DIY-Friendly and Lower Cost Small Kitchen Remodels

A kitchen remodel can completely transform the look and functionality of your home’s heart. However, full-scale renovations often come with daunting price tags. If you’re working with a small kitchen space and a limited budget, strategically updating certain elements can make a big visual impact without breaking the bank. With some DIY elbow grease and cost-cutting techniques, you can create a fresh, modern kitchen on a modest budget.

Careful Planning for Maximum ROI

Before picking up any tools, thoughtful planning is crucial to keep your remodel affordable. Prioritize changes that will provide the most bang for your buck.

Focus on visible surfaces. Painting cabinets, updating hardware, adding new backsplash tile, and installing new countertops and lighting make the space look fresh and new for minimal investment. Leave major tear-outs like moving plumbing or electrical for later.

Work within the existing layout. Moving or removing walls and cabinets is expensive. Look for ways to improve the space you already have. Add racks and other organizational tools. Optimize storage with lazy susans and drawer inserts.

Set a reasonable timeline. Completing updates in phases spreads costs over time. Save up for each mini-project. Resist expanding the scope to stay on budget.

Do your own demo. Knocking out old materials yourself means fewer contractor hours to pay for. Carefully remove old flooring, countertops, tiles and backsplash without damaging the underlying surfaces.

Thoughtful planning and prioritization allow you to maximize the visual change from relatively simple upgrades.

Affordable Cabinet Updates

Refreshing tired cabinets makes a huge impact for relatively little cash outlay. Here are budget-friendly options to consider:

New Hardware

Replacing dated metal knobs and pulls with modern brushed nickel or oil-rubbed bronze costs under $100. Opt for handles over knobs for a cleaner look. Match the finish to other kitchen metals for a cohesive feel. This easy switch modernizes the whole look instantly.

Fresh Paint

Painting worn or dated cabinets in a fresh white, neutral gray, or on-trend tone is a weekend project. Light colors make small spaces feel more open. Prep properly and use a high-quality cabinet enamel for a smooth, durable finish. Add new hardware for extra pop.

Light Sanding

For worn cabinets with heavy staining or damage, lightly sanding before priming and painting saves the cost of complete replacement. Use fine grit paper and be cautious not to remove too much material. Finish with 2-3 coats of paint for flawless coverage.

Chalk Paint Magic

For a shabby chic vibe, chalk paint adheres to surfaces without priming or sanding and creates a distressed finish. After painting, sand edges and use wax to seal. Install new hardware for an eclectic, vintage look on a dime.

Contact Paper Cover-Up

To camouflage oak veneer or outdated laminates, apply adhesive-backed contact paper for a faux finish. Carefully measure and cut panels to fit cabinet door fronts and sides for temporary facelift. Smoothing out bubbles and creases is key.

With a little elbow grease, fresh paint or paper coverings update worn cabinets at a fraction of full replacement cost.

Economical Countertop Alternatives

New countertops make a huge visual impact, but natural stone and solid surface materials come at a steep price. Here are thrifty alternatives to consider:

Tile Countertops

Ceramic, porcelain or glass tile creates an attractive, durable surface at a budget price point. Use large format tiles and neutral grout for a seamless look. Add a decorative edge. This is an excellent DIY project option.

Concrete Countertops

Concrete offers the look of stone for less. Pre-cast slabs are affordable and install like natural materials. For a more custom look, build forms and pour concrete directly on existing counters. Stain or dye in any color. Seal properly.

Butcher Block

Wood countertops like butcher block add natural warmth. Use as a replacement or lay over an existing surface. Opt for the thickest affordable boards. Use waterproof glue for joining. Finish with food-safe sealer for protection.

Painted Laminate

As a temporary solution, painting worn laminate counters with a white epoxy paint creates a fresh look. Scuff the surface before painting for adhesion. Add accent areas of color for extra pop. Use a sealant for durability and stain resistance.

With clever alternatives, it’s possible to get the look of high-end countertop materials on a lean budget.

Inexpensive yet Impactful Backsplashes

The backsplash makes a design statement and protects the wall. Unfortunately, materials like natural stone or glass tile can be prohibitively expensive. Check out these budget-friendly options:

Peel-and-Stick Tile

Adhesive vinyl tiles let you mimic the look of ceramic, stone or glass at a fraction of the cost. Carefully measure the space and prep the surface for good adhesion. Use damp cloths to remove air bubbles. Grout just like real tile.

Faux Tile Paint

Use paint to create the look of hand-laid tile. Use painters tape and a level to mark off “grout” sections and base coats before detailing each “tile”. Add clear sealer for durability. Great for renters.

Tin Backsplash

Achieve a vintage vibe by affixing sheets of tin behind the counter area. Cut pieces to fit using metal shears. Nail up with finishing nails, allowing slight overlap for a shingled effect. Spray with clear sealer for protection.


Use adhesive wallpaper with dramatic patterns or “tile” motif to add visual interest. Remove existing wall covering. Fill any imperfections before applying wallpaper border in space. Take care removing air bubbles. Seal when finished.

With clever faux finishes and materials, you can mimic high-end backsplashes on a bargain budget.

Flooring for Less

Floors can make or break a kitchen’s style. Unfortunately, most materials come with high price tags. Consider these options to update floors on the cheap:

Sheet Vinyl

Self-adhesive sheet vinyl rolls out over existing floors for an instant upgrade. Select stone, wood or abstract looks. Measure carefully and trim to fit. Use caulk for tight seams. Adds value for future buyers.

Vinyl Tile

For a removable upgrade, self-stick vinyl tiles applic over any hard surface. Select bold patterns and textures unavailable in natural stone or wood. Cut tiles with utility knife. Reuse or replace sections easily later.

Painted Floors

For dated linoleum or ceramic tile, paint becomes an affordable floor facelift. Use a de-glossing solution and then a heavy-duty epoxy floor paint like Rust-Oleum. Add visual interest with two alternating colors.Use multiple coats for durability.

Stained Concrete

For a sleek industrial vibe, stained concrete polishes up existing slabs beautifully. Use degreaser and etch solution to prep. Apply concrete stain and seal for a durable finish. Buff to a satin sheen.

With clever solutions, you can mimic more expensive flooring materials without breaking the remodeling budget.

Lighting: The Most Cost-Effective Focus

Outdated lighting casts unflattering shadows and can make any kitchen look drab. The good news is that lighting offers an easy, highly affordable way to modernize the space.

LED Recessed Cans

Recessed can lights provide overall illumination. Swapping out dated cans for ultra-slim LED recessed lights is straightforward. Choose warm white or adjustable color temperature. Use multiple smaller cans instead of fewer large ones.

Under Cabinet Lighting

Installing strip lighting underneath upper cabinets creates perfect task lighting. Use plug-in or hardwired LED tape lights. Attach to cabinet base. Use a dimmer for adjustable brightness. Combine with recessed cans overhead.

Sleek Linear Fixtures

Linear LED fixtures create ambient glow while making a design statement. Use over islands, sinks, and other focal points. Try horizontal above the sink or vertical next to a backsplash. Choose chrome, bronze, or black finishes.

Statement Pendants and Sconces

Decorative fixtures over tables or islands add stylish accent lighting. Sleek drum pendants work over tables, while mounted sconces illuminate key areas. Use smart bulbs for tuneable light. Mix metals and shapes for eclectic charm.

The right lighting instantly makes any small kitchen feel brighter, more stylish, and updated. Focus here for affordable yet transformative impact.

Maximum Storage Hacks

Even modest kitchen layouts can function efficiently with smart organization. The following storage ideas maximize every inch of space:

Cabinet Optimizers

  • Install rollout trays, lazy susans, and pull out shelves to modernize fixed cabinets
  • Use shelf risers and vertical dividers to double space
  • Try a toe-kick drawer for pots and pans
  • Use door racks for cutting boards, cookie sheets, and other flat items
  • Install under cabinet racks for spices, utensils, or glassware

Drawer Upgrade

  • Replace a lower cabinet with a large drawer for extra storage
  • Use deep roll out drawers for cookware and bulky items
  • Consider drawer-style dishwashers and fridges to avoid swinging doors

Multi-purpose Carts

  • Add a tiered utility cart for additional pantry storage
  • Use a bar cart to hold small appliances near outlets
  • Try a rolling island with storage for added prep space

Slim Organizers

  • Use pan lid racks, inclined pot racks, and vertical knife blocks to save space
  • Install narrow spice racks inside cabinet doors
  • Affix a paper towel holder under upper cabinets

With clever DIY storage solutions, even the tiniest kitchen can offer abundant storage.

Budget-Friendly Quick Fixes

If time and money are extremely limited, consider these fast mini-makeovers:

  • Update cabinet hardware for visual pop at low cost
  • Paint the walls a fresh, light color to brighten the space
  • Replace a dated light fixture over the sink or island
  • Upgrade old appliances with budget-friendly options
  • Freshen up the room with new rugs, curtains, and decor
  • Organize the contents of cabinets and drawers
  • Declutter counters and create zones for prep, cooking, and cleaning

Focus on the fixes with the biggest aesthetic payoff. Even small changes can make your kitchen look and feel brand new.

Keeping Costs Down with DIY

To complete upgrades affordably, be ready to roll up your sleeves and take on key projects yourself. With proper planning and care, DIY kitchen remodels can look polished and professional.

  • Watch online tutorials to learn new skills
  • Start with quick, straightforward projects to build confidence
  • Rent tools to avoid purchasing expensive specialty equipment
  • Take it slow – don’t rush tricky parts of the process
  • Call in favors from handy friends and family to help
  • Hire a contractor for complicated electrical, plumbing or structural work

The sense of accomplishment from transforming your most-used space with your own two hands makes the investment of time and effort worthwhile.


With careful planning and budget-savvy material selections, DIYers can completely transform a tired small kitchen without emptying their wallets. Focus on visible surfaces like cabinetry, counters, and backsplashes for affordably big visual impact. Brighten up the space with smart lighting choices and declutter with organizational solutions. With some sweat equity invested, you can gain a kitchen that looks and functions better than ever – all for less.

FAQs About DIY-Friendly, Lower Cost Small Kitchen Remodels

What are the most cost-effective upgrades for a small kitchen remodel?

Some of the most affordable yet impactful upgrades include painting or refacing cabinets, installing new hardware, replacing lighting fixtures, tiling the backsplash, adding peel-and-stick flooring, and replacing dated appliances.

How expensive are new kitchen cabinets?

A full set of new ready-to-assemble cabinets costs $2,500-5,000 on average. Stock cabinets are $100-300 per linear foot. Semi-custom run $200-500 per linear foot and fully custom are $500-1,500+. Refacing existing cabinets is an affordable alternative.

What is the typical cost to install new kitchen counters?

Average costs for common counter materials: laminate $40-75 per linear foot; ceramic, porcelain or glass tile $40-100 per square foot; concrete $50-100 per square foot; solid surface $70-100 per square foot; butcher block $30-60 per square foot; natural or engineered stone $60-200 per square foot.

What are cheap backsplash ideas for kitchens?

Inexpensive backsplash options include using peel-and-stick tile, painting a faux tile mural, applying wallpaper, or using reclaimed tin ceiling panels. Also, leaving the wall bare and painting is an option.

What are affordable ways to update kitchen floors?

Low-cost kitchen flooring solutions include using peel-and-stick vinyl tile, installing laminate flooring, staining or painting existing concrete floors, or painting worn ceramic tile. Also, re-painting hardwood can give it a refreshed look.

Can I remodel my kitchen myself to save money?

Many parts of a kitchen remodel like painting, installing flooring, backsplashes and hardware can be DIY-friendly to save substantially on labor costs. But structural changes or anything involving electricity, gas or plumbing require professional skills. Create a plan to balance DIY and pro help.