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Hawaii Homeowners: How to Remodel Your Kitchen on a Budget


So, you want to remodel your kitchen ... and you're not independently wealthy. Happily, there are plenty of savvy strategies out there to take your new kitchen from dream to reality. Let's tick off the biggies, below.

Discover new potential in old cabinets.

"The priciest part of a kitchen remodel always has to do with materials, and in particular, cabinets," said John Gerard at Zillow. New cabinets are expensive. But your old cabinets may be full of potential. Here are a few ideas:

  • Reinvent the whole look with just a layer of fresh paint.
  • Are the cabinets made of solid wood? Strip the old paint and refinish them.
  • Remove the old hardware and replace it with a different style.
  • Knock the solid centers out (if you can) and replace them with glass panes.
  • Replace the doors with ones that you like better.
  • Remove the doors altogether, and give your kitchen open shelving.

Use inexpensive lighting options to illuminate your vision.

Light can make a room feel spacious and airy, or create a cozy intimacy – and the fixtures set the tone, from rustic to sleek. On the flip side, bad lighting can be a major source of frustration when you're working in your kitchen, and bad fixtures can be an eyesore that traps you in the wrong decade. So how do you get better lighting without paying too much?

  • Do an online search for "discount lights" in your neighborhood and discover the local best-kept secrets.
  • Check your vintage hardware store, Habitat for Humanity "re-store" or Re-use Hawaii for unexpected gems.
  • Browse Overstock for deals.

Get new countertops without spending a slab of cash.

If you want granite counters, think tile, not slab. "Large slabs of granite are a pain in the butt to transport and install," said Paula Pant at Afford Anything. "Granite tile is an order of magnitude cheaper." If you're not set on granite, what about butcher block? It's natural, warm, and inexpensive. However, be warned: it does require some annual maintenance (oiling) and is susceptible to water damage.

Search for sizzling appliance deals.

Here again, recycled options can hold a lot of potential. Search Craigslist for hit-and-miss options. Browse Sears Outlet and Brandsmart for deals. Get on the mailing list of a store that sells appliances, as the New York Times suggested, and watch for "leftover building supplies, showroom floor models and items from new developments that buyers decided not to keep."

If you want new appliances, check the tax incentives for energy-efficient models and let that guide your shopping. Alternatively, wait for a major sales day (we're looking at you, Black Friday), and dive on those deals like a hawk.

Choose flooring that doesn't floor your budget.

If you want the look of wood without the price, think engineered wood or laminate planks. If you're keen on stone, try tile. A popular green-building option these days is marmoleum: a linoleum made with natural, non-VOC ingredients. Cork, concrete, carpet tiles and bamboo are also cost-effective options.

Last but definitely not least: Know the most important rule.

Most importantly, don't start shopping (let alone knocking down walls) until you've prioritized your list, researched your options, priced everything out, and set a realistic timeline. With a little strategy at the outset, you can plan a smart kitchen remodel that's not only beautiful, but affordable, too.