I’m interested to know what you think of your granite counter tops. Watching any home remodeling or home buying show that’s the guaranteed first thing out of the purchaser’s mouth when asked for a list of wants. I’m not sure I understand what the big deal is, from what I heard they actually stain pretty easily? The reason I ask is our kitchen is due for a remodel within the next 5 years (roughly) – so I take every opportunity to gather information. :)
    Travis @debtchronicles recently posted..The Magic Bullet To Combining Finances SuccessfullyMy Profile

    • You have to get granite sealed so that it doesn’t stain. I got a 15 year seal on mine. After that I’ll have to have them resealed.

      I actually love them. We priced out all different types of materials and found that granite was only a few hundred dollars more expensive. Even the custom laminate countertops I priced out were $1,100 and up, and they didn’t include a free sink, custom edges, etc. I am so glad that I got granite compared to the alternatives we looked at.
      We did get really cheap granite though. I bought them at a place called Half Price Granite and they were the second-cheapest color.

  16. Never remodeled anything but I can say your new kitchen look is great. Plus you did it all frugally and the results are great. When I first saw kitchen remodeling I was like, they must have spent like 10k.
    Demaish recently posted..Debt, emergency fund and other updatesMy Profile

  17. Nice work Holly! The outcome looks good. I hope we don’t have to do that much DIY anytime soon, but I am sure that when we buy our next house, there will be something.
    Grayson @ Debt Roundup recently posted..Money Talks – The Power and Influence of MoneyMy Profile

  18. Holly it looks AWESOME!! The countertops made it all and were def worth it. I bet sanding and restaining was super fun but well worth it!

  19. Looks great and inspiring. These are great ideas to help us tackle our bathrooms. Thanks!

  20. Really nice! And I’m glad you kept those lights, I love em.
    Kristin Wong recently posted..5 Words that Trick You Into Overspending on Pet FoodMy Profile

  21. As I was looking at the after pic, I was thinking that you had great taste, haha. Amazing how a different stain, countertops and backsplash can add a whole new look. I really like the countertops, too. In the end, $3,500 isn’t that bad – like you said, you added a lot of value. You want to be happy in your house, especially in the kitchen! At least, I find that a nice kitchen gives me more motivation to cook.
    E.M. recently posted..March Goals & Review of FebruaryMy Profile

    • I love cooking in it! Yeah, $3,500 is low considering that many people pay 20K-40K for a new kitchen. We saved by preserving the good things about the kitchen and only updating the bad.

  22. Looking great Holly! I think I could have stayed months without noticing the countertops didn’t match. We did a kitchen top ourselves with stones from the lake incrusted in cement, then polished the whole thing, then varnished it, it is really sturdy and you can chop on it, best of all super easy to clean, and cheap.
    Pauline recently posted..Real estate: What to be aware of during a home inspectionMy Profile

  23. Good job guys, it looks amazing! It’s amazing how even just cleaning and paint looks. We haven’t put in a backslash yet but am really itching to do it. Other projects keep bumping it in terms of priority though!
    Catherine recently posted..February Debt Repayment UpdateMy Profile

  24. WOW Holly!!! This is amazing!!! And such a great reminder that you don’t have to pay $10,000+ for a new kitchen. I had to go back and forth a few times because it was hard to believe that the cabinets were the same cabinets, but the new counter top dramatically changed their look. Great job!!
    Shannon @ Financially Blonde recently posted..Music Mondays – Brown Eyed GirlMy Profile

    • Thanks Shannon.

      Yeah, the cabinets are the expensive part. We got quotes for re-facing and some of them were 10K plus. I can’t imagine how much new cabinets would’ve been!

  25. I’m buying my first house in a few months and I love this! It might not be my forever house but I hope to have a ton of fun renovating and such.

  26. Yankeegal says:

    Looks great! And there is something about doing it yourself and taking pride in a job well done!

  27. Looks great! Love the granite and the new cabinet you replaced the funky one with too. For the value you added to your home – the price was really reasonable too. It helped that you only needed to replace the dishwasher too. The quiet models (and well, one that just simply works) are so much nicer. It has to feel good to have all your project done, so now you can just enjoy your new home!
    Shannon @ The Heavy Purse recently posted..Debt Does Not Make You a Bad PersonMy Profile

    • I didn’t mind that it was loud. It just didn’t clean dishes very well which is the whole point, right? Haha! Fortunately, the newer models are mostly quiet ones and I didn’t have to pay a premium for it.

  28. This is another one of those things to notice when house hunting. If you see the kitchen has cabinets that are in good condition like the ones you have in your house then that is a big savings. Cabinets is one of the most expensive parts of remodeling a kitchen. Granite doesn’t really cost that much if you stick to the affordable ones. I spent about the same for our granite but the cabinets were expensive.
    Raquel@Practical Cents recently posted..Uncommon Things to consider while House HuntingMy Profile

  29. What a transformation, Holly! It is amazing what those countertops do for the look and feel of the place.

    We’ve kicked around the idea of doing a kitchen remodel, but I think we’ll put that money towards a rental property and then try to use the cashflow to do the remodel. But looking at your new kitchen has me tempted to reverse the order. :)
    Done by Forty recently posted..Rashard Mendenhall is My HeroMy Profile

  30. Wow, what a difference that makes! I have never remodeled our kitchen, but you are making me think that I have to now. We still have the original cream color countertops from the 1970′s, yikes.
    Deacon Hayes recently posted..WKW 31: How to Create a Startup with Vincent Turner From PlanwiseMy Profile

  31. Wow looks great! I can’t wait to give our kitchen a facelift. I would love granite countertops!
    Liz recently posted..Becoming WealthlyMy Profile

  32. Great work on the reno! It’s so easy to overcapitalize on a property by overspending on kitchens and bathrooms, which is amazing when it’s possible to do it “on the cheap”.

    How long did it take you to sand and stain the cabinets by hand? I’m thinking about maybe updating my kitchen.
    Mr Ikonz @ Project Ikonz recently posted..Save money on Microsoft Office thanks to workMy Profile

  33. I like oak and I like your cabinets before and after both.

    Our kitchen cabinets were painted white. I hate it. We talked with my FIL (who used to be a carpenter) about what it would take to get the paint off and get them restained and it didn’t sound pleasant. Repainting is much easier.

    Our kitchen actually does have a tile backsplash and it doesn’t go with the white/green/gingham theme that the previous owners put in (more wallpaper!), so it must be the way the owners before that had it. I wouldn’t mind matching the dark blue of its trim rather than the light green of the gingham.

    One of these years we’ll redo the kitchen and then we’ll wonder why we didn’t redo it years ago.
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted..Mutual fund taxes: Lessons learnedMy Profile

  34. Wow! That is great that you did all of that for under $3500. If you were to have someone come in and do it for you, it would have cost a LOT more! I like your new countertops. We are moving into our house in two weeks and there are a few projects that we are thinking of doing. We are going to try to do as much as we can on our own before having to call the professionals in. (-:

  35. The renovations look great! I think you did a wonderful job of prioritizing to get the most improvement for the least amount of money. Was it hard to hold back and not do even more?

  36. Wow, props to you for sanding and restaining all of those cabinets! My arm hurts thinking about it :-) The new counters look amazing, too.
    My old dishwasher was crappy and replacing it with a fancy one has made this kiddo a lot happier! I hope yours is bringing you happiness as well :-)
    Anne @ Unique Gifter recently posted..Making Local Gift BasketsMy Profile

  37. Looks awesome Holly! And definitely a frugal way to reno. It’s great that the kitchen had some awesome bones that didn’t require a complete rebuild!
    Ryan @ Impersonal Finance recently money and family mix?My Profile

  38. Can’t believe I missed this post! This looks amazing Holly. Nice job!

    I really like the countertops and the backsplash. Since I’m renovating an entire house I’m all about home improvements. I’m going to have to check out the bathroom next. Any other projects planned?

    My method of doing frugal? Do as much of it yourself as possible. Hiring someone else to do it will often double the cost of the project if not more. I know this isn’t an option for many people, but it saves A LOT of money.

    Nice job!
    The Stoic recently posted..Spring ComethMy Profile

    • I think we’re done. This house was in pretty good shape. We replaced the carpet and updated the kitchen. I also sanded and re-stained the bathroom cabinets which also made a huge difference.

  39. Love the granite and tile backslash..came out great! You’ve made me want to take a sledgehammer to our ugly white tile counter top and semi-destroyed cabinets.
    Kyle | recently posted..9 Deadly Sins Every Bargain Hunter Must Avoid at All CostsMy Profile

  40. Maverick says:

    Holly, it looks great! But why did you reduce the size of the counter over the peninsula and get rid of the bar stools? Where they in the way of the dining area or just too low for comfort? (Curious as I am thinking of a adding such a feature)

    • Hmmmmm…..I didn’t really like the way it looked? Plus it cut into my dining area and I didn’t like that at all. Oh, and granite is expensive =)

      Yours might look way better. I think that countertop was way too short for bar stools anyway.

  41. I love the countertops you chose. We’re so lucky that when we moved into our home, the kitchen had already been remodelled. It’s perfect for us, so we saved a lot of time and money by not having to do that.
    Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter recently posted..Collecting – Tips for Fun and ProfitMy Profile

  42. Wow, it looks great! My mom is always remodeling part of her house and I am super impressed you were able to do the kitchen for so little. That’s one of the most expensive rooms to redo for sure.

    I’m happily renting for now — I don’t have nearly enough vision to remodel!
    Erin @ Gen Y Finances recently posted..Advice Before You Buy a HomeMy Profile

  43. Your kitchen redo is amazing. Can you tell me the color (and brand) of stain you used on the cabinets? They’re beautiful!


  1. […] didn’t know Holly was a talented DIY-er as well. For under $3,500 she fixed up her kitchen and it looks like a million […]

  2. […] Holly from Club Thrifty shows us her mad DIY skills in her spiffy kitchen remodel! […]

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