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How to Cut Kitchen Reconstruction Costs

So you're tired of the lime green countertops, 1970s vintage appliances, and florescent floor tile? No problem, you don't have to live with the misery of an old kitchen anymore. And if you're selling your home, and want to improve your resale value without spending tens of thousands of dollars on totally remodeling your kitchen, there's hope for you. You can modernize and beautify your kitchen for about $5,000, if you're willing to compromise and do much of the work yourself.

How can you update your kitchen without spending a mint? First of all, stay within the basic floor plan without tearing out walls. That cuts down substantially on your design effort, money and time. It means you'll have to settle for space you already have, and try to make it more efficient. Next, consider resurfacing or repainting the cabinets, rather than purchasing and installing new ones. New cabinets are another big-ticket item to postpone until your major kitchen expansion down the road. Finally, settle for upgrading your existing work spaces, instead of installing a new kitchen island, and use laminate materials on your countertops instead of more expensive Corian, stone, or concrete.

Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty, if you want to save labor costs and do the work yourself. One way to save money and grief is to plan your mini-remodel over several weekends, instead of tearing all the appliances out right away and making it a week-long crash project. The biggest, and smelliest, job will be repainting the cabinets. Make sure you have plenty of ventilation to carry off the odors from the oil-based paints--you'll be sanding, priming and painting for several hours. In order to make the paint stick, you'll have to scrub the grease off, and lightly sand the surfaces to allow the primer coat to adhere. Don't scrimp on primer or paint, you need the highest quality. Here's another cost-saving hint: if replacing the hardware, choose pieces that fit into the existing holes, to avoid having to drill or perform woodwork.

Countertops offer two basic choices: do-it-yourself installation, or paying a professional to fabricate and install them for a price. The right choice depends on the complexity of the job. Take some measurements and go talk to your local home improvement center. Figure out if you're up to the job. If you're splurging on stone or Corian, then it must be done professionally. But laminate will be about half the cost, and very durable and attractive, as well, especially with a solid-surface edge to complement the main countertop.

New appliances will provide smarter cooking, better ventilation, and cheaper electric bills through energy efficient technology. Remember that you'll need to pick appliances that fit the spaces between cabinets. But new stoves offer over-and-under, space-saving design, stacking mini-ovens and microwaves on top of each other. New refrigerators offer more storage space and better accessibility, including bigger shelf capacity on the doors.

One source of information available at your local home improvement center or on the web is PBS's HOMETIME do-it-yourself programs, available on videotape. The HOMETIME kitchen remodel video is an inexpensive, quick way for a homeowner to learn about kitchen remodels in general and gain some accurate understanding about an actual installation project.

Sources used to create this article include writer Elaine Martin Petrowski and Today's Homeowner Magazine.

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