Renovating a kitchen on the cheap

When you’ve got very little money and a lot of work to do on a little house, you improvise. Since you guys keep asking for more about the house… today a post on how I updated my kitchen for less than $500! And if I can do that… you can too. Check it out:

This was the first project I tackled in The Littlest House in the winter of 2008. A dark, gloomy, dirty hole of a room. Wait, don’t take my word for it, check out the pics I’ve posted after the next paragraph.

I’ve drawn up a little layout using my very fancy modelling program called so you can get a better idea of what my kitchen looks like:

Bigger isn’t always better you know

My kitchen is TINY with no windows to the outside, there IS a window but it faces into the addition I just built on and this window used to face into a really shabby looking porch. There is only one way into the kitchen, and one way out and that is by walking through the open door-frame to the living room. I do have plans eventually to close over the window that faces into the new addition and put a new window in the wall where the overhead cabinets are, of course at the same time reorganizing the fridge/stove/sink locations but this post isn’t about what I would like to do with this kitchen. It’s about updating your kitchen on a very tight budget.

When the truckers abandoned my house (gosh I should write a post about them some day!) on closing day the kitchen was left in pretty much the state you see in the pictures below. The only nice thing they left was a nice wok that I saved (and used.. maybe once, but that’s another story)

Hello blue slanted ceiling-in-adjacent-porch
That’s not stainless steel… that’s SPRAYPAINT

Are your hands itching yet?

The first thing I did was bring the fridge and stove to the dump. They were OLD, like the green and almond-colour-old but someone at some point had taken silver spraypaint to them. Why??

I’ll save you most of the demo talk so we can move on to pictures – but basically I gutted everything except the cabinets and the sink. The ceiling came out, the floor came out, the appliances went in the trash. The countertop was dumped and two and a half of the walls were gutted. (Cost $20 in waste disposal)


My father helped hang the drywall, we insulated a portion of the wall behind the stove that faced outside and also replaced the drywall in the ceiling. We ripped out the old floor and my father helped put in plywood as a base for the tile.

Next, I took to the cabinets with commercial degreaser, removed all the handles and knobs and sanded and filled any holes I deemed worthy. You can still see the grease on the cabinets on this before picture after the drywall went in.

The whole process of scrubbing and getting everything clean actually took a few days because I let everything dry, then scrubbed it again. Eventually I managed to get all the cabinets clean.

I removed the drawers from the cabinets and cleaned them, sanded them and started priming. A few months before this  I had picked up RTV cans of paint at my local hardware store for a buck a piece. They were damaged cans of perfectly fine pure white Dulux paint (my favourite actually, once you’ve painted a few times you develop an affinity for certain paints – I swear) so I lucked out big-time there.

Much better!

In the meantime I had also found a great deal on a new fridge that I picked up for under $400 and I found a piece of countertop leftover from recent renovations at my parents house that fit EXACTLY in the spot of the old countertop.

A brand-new white stove was generously gifted by a family member as a Christmas/housewarming gift.A brand-new white stove was generously gifted by a family member as a Christmas/housewarming gift.

I decided to go with a tile backsplash above the sink and on the wall behind the counter. If you’ve got a good tile-store close to you, ask them if they have a spot that they put leftovers. My local tile and flooring store has a backroom filled with bits and pieces leftover from previous jobs they’ve done. I picked up enough cream coloured subway tiles to do all the surfaces for about $10. Never be afraid to ask!


I found the glass covers for the lightfixture hidden in one of the drawers and decided to keep it. The fixture was relatively new and once I cleaned it up and hung it back up it actually looked alright. Cost $0.

I removed and installed new crown moulding above the cabinets as the old stuff was unsalvagable but I kept all the old doors and cabinets because of cost. I threw out the old knobs and handles and bought new ones that I repositioned on the cabinets to work more efficiently, the old ones were just randomly thrown on the middle of the doors.

Since this kitchen was (is) as old as the house I ran into a few bumps along the way. I had to retrofit a new drain on the old sink because it was leaking, which did require a plumber after I had found the proper part all I paid was the labour, $75.

But enough with the boring stuff, let’s get to the final result! After I replaced ALL the handles and knobs with pretty stainless steel ones, my father installed the grey tile on the floor and the cream tile on the backsplash. The plumber came in and fixed the sink and after I finished A LOT of painting and touchups I was left with this:


before backsplash

Above you can see what things looked like before the backsplash went in and after I installed undercabinet lighting (there is more room between the stove and fridge than appear on the picture, the stove can open fully with me still standing in front of it) And after the backsplash was installed:


There isn’t a lot of counterspace and I don’t have a dishwasher, but, it’s a small house and the kitchen actually turned out pretty efficient once it got a makeover. I kept the old sink on purpose, I just loved it and it was in really great shape. It’s also a castiron behemoth so removing it would have been… interesting. Here’s what she looks like after a thorough cleaning and a lot of love:

She’s a beauty!

So far, every one has loved my kitchen. I realize it has its downfalls but for now it looks much better than it did and all the materials I used, the tiles, the new tap, the drywall, the doorknobs, the paint cost me less than $500 and a lot of elbow grease. Of course, the appliances are on top of that. You can do a lot with a little, it just takes time. 🙂

Published by Renée

I write about my life, travel and my financial up and downs on my blog, Nickel By Nickel, while contradicting myself daily. ;)

16 thoughts on “Renovating a kitchen on the cheap

  1. Fabulous work! You are so handy! I wish I am more handy (which I am not at all). There are a few projects around my 600 sq ft apartment that I need to tackle and I am totally dreading it. [2014/02/07 update: broken link]


  2. I love it! The cabinets look great and I'm really becoming a fan of subway tile. Looks so great in kitchens! And I just snorted out loud at the spray painted appliances. I'd love to hear the reasoning behind that and whether whoever did also has a lot of chrome on their vehicles :). It seems like the oven is awkwardly placed with the fridge, but I guess that's the deal with old places. And for $500, I'm willing to scoot into a corner to use the oven!


    1. Nooooooo, give it a try! It is really not rocketscience… as long as you know what a straight line is, if you don't have an eye for that I may nominate you for canada's worst handyman.


    1. remember, google can be your best friend, my father is a professional tiler/flipper so I did luck out a bit in that area, i ask his help with things I really really can't figure out… and of course I won't attempt tiling since he'll probably frown on any attempt I would make anyway… lol


  3. I completely agree with you about old houses. We have a 100+ old Victorian and I love all the little cool things that you would never see on a new place.

    Love your kitchen reno. Very nice indeed.


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