Kitchen Updates on a Budget

There is no doubt about it – COVID-19 has had an impact on our lives this year: It has given us more time at home, it has changed where we work. And with lower interest rates on mortgages, it has opened the possibility of home buying or upgrading a home to so many more people.

Many families have moved from the city for more space or bought into properties that they could add an in-law suite for family members or just to have the extra income from a renter. 

And 2020 has also had an impact on our household income – some have seen a saving by working from home, while others are have seen a financial strain from losing jobs.  

Whether you have the extra money or have the extra time or whether you have bought a new home that needs some work or are adding a rental unit (in-law suit). Whatever your 2020 situation is, we have some budget friendly tips and DYI projects that will update the heart of the home – the kitchen.  

Creating an In-Law or Rental Suite Kitchen 

Let’s start with the easier of the two – a new kitchen or kitchenette for an in-law suite. Starting with a blank slate is different than working with one that’s already there. If you already have in-law suite that needs updating, jump down to Updating your Kitchen for cost saving ideas. 

Now, what can you do to put in a new kitchen for less? 

1. Pick a Location That Make Sense 

When working with a blank slate, there are some things that will need to be done that really should be done by registered trades, things like plumbing and electrical. This sounds costly, however, even with paying a trade to do this you can reduce the cost by choosing the location of the kitchen wisely. Plus, you will be less likely to have issue down the line that could cost you a lot more.

When using trades, the cost comes down to time and material. You reduce the amount of materials they need and the time they need to do it, and you will reduce the final bill. Have you ever notice that bathrooms are typically over top of each other when located on different floors? Or that laundry rooms are typically on the revers wall as a power room? Keeping the plumbing close together reduces the amount of work and materials needed to tie into the main line. So, when looking at where to place the new kitchen consider:  

  • Are there any existing plumbing rough-in or electrical runs? 
  • Where are the mains located? 
  • Look at the proximity to the main kitchen or other washroom 

2. Think about Appliances  

If you don’t already have appliances, you’ll need to budget for appliances. This will probably determine what you decide are must-have’s vs. nice-to-have. 

Be open to other options than your standard kitchen. For example, maybe you do a cooktop instead of a full range. Or a bar fridge instead of a full fridge and opt for no dishwasher.  

Also consider secondhand appliances. You could find some off a community selling website or, if you have to buy new, maybe you update your main kitchen and pull your old ones into the new space. The value of new appliances is greater in the main kitchen than in any secondary kitchen in the home.

3. Plan your Cabinets 

Once you have your kitchen location, you’ll need to determine how many cabinets you will need. This is where cost can start to add up quickly if you are not careful.

Remember, lower cabinets need a countertop. The more lowers you have, the bigger the countertop, which is another big cost. So when you go to plan you kitchen cabinets, consider these things: 

  • Think about doing a kitchenette vs a full kitchen
  • Choose a mobile island or cart instead of doing a stationary island or peninsula with cabinets.  
  • Forgo upper cabinets all together or do a mix with open shelving 

4. Countertops  

Countertops come in a wide variety of materials and cost. When working with a tight budget, consider some of these budget friendly options: 

  • Butcherblock: Butcherblock countertops can be purchased at home improvement stores now and for a very reasonable price and look great. They are also a DIY-friendly material for installation. 
  • Laminate: Laminate countertops are also widely available at local home improvement stores for budget friendly pricing. 
  • Concrete: a DYI concrete countertop has been one of my favorite looks that have come up this year…when done well. 

5. Backsplash  

A backsplash isn’t necessarily needed in a kitchen. The simplest and most cost-effective way to finish off the kitchen would be to simply paint the walls. Personally, I feel like some kind of a backsplash truly finishes the space and it doesn’t have to be costly. 

If you are like me and prefer a backsplash in the kitchen, consider these budget friendly options:

  • A basic Subway Tiles is very inexpensive to purchase and is an easy DIY install 
  • Peel-n-Stick tiles have grown in style options and availability recently. They are another easy DIY install product
  • Wallpaper can also be used as a backsplash application and is great option for where there aren’t any upper cabinets or where open shelving has been used instead. Look for a vinyl material for easy cleanup but wouldn’t do this behind a range or cooktop.

Updating your Kitchen 

The kitchen is an essential room in any home. It is where we start off our days and (for some reason) it is where everyone tends to gather. The function and layout of the kitchen can drastically change your life. But a full kitchen remodel is without question an expensive project and might take some saving to do before you can build your dream kitchen. BUT that doesn’t mean we can’t do some things to make it a little more livable in the meantime.   

1. Widen Walkways 

A lot of older homes have narrow entranceways into rooms and rooms are typically defined by walls. Often you will find a 30” archway or sometimes even a set of doors from a living or dining room into the kitchen of an older home. When the kitchen is defined by walls, it can make it feel small and closed off from the rest of the home. And it’s not usually ideal for a household that likes to entertain.

Removing walls and columns can be expensive but for the cost of a little door trim, you can open the kitchen without doing a major overhaul.

If you have doors leading into your kitchen, remove them to open the sightlines. You can also look at widening any archway by removing the drywall back to the next stud or right back to the support beam. You will be amazed by how much big your kitchen will feel just by opening up the entrance even if it’s only by a few inches.  

2. Repair and Paint the Cabinets 

It never ceases to amaze me how much for a difference changing the colour of something can make.  

If your cabinets are in decent condition, a cleanup and a new colour can be a quick and inexpensive way to update the look of your kitchen. When picking a colour, consider: 

  • The size of the kitchen. In a small kitchen, using a lighter colour will make it feel bigger and brighter 
  • If replacing the countertops are out of the budget, choose a colour for the cabinets with will complement the countertop or a colour that is in the countertop to tie them together. 
  • Like the countertop, if you have a backsplash that you will be keeping, choose a complementary colour for the cabinets. 

If budget allows, you can also update your cabinets but replacing the door faces with a new panel. Just replacing the faces will give you a dramatic refresh for a fraction of the cost of all new cabinets. 

3. Rethink Upper Cabinets 

Older kitchens were designed with an upper cabinet for each lower cabinet for obvious reasons – storage. Upper cabinets are great to add storage, but they can also make the kitchen feel small and closed in.  

In a small kitchen, look at possibly removing some upper cabinets and replacing them with open shelving. This will give the kitchen a fresh, modern look and make it feel a little more open for a minimal cost. 

4. Repaint walls  

A fresh coat of paint in a new colour will make a bigger difference than you would expect and it is the least expensive thing you can do to update your kitchen. If you do nothing else in your kitchen but change the colour of the walls, you will feel a difference in the space. 

Again, when choosing a colour choose one that complements the items in the kitchen that can’t or aren’t changing. Pull from your countertop or backsplash – either a colour in them or one that complements the colour. 

If you have a small kitchen, choose a lighter colour. This will make the kitchen feel bigger and brighter than it is.  

5. Update the Knobs and Pulls 

Your cabinet handles (knobs and/or pulls) are like jewelry for your kitchen. Think of them like dressing up a little black dress. Changing them can completely change the design esthetic.  

6. Update the Countertop 

Changing the countertop can be an expensive update but there are some ways to do it in a budget-friendly way: 

  • Paint: there are a few products out there for painting countertops now. Make sure you repair any chips or damage before you paint. 
  • Butcherblock: Butcherblock countertops can be purchased at most home improvement stores now and for a very reasonable price. They are also a DIY-friendly material for installation. 
  • Laminate: Laminate countertops are also widely available at local home improvement stores for budget friendly pricing. 
  • Hard surface (like stone): If it’s in the budget, this countertop will give you the most durability and longevity. But budget is too tight, you could also look at mixing countertop surfaces. For example: doing a hard surface along the walls and a more budget friendly top like butcherblock on the island or peninsula. Or vise versa.  

7. Update appliances 

Tired and dated appliances will make your kitchen feel, well, tired and dated. Replacing all appliances can be a big expense but it you are able to work it into your budget, it will be worth it. You may see the return in your hydro bills as well. 

Even still, there are ways to update your appliances in a cost-friendly way:

  • Look for bundle deals: A lot of retailer now offer a discount when buying multiple appliances
  • Plan to buy: The best time to pick up a deal on appliances are during Black Friday and Boxing Day sales. Keep an eye out and plan to buy this time of the year when you can 
  • Look for Secondhand: It’s not uncommon to find someone who bought a builder-basic new home and is now updating to higher end finishes. You just might get lucky 
  • Take Advantage of Financing: a lot of appliance retailer do offer financing plans with 0% interest. Only advice – make equal monthly payments. When you have no set amount due per month, it’s easy to say, “ah next month I’ll make a payment”. But when it comes to the end of the term, to avoid the interest change, coming up with the money can put you in a strain. Get ahead and choose to do equal monthly payments. 
interior of cozy kitchen with modern furniture and appliances and potted houseplants
Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on

If you’re working on your kitchen and need some advice or guidance, reach out to us at [email protected].  

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