Kitchen Remodel On A Budget: Part 2

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Welcome back to the Kitchen Remodel On A Budget series. If you haven’t checked out Part 1, hop on over HERE and see how we even got into this mess!

The Two-Tone Kitchen

We left off last time getting the plan finalized for our kitchen update. We had scored a free fridge, and were able to re-purpose the cabinets that had been (weirdly) installed in our garage for the past 5 years. The problem was that we didn’t have the right cabinets to replace the lower ones in the kitchen, and the old cabinets were looking pretty rough.

But, being the DIY genius that she is, Michelle came up with the perfect plan.

She decided that we were going to refinish the cabinets by painting them and lining them with new shelf paper to give them an updated feel. At first I couldn’t picture it, because our upper cabinets were now going to have a cherry stain, and she wanted to paint the lower cabinets a grey color. But after she walked me through some cool looking two-tone kitchens on Pinterest, I was sold.

Pinterest Kitchen 1          Pinterest Kitchen 2

The New Kitchen Layout

So now that we had decided on the cabinets, were started staring at our empty corner in the kitchen. Apparently it was supposed to be part of an “eat-in” kitchen, but I was looking at it like “what?! Is this in an eat-in kitchen FOR ANTS?!” (Zoolander, anyone?). It was obviously too small for that, hence the reason we stuck in a big metal shelf to store things on. Then Michelle had another brilliant idea.

We were going to grab the lower cabinets from the garage and install them along the wall to gain more storage and double our counter space in the kitchen!

Michelle got to measuring and found cabinets that would work, but we’d have to do some modifying. Her brother mentioned it would be doable, so she drafted up the kitchen (another awesome skill Michelle happens to have experience in) and we started planning on lining the wall with the cabinets. BOOM!

New Countertops

So far, we hadn’t really spent any money, the cabinets and fridge were free and planning doesn’t cost anything 🙂 But now we had gotten to the part where we actually had to consider spending some money. Based on our plans, the countertops were probably going to be the most expensive part of the kitchen upgrade. We decided that since our budget was paper thin, we were going to find a nice laminate countertop instead of going granite or some other fancy stone. Laminate these days looks WAYY better than it used to, and should save us hundreds, if not thousands, over comparable granite.

Michelle called around, and we ended up going in for an appointment at Lowe’s hardware.. We met with a nice gal named Laurie who sat us down and went over the details of the laminate countertop installation. First, she complimented Michelle on her drafting SKILLZ! Then she walked us through how the installation would go, talking about the prep work needed for the cabinets and that we needed to remove the old countertops and sink. Everything was sounding great until she gave us the quote.

“That’ll be just under $2,000” she said as she printed out the quote. I gasped, looked at Michelle and said something like “wait, what?” I guess I also overreacted a bit, Michelle would say that I “freaked out”, but that’s probably an exaggeration….I was a bit shocked. The reason I was shocked was because we had budget just under $1,000 for the counters, based on Pinterest said it would cost. All I knew was that we were now over $1,000 over budget!

I came back to reality and realized we had grossly underestimated the countertop cost. I realized pretty quickly that getting a full kitchen countertop installation for under a grand was actually crazy talk, and really $2,000 wasn’t too bad. Especially considering the average kitchen remodel costs over $80,000 (according to HGTV), $2,000 to help improve the value and enjoyment of our home by a substantial amount didn’t seem too bad. Though we still had to talk it over for a few days, we eventually decided that’s the route we wanted to take.

New Layout (Again)

After taking home a sample of the countertop we wanted, Michelle’s brother and I decided to bring in the lower cabinets to put them in place to see what it would look like. We moved everything out of the corner and brought in the cabinets that Michelle had measured for this spot. Things were looking good.

But…Michelle’s brother had a genius idea. As we were putting the cabinets into place, he turned one at a 45-degree angle, and it PERFECTLY aligned with the other two cabinets. He said we could have an angled corner cabinet, and not only would it give use even MORE space, but it would save us having to modify the cabinet at all.

Corner Cabinets


Taking the Plunge…But…

We went back to Lowe’s and showed the new layout to Laurie, and she mentioned that laminate wouldn’t work too well at that angle. After running the numbers, she actually mentioned it would be cheaper to upgrade to solid surface (corian-style). This brought our total to about $2,150, which at this point, wasn’t too bad. We were also able to move to doing an under-mount sink, which was our goal all along. WOOP!

We finally decided to take the plunge. We set a date for “templating” the kitchen, and a date for installation, and bought the countertops. We were well on our way to having all new countertops in the kitchen!

But literally the day after we had made the purchase, we finally received an email back from one of the companies Michelle had reached out to that changed everything…

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade has been a nationally-recognized personal finance expert for the past decade. He has written professionally for The Balance, The Spruce, LendingTree, Investing Answers, and other widely-followed sites. 
He’s also been a featured expert on CBS News, MSN Money, Forbes, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, Go Banking Rates, and AOL Finance.

In 2018, Jacob quit his job and his family decided to sell everything (including their home) to take off on an adventure. They traveled the country in an RV for nearly 3 years, visiting over 38 states, 20+ national parks and eventually settling in the sunshine state!

17 thoughts on “Kitchen Remodel On A Budget: Part 2”

  1. Our countertops were the most expensive part of our frugal kitchen remodel too. We hand-sanded and stained all of the kitchen cabinets, put up a backsplash, etc. but it was much harder to save on countertops.

    • My wife always has the redecorating bug. Owning a house has given her an outlet, that’s for sure. We just redecorated the downstairs, just because she got some free shelves. Don’t think any room stays the same for more than a year 🙂

  2. Yeah, basically you need to get coupons or find a sweet wholesale hookup. We were lucky enough to have gotten most everything else for free, so I didn’t feel too bad dropping some cash on the most important piece of the kitchen.

  3. Very curious to see how it’ll turn out since we’re in the middle of a major kitchen remodel ourselves. (Not $80K, but moving walls and vaulting the ceiling, so pretty major.) I’ve been pondering the two-tone cabinetry myself lately, but I’m not sure I’m sold on it for our kitchen. Thinking of doing the matching cabinetry in our adjacent dining room with a different color instead of having top/bottom different in the kitchen.

    • Good luck on yours as well, that sounds pretty major! It’s definitely been an adventure, and the two-tone has grown on me. Part 3 has another twist in the story, so stay tuned! 🙂

  4. Apparently granite is on the way out. We are doing some minor updates to our old house to sell it and the agent was pretty excited we didn’t have granite. I guess people are realizing that granite is not the be all end all in kitchens anymore. She also said younger buyers don’t like granite because it isn’t sustainable (which we all know is super buzzy right now)

  5. We’re just starting on our remodel too. We are also doing the solid surface choice, but from Home Depot. Based on their online estimate, it should cost us $1400 (not including sink). I think with the sink, it’s $1800. How many sq feet of counter space will you have?

  6. We are considering a DIY countertop using tile and Wedi Board (a german product, but available in the US).

    We might use a granite or quartz countertop too. Just depends on our mood at the time I suppose.

  7. Jacob,
    I showed this to my wife and she absolutely gushed over it. She said, “now there’s a nice young couple that’s going to stay married forever. You can just tell by how homey their kitchen is!”. Great job on doing this frugally.


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