4 Smart Ways to Save Money on a Kitchen Remodel

Without sacrificing style.

Here's a fact that should surprise no one: Kitchens are expensive. They can be expensive when they're brand new, and they can be expensive when they're renovated. But the lesser-known tidbit about kitchens is that where there's an opportunity to splurge, there's also a chance to save.

"For me, it's all about balance," says designer Orlando Soria, host of Build Me Up on Discovery+. "You can get away with having an inexpensive backsplash tile if you have a beautiful countertop or a really distinctive piece of art." If you're crunching the numbers on a potential kitchen renovation, it can be tough to know when to pinch pennies and where to go all in. While bottom lines may be different for every kitchen, the overall cost can be greatly impacted by countertops, backsplashes, cabinetry, and appliances. So to aid in the art of a reasonable budget, four experienced designers—Soria, Natalie Myers of Veneer Designs, and Aly Morford and Leigh Lincoln of Pure Salt Interiors—share their advice on how to strategize. Once you're able to navigate potential savings to these four big-ticket items, you won't be surprised when your kitchen looks more expensive than it is.

Opt for Engineered Stone or Butcher Block Counters

When selecting a countertop, weigh durability with cost to find the right fit for how often you cook. Sometimes, less durable materials are actually more expensive. "For example, marble is less durable than granite or quartzite," Lincoln says, yet it's more expensive. "From there, opt for natural or manufactured stone, depending on your budget." Myers notes that engineered stone can look just as good as natural stone, but tends to cost less and be more durable. "Think outside the box if needed," she says. "You might consider terrazzo slabs." Either way, it's best to select stone countertops in neutral shades to stand up to changing trends.

For those who aren't big chefs and don't necessarily need the same resilient quality of stone, there's always butcher block as another option. "Obviously the material is a lot cheaper than quartz or stone, but it has the added benefit of having a much lower fabrication cost," Soria says. "Fabricating countertops is a big business because it has to be so precise, so using an easily installed product brings down your labor cost quite a bit. The downside is that you'll likely have to replace butcher block more often." If you like the look of patina, a butcher block counter that acquires signs of wear over the years could be the most affordable option.

Kitchen with fun tile backsplash in white and gold
Natalie Myers

Get Creative With Your Backsplash

A classic subway tile is the most cost-effective option, Soria says, but don't overrule the impact it might have with a fresh spin. "One of my favorite things to do is to get creative with tile patterns," Myers says. "You can do so with fairly inexpensive options, like subway and concrete tiles." For instance, choosing longer subway tiles in a vertical layout can feel more modern, especially in a bolder color, or you might pick a herringbone design for a slightly upscale finish.

Another budget-friendly option? Not installing as much of a backsplash. "To keep costs low, keep the design simple," Morford says. "Use a minimal footprint and only tile where you need." Tiling behind the sink and range works just fine, as long as you don't mind cleaning a little more often. Finally, if you really need to trim costs, don't forget the impact decals can make. "If you have existing backsplash tile, you can apply vinyl decals to update the look with a pattern and skip the demolition process altogether," Myers says.

Orlando Soria Kitchen, Greige Cabinets and tile
Design by Orlando Soria / Photography by Zeke Ruelas

Upcycle Your Cabinetry

The most cost-effective solution for cabinetry that's still in good condition is straightforward: give it a facelift. "Simply repaint or re-lacquer it," Soria says. Myers agrees, noting that a local cabinet maker can build new doors for existing boxes if they've seen better days. "I recommend maple wood boxes if you can't reuse what's there," she says. "I know the MDF boxes with thermofoil faces are tempting, but they will not withstand daily wear-and-tear and will lead to regret in a few years when you find yourself needing to renovate again. Please trust me on this one."

You can also save money, and create a new layout by replacing some sections of upper cabinetry with open shelving. "If you opt into open shelving and have blank space to fill, I recommend getting the hardware and lighting you really love, because it won't have an immense impact on the total budget," Myers says. "Those details will elevate the overall look and get you the feeling you are ultimately after."

Ask About Discounted Appliances (or Update the Ones You Already Own)

"It's possible to make less-expensive flooring and wood countertops look luxe, but I wouldn't scrimp on appliances, since doing so will age the kitchen quickly," Soria says. While it might be necessary to keep some older appliances—and Soria has worked around it in the past—that usually only works for items that aren't too dated and still work well. In this case, you may consider wrapping the appliances in vinyl for a new look, or covering them with wood panels to blend in with the cabinetry.

"They should be an investment that lasts you through the years, but that being said, you also don't need to splurge for the top-of-the-line models if they are not going to enhance your lifestyle," Lincoln says.

To decide on the right ones, Myers recommends answering a question she poses to her clients. "Are you a cooking enthusiast, or do you want the brand label for resale?" she asks. "If neither of those describe you, then mid-range American brands will perform well." And yet, if you have a specific range or refrigerator in mind, and getting a new one might blow your budget, then Myers knows what to do. "You can also ask the appliance sales rep about purchasing floor models or discontinued models they need to move."

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