DIY Farmhouse Kitchen Remodel for Less Than $1,000

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Rustic kitchen room inside an old (1722) French regime residential home, Quebec, Canada.
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Functional kitchen with an antique stove in an old cottage style residential home (circa 1705) Quebec, Canada.
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Country style kitchen inside a Canadiana cottage style fieldstone residential home built to look old in 2002, Quebec, Canada.
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Kitchen room with island inside an old (1752) French regime cottage style residential home, Quebec, Canada.
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The author's kitchen backsplash before they'd remodeled.
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The author's kitchen backsplash after they'd remodeled.

Whether you love cooking or just enjoy food, there’s no doubt the kitchen is the center of the home. The exception to that rule may be the woodstove during winter. However, having your ideal kitchen is sometimes a work in progress. When the average kitchen renovation costs $20,000, it might seem impossible to do anything with a budget of $1,000 – but we disagree.

The key is putting in hours of sweat equity and creatively finding resources. You’ll learn valuable trades along the way, and any tools you purchase will be useful for other projects.

When we moved into our small home, we were working with a base-model manufactured house. While we were thankful to be homeowners at last, the amount of remodeling this house required seemed unending, so we decided to focus on the kitchen.

We had a budget of $1,000 to redo a full, eat-in kitchen with an attached dining area, so we needed to be thoughtful with our money.

This wouldn’t be a full-fledged kitchen remodel. What it is, is a way to bring a fresh new feel to what you already have. You won’t be changing your kitchen footprint, upgrading appliances, or replacing cabinets. While that may seem discouraging, read on for creative and thrifty solutions.

• What tools will you need? Do you have to buy or can you borrow them?
• Craigslist and eBay are great resources for materials and items at affordable prices.
• Habitat for Humanity ReStore is a second-time-around hardware store – and as an added bonus, it supports a great cause.
• If you know a contractor or tradesman, utilize their knowledge. They may even be willing to help with the project.

• Barter goods or services.

Envision your ideal kitchen

Planning ahead is crucial. We had a specific idea for our country kitchen: New England farmhouse. However, we didn’t know exactly how it would look. To plan, we paged through magazines and looked online for the sort of kitchen we had in mind. We cut out pictures of things we liked. You can also do this on Pinterest by starting a board and pinning things that match your style or what you’re going for. Having something to look at made it so much easier to prioritize our needs.

As you plan, figure out your large expenses. Initially deciding on a few special purchases helped us build our budget around them. Also, we could wait to find the best price because we knew months in advance what we wanted.

For our project, we wanted a nice faucet for our sink. A high-necked, oil-rubbed bronze piece would take that space from “rental-unit ugly” to “farmhouse fancy.” Quality faucets can cost $150 and up, so we watched sales and online auctions to find a deal. A clearance sale gave us a lovely faucet for $130.

Our other large investment was the backsplash behind our stove, which we’ll discuss later.

You might need to upgrade the light fixtures, or, depending on the size of your kitchen, even buy flooring. Check on Craigslist or Lumber Liquidators for great bargains.

Open concept

When we walked into this home, the keys still warm from the previous owner’s hand, the first thing we jettisoned was a small wall and set of cabinets that cut our kitchen off from the living room. The wall was not load-bearing and the cabinets were very useful in another area of our home.

In your home, consider removing a wall to open up the kitchen or add more light to your home. It’s a simple way to increase the space you already have. Just be sure the wall is not load-bearing. Consult a contractor friend before removing it.

Another important consideration is whether or not you will encounter wiring. We did have wiring in our small wall, so we had an electrician come to cap the wires and safely hide them in our ceiling. There may be pipes or vents in your wall, so please consider the removal carefully. Take great care in deciding if you want to go this route, as even minor miscalculations may require professional help that may affect your budget. Additionally, you’ll be repairing parts of the ceiling and floor where the wall used to be. Our wall was nearly free-floating, and a simple coat of paint covered any reminders that it used to be there.

Paint covers all

The most inexpensive way to make a home seem new is with a fresh coat of paint. Our walls had a tiny flower pattern all over. It was incredibly dated and made the kitchen look cluttered, even when fully clean. Also, we needed to “mud” the seams between drywall panels, as this home had never had that important aesthetic done. This likely isn’t something you’ll have to do, but if you need to repair nail holes or damage to your walls, the time to do it is before you paint. A small container of plaster compound will cost about $4, plus the simple spackling tools you’ll need. If you removed a wall, you’ll likely already have these supplies on hand. For our large project, we needed a 5-gallon bucket of plaster, which runs about $15.

After the walls were repaired and smooth, we painted them a cheery light blue. Good-quality paint will cost $25 to $40 per gallon. We only needed one gallon of all-in-one primer and paint to give our kitchen and dining area two coats. You may need more if you are covering a dark color.

While at the store for paint supplies, we saw a closeout sale on some white wainscoting. We jumped on the opportunity, and purchased enough to cover the walls of our attached dining room. This was just the boost this little area needed to differentiate it from the kitchen and give it a classic farmhouse feel.

Renew your cabinets

Our cupboards are pressed particle board and had fake wood-grain contact paper on the outsides, which was systematically peeling off. I used a hair dryer to get the rest of the “wood-grain” off the boards, and then took the doors off completely. I was able to get three coats of cupboard-specific paint on both the doors and the base of the cupboards. This specialized paint is a little more expensive, but you can get it in any color you want, and the cost is mere pennies compared to replacing all of your cabinets. We chose white to brighten the kitchen and compliment the blue walls. Other classic farmhouse colors are soft light greens, yellows, and off-whites.

A popular option is to add shelves in place of shabby cupboards. You’ll find unique boards at salvage- or lumberyards, and Craigslist is a gold mine for materials. If you don’t like seeing everything in plain view, you can make custom curtains to cover the cupboards instead of doors. If you or a friend is handy on the sewing machine, this can be a great way to bring color into your kitchen. Also, with some basic carpentry skills, it’s possible to build a simple frame cupboard door with translucent glass inserts, which adds a sense of depth to your kitchen without revealing the contents within.

Trendsetting with spray paint

Is there anything spray paint can’t do?

We turned our attention to the faux gold hinges and knobs on the cupboards. Gold was the last color we wanted, so we priced new hinges and knobs. However, a single knob in the oil-rubbed bronze color we wanted cost between $2 and $5, depending on the brand and style. With all of the knobs and hinges that needed replaced, it would have cost more than $175!

We shook our heads and walked from the knob department to the spray paint aisle. As it turns out, you can mimic nearly any color and texture with spray paint, including a very convincing “oil-rubbed bronze,” which is both very popular, as well as true to farmhouse style. We bought a single can for $6, and spray painted all of the knobs, hinges and screw heads. The knob may need to be roughed up with sandpaper prior to painting to make the paint adhere better. After drying, it took about 30 minutes to reinstall everything, and the cupboards looked brand-new.

We then evaluated our light fixtures. They also had a faux gold finish. Since replacing light fixtures was over our budget, spray painting them was a great solution. We pulled them off the ceiling and removed the glassware. Two to three light coats of oil-rubbed bronze spray paint gave the fixtures new life.

Another way we saved money was finding a $5 gold chandelier to replace our dining room fixture at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Our original can of spray paint came in handy once again, as we covered all hints of gold and turned that inexpensive light into a classic farmhouse fixture. If you look at used items with spray paint in mind, all kinds of possibilities open up. The only limitations are your imagination and the can of paint.

Don’t replace ‘em; paint ‘em!

If you’re simply unsatisfied with their dated look, there’s also paint for your appliances. Rustoleum and Giani are just two companies that offer paint to make your old appliances look sparkling white, bold black, or even stainless steel. Cost for this appliance makeover will run anywhere from $4 for a single can of spray paint to more than $80 for a whole system, depending on the look you want and the number of appliances you’ll be refinishing. We were lucky in that our white appliances were just the color we wanted.

Replace or refinish?

If your countertops are in sad shape, replacing them might be necessary, but don’t fret! Depending on the linear feet of the counter space, laminate might be the best option, ranging in price from $8 to $20 per linear foot. Laminate has come a long way in recent years, and some of the higher-end options can fool people into thinking you have stone countertops – all for a fraction of the cost.

If this option is still a bit steep for your budget, consider painting them. Painting the counters is a common and inexpensive way to give the whole kitchen a makeover. Several brands, such as Rustoleum and Giani, offer options ranging in price from $40 to $250. Each solution gives you different surfaces, such as a single-color countertop or even the look of granite. Online reviews indicate that they will chip over time, so consider a yearly touch-up. Based on our budget, we decided our existing counters were adequate for our remodel.

Alternative to tile

Tradition dictates a tile backsplash for the stove area, and while that’s certainly lovely, it quickly becomes expensive. We definitely wanted to add something behind the stove, but we knew we wouldn’t get far using tile. We were recommended a company called Fasade that makes thermoplastic panels. These panels resemble anything from old-fashioned tin ceilings to modern filigree patterns. The best part about it is that they are a fraction of the price of tin, and unless you touch them, you can’t tell the difference.

After careful consideration of the “farmhouse style,” we chose copper-colored panels. We were able to put them across our entire back wall – instead of just behind the stove – for only $100. This included all materials to put the panels up and finish the ends. This simple upgrade took our kitchen from “nice” to “striking” in about an hour.

Look for creative ways to make a splash with your backsplash. Pinterest is a great source for seeing various materials people use to make thrifty wall features.

The story of a $1,000 kitchen makeover is sweat equity and creativity, but we found that we learned valuable skills and were proud of the results. Over the next few years, we were able to improve other areas of the kitchen as money allowed, including a door in place of a window, along with a new stove.

With research, creativity and patience, you can have a “new” kitchen, too!  

Cost Breakdown: Sell Kitchen Remodel

Initial Investments:

• Wall paint: $28
• Paint supplies: $15
• Cabinet paint: $35
• Spray paint: $6
• “New” chandelier: $5
• “Tin” backsplash: $100
• New faucet: $130
• Mudding supplies: $35
• Wainscoting for dining room: $220

Total: $574

Later Additions:

• Heavier cabinet knobs found on eBay: $45
• Quart of blue touch-up paint: $15
• Patio door in place of window: $230
• Contractor for door installation: $140

Total: $430

Overall total: $1,004

Rebekah Sell is a wife and homesteading mother of four who sometimes finds time to write and remodel when she’s not gardening, chasing loose chickens, and homeschooling her kids.