Save Money on Your Kitchen Makeover

Posted on: 9th August 2013

Even if you have a bottomless budget for your dream kitchen, things would still eventually break down, crack or dent so you still have to pay again for those. You could opt to pay for the sleekest pro-style appliances, the most luxurious stone countertop, and the trendiest hardwood flooring or you could use this article to make every dollar count by sidestepping high-priced pitfalls in the first place.

  1. Appliances

Do not feel the pressure to get a pro-style, 36-inch range with high-Btu burners; a built-in refrigerator with panels that match the surrounding cabinetry; and whisper-quiet dishwashers. Of course, they are a must-have for today’s luxury homes but it doesn’t mean that these high-end appliances always deliver. Even KitchenAid dual-fuel ranges – both the electric and gas models have been repair-prone.

It is a good thing that many mainstream brands have upped their styling with  “faux pro” features, including beefy controls and a stainless-steel finish. And they equal or surpass their pricey counterparts when it comes to cooking and reliability. Consider an induction range or cooktop, which uses electromagnetism to deliver pinpoint heating and control. Among refrigerators, cabinet-depth models offer the streamlined look of built-ins for thousands less.

Save Money on Kitchen RenovationStainless steel has dominated appliances for decades, but some experts say its reign may be coming to an end. Daring alternatives such as oil-rubbed bronze and cobalt blue haven’t caught on, suggesting that the next finish will be more neutral in nature. One possibility is Whirlpool’s White Ice, a fresh take on classic white that’s being rolled out across refrigerators, dishwashers, ranges, and microwave ovens throughout the year. Though it is metal, the finish has a glossy white sheen that mimics the elegance of frosted glass.

  1. Flooring

Wood has warmth and elegance and can be used in adjacent rooms, creating a seamless flow between the spaces. Antique wood floors, milled from timbers reclaimed from centuries-old buildings, have character, but they’ve been particularly prone to wear and tear in our tests. Performance-wise, you’re better off with solid wood flooring with a factory finish, which costs more up front than unfinished flooring but lasts longer and eliminates the mess of on-site finishing.

Even the most durable wood floors are no match for heavy traffic, especially if it includes sandy shoes and dog’s claws. Durable stones such as granite and quartzite offer more protection and a sense of permanence. People subconsciously associate stone with stability underfoot, so it’s a natural choice for flooring.

If you want the look for less and also save on installation costs, go for engineered wood flooring, which has a veneer of real wood over a substrate and can be floated over the subfloor. The downside is that most can be refinished only once, whereas solid flooring can be refinished multiple times.

Tile is an all-natural option that realistically mimics costly materials. Vinyl flooring is another less expensive option with some very convincing faux patterns, including wood and natural stone.

  1. Countertops

Authenticity is the name of the game in countertops, which means natural stone for top-tier designers. But recently, wavy marble becomes the preference over speckled granites especially in white kitchens. But given its susceptibility to staining and scratching, marble is not for everyone. Designers talk about patina, but you have to remember that’s just a fancy term for scratches and stains. If, like many homeowners, you want things to stay looking new, consider quartz, a highly durable engineered stone that can resemble natural stone. All-white quartz countertops are also popular thanks to improvements in technology that give them the purest tone.

To save on countertops and still look stylish, shop around for affordable stone slabs. There are even bigger savings out there with granite, especially if you choose from remnants at the stone yard. Some granite has wavy marble-like veining.

Laminate, the most affordable countertop option by far, has come a long way. The latest printing technologies result in faux patterns that look like real stone, or you can choose a solid white that’s suited to contemporary kitchens. Formica has even eliminated the unsightly black line along the edge of the countertop that used to be laminate’s tell-tale sign.

  1. Cabinets

Custom-built cabinets rule the most expensive kitchens. The result is a fully integrated look that’s in keeping with the current taste for clean, minimalist design. The good news is that this style is inherently less expensive—and easier to clean—than the once-fashionable country kitchen, which called for cabinetry with elaborate mouldings and applied detail. The bad news is that custom cabinets of any description cost tens of thousands of dollars.

If the layout of the existing cabinets works and the units are plumb, square, and sturdy, you could refinish them with a fresh coat of paint or reface them by replacing the cabinet doors and drawers and applying veneers to the face frames and ends. Retrofitting the cabinets with pull-out drawers, lazy Susans, and retractable trash cans can improve their function.

If your cabinets are too far gone, you can save 30 per cent or more by choosing semi-custom units. Stock units save even more, without necessarily sacrificing style.Whether semi-custom or stock, the features that held up best in our cabinet tests include solid-wood or plywood doors; boxes made of ½- to ¾-inch plywood; solid-wood drawer sides with dovetail joints, full-extension glides, and a plywood bottom; and adjustable, ¾-inch plywood or medium-density fibreboard shelving.

Costly mistakes to avoid

  • Not having a clear and proper planning. Changing the design after the project is under way is guaranteed to break the budget. Before you green-light your project and take the plunge, make sure that your budget and scope are strongly intertwined so that you can reconcile things according to what you envision it to be.
  • Skimping on labour. Sooner or later the cracks will show with poor construction. Invest in quality, especially for cabinet installation and tile setting, where small mistakes can lead to big disappointment.
  • Installing pointless features. Smart appliances are supposed to save money by powering down when electricity rates are highest. But you’ll only reap the rewards if your home has a “smart” meter and your utility company offers time-of-use rates. Otherwise, you’ll be paying more for a technology that may be years away.
  • Ignoring the professionals. Even if you're going the DIY route, unless you're building your own kitchen cabinets and doing your own electrical and plumbing, you're going to have to work with a professional at some point. It may be as brief as leaning on your salesperson to help you in selecting and ordering your appliances or cabinets, but it's something to plan on either way. Do not think contractors are always out there to rip you off because you could end up spending more when you attempt to do it on your own rather than rely on someone who does it for a living.

Share this feature

Tomorro Email Newsletter
Subscribe to hear about future competitions and how your entries are making a difference