budget budget friendly

Halfstack at Home: Kitchen Makeover on a Budget

Sunday, April 16, 2017 Jenny

If your kitchen is in need of some sprucing, you don’t have to spend a fortune to renovate. With a little DIY and some elbow grease – you can create a space that is inviting, modern and beautiful. This post is in partnership with IKEA, Rust-o-leum and CSI Wall Panels.

Before you begin any work, start with an inventory of your kitchen space. Evaluate if what you have is still in good condition, can be repurposed and what needs to be removed. Once you have a list of what can be used and reworked – the fun part begins.

Planning is an important part to this whole process. I typically start with an inspiration board of imagery that is similar to the look I am attempting to create. For this particular kitchen redo – we opted for modern and clean look incorporating white walls to offset gray cabinets with darker wood counters to add warmth. The original kitchen was painted a beige color with original stock cabinets that were installed in the early 90s. After reviewing and taking inventory of the kitchen it was decided that the cabinets were still in good condition, but that the counters needed to be removed. The previous owners utilized a faux marble finishing technique that left the kitchen feeling dated.

Inspiration board for this update

Once we reviewed what would be repurposed and what would be removed – the sourcing for product began. The goal for this kitchen renovation was to keep the downtime minimal as the family was still living in the space, stick to a smaller budget and incorporate DIY where possible. If you are working with a tight budget IKEA is definitely the place to go to as they have quality products that don’t break the bank. Of course, IKEA items do require assembly, but the end product and smart price is definitely worth the up front work.

For a full reveal of the kitchen update check out our latest video for the Halfstack at Home Series below:


It is usually a good idea to start with the hardest part of the project and work through that – specifically anything that requires refinishing or paint. So, for this project we started with the cabinets. The cabinets were in pretty good shape, but as they were the original contractor cabinets – they were a very basic light colored finished wood. If cabinets are in good shape, rather than spending a majority of your budget on new cabinets which can cost anywhere between $500-$1200 per linear feet (so the more square footage you have the higher your bill will be), refacing them can be a cost effective way to refresh your kitchen. Rust-o-leum has a fantastic line of DIY products that offer professional finishes. Their Cabinet Transformations Kit offers users the ability to transform the look of their cabinets quickly and relatively mess-free. The kits are great to use for kitchen cabinets, bath vanities and furniture.

They come in two sizes – 100 Square feet and 200 square feet. At $69.96 for a 100 sq. foot kit and $149 for a 200 sq. foot kit, it is an inexpensive way to transform your cabinets without having to completely replace them. Make sure you measure ahead of time and check out the tips above to help you as calculate how much product is needed.

Before Kitchen - Basic Cabinets

We utilized the 100 sq. feet kit in Federal Gray 258240. There was more than enough product for the mid-sized kitchen we were working in and we actually still had enough to refinish a butcher block island and pantry door with product still left over. This kit doesn’t require stripping, sanding or priming. Before you begin, you will want to remove all of the cabinet doors, and then clean the doors and actual cabinets with a degreaser product. This isn’t a required step, but we found it minimized the effort needed for the first step of the kit. The kit comes with an instructional DVD, deglosser, bond coat (which needs to be tinted prior to use), decorative glaze, protective top coat, decorative glazing cloths, scrub pads and stir kits. You will also need to round up 2 synthetic paint brushes (angled or straight), foam paint brush (for optional glaze), smooth painters tape, drop cloths, lint free rags, disposable gloves and disposable paint containers. Also, keep in mind temps as you are working. You will want to apply when air (ambient) temperature is 50 – 90o F (10 – 32o C) and relative humidity is below 60%.

You will need to work in an area relatively close to your kitchen to stage and coat your cabinet drawers and doors. Take off each door and drawer along with its correlating screws, hinges, knobs, and pulls. For organizational purposes, use a cup or baggie to place each door and drawer hardware in to. I used baggies that we labeled so we knew which hardware went to which door. Fill all nicks, gouges, cracks, or holes with plastic wood. Use a putty knife to apply the wood filler. Allow to dry and sand smooth to the surrounding areas.

Thoroughly inspect your cabinet frames for heavy grease or dirt. Pay special attention to areas around the stove, microwave, and sink. Clean these extra greasy or dirty areas with soapy water and wipe clean.

Close up of contractor cabinets

Wearing gloves, fold a scrub pad in half and apply the Deglosser liberally on the scrub pad. Scrub the entire cabinet frame thoroughly to remove dirt and grease. This will degloss the surface, allowing maximum adhesion of the Bond Coat. Once you finish this, wipe with a dry cloth to complete the cleaning process. Do the same to the doors and drawers.

Once your cabinets are clean you will begin step two which is the bond coat. Make sure to wipe down all the frames, doors and drawers with a dry, lint free cloth to remove any residue left on the surface. Tape down your inside edges with painters tape to ensure that none of the coating bleeds. Start with your cabinet frames and use a 2 inch angled or straight brush to apply an even coat of the bond. It took multiple coats for us to get an even look. Use up and down strokes for a consistent look and allow bond to dry between coats (about 2-3 hours).

We skipped the decorative glaze and went straight to the protective topcoat for a matte look. The Protective Top Coat is formulated with self cross-linking technology that provides superior stain and scratch resistance. Wearing gloves and safety glasses thoroughly mix the Protective Top Coat with the stir stick provided. Keep kids and pets out of the room until the finish dries to avoid accidental fingerprints and smudges. Keep kids and pets out of the room until the finish dries to avoid accidental fingerprints and smudges. Apply an even layer of the protective topcoat to the cabinet box and frame, then to the back side of the cabinet doors first, allowing it to dry. Finally, coat the front of the drawers and doors. Once completely dry, inspect your surface and touch up any missed areas as needed. You will want your topcoat to dry undisturbed for at least 12 hours – keep windows closed and ceiling fans off.


While the cabinets were drying, we started on the second major part of the kitchen update. We had to remove the counter tops and fixtures and then begin painting. This was a simple, but very effective way to change the look of the kitchen. A simple paint job using BEHR Marquee interior semi-gloss enamel paint in ultra pure white helped to brighten the kitchen. It was the most transformative part of the process and helped to open up the room. BEHR offers high quality paint and primer in one, which makes the process of painting a room faster and cost effective. Gallons range between $40-$50.

Final view of the cabinets & kitchen


While paint dried, we worked on the backsplash above the sink area right underneath the cabinets. There was no backsplash to remove, so this kept application simple and relatively fast. Using subway tile as a backsplash is a great way to create a vintage inspired focal point in your kitchen and it's really affordable. The look is understated, but versatile. We contrasted the bright white tile with a dark gray grout. Floor & D├ęcor was our store of choice to purchase the subway tiles at $16.80 per box of 80 pieces. We used 2 boxes with some left over. Some tips to keep in mind when working with subway tile: definitely invest in a wet saw. At $20-$30 for a couple of hours to rent, it is worth it. It will make your life so much easier by ensuring your tile cuts are straight and less difficult to make.

Plan your design ahead of time so that you can figure out how many smaller cut pieces you may need as you work through. Also, keep your scraps as they will come in handy as you need to fill smaller spaces. We went with an offset joint/running bond with 1/8 inch spacers. We used squared tile edging trim ($5.28 for ¼ inch 8 ft piece) in white to finish the edges and installed those first and worked from the counter up and out to get our level and spacing just right. Tiling around corners doesn't have to be difficult. If you are handy with an electric tile cutter equipped with a platform that will let you make mitered cuts, go for it. If not, you can neatly grout corners using a caulking tape applicator.

We finished off with Mapei’s Keracol grout in gray ($13.49) – this was a powder mix that seals as well. Make sure you have some buckets of clean water and multiple sponges as you will go through a lot of dirty water. The process is grout, wipe and rinse.


The next step in the process was replacing the countertops. The old counter tops were dated and the faux marble job wasn’t very consistent. We opted for a dark butcher block from Ikea to warm up the space. Ikea kitchens are designed to be simple enough to put together at home, but they also offer consultations in store. Ikea is a brand that offers a range of trendy and more classic looking pieces at incredibly affordable prices. The Karlby countertop ($189) in walnut was a wonderful choice to contrast against the white tile.

It is a countertop with a top layer of solid wood, a hardwearing natural material that can be sanded and surface treated when required. It has the same look and feel as solid wood, but only needs to be treated with oil every now and then, which makes it convenient for use in the kitchen. It’s also environmentally friendly because the method of using a top layer of solid wood on particleboard is resource-efficient, which is a bonus! We cut the counter top down to size using a circular saw and a straight edge clamp to fit the L shape of the kitchen. We then cut the sink area using a template. Once the counters were cut we put them back into place. We didn’t have the cut edges exposed, but if needed the counter comes with 2 edging strips to cover exposed edges.

We did a quick swap of the 20 year old sink with a similar style sink from Mernards. We found a deeper double basin stainless steel sink for about $75 at Mernards and a strainer kit for about $15. This was a great finishing touch. Some tips to keep in mind when re-installing the sink is to use a longer screwdriver when reattaching the metal clips. This takes patience! This article and video was really helpful: https://www.lowes.com/projects/kitchen-and-dining/how-to-install-a-kitchen-sink/project


Once the cabinet doors were reassembled, to add some texture to the walls we opted to incorporate wall paneling for some interest from CSI Wall Panels. These textured wall panels are a beautiful addition to your space offering an understated, but eye catching element. These 3-D wall panels are eco-friendly and made of sugarcane fiber and paper pulp. The MDF wall panels do come in a natural brown color and need to be painted, but these are simple to use and quick to apply. They come in sets of ten and are flexible and lightweight. We applied the panels using wood construction adhesive PL Proline 510 to attach it to the walls and then painted over it with the same Ultra White BEHR Marquee paint and primer in one. It gave the wall some dimension and interest. It’s an affordable and simple way to add interest to a plain wall without overwhelming it.

Final kitchen update complete

Since we had some of the Rust-o-leum cabinet transformations left over, we decided to update the butcher block island that was in the kitchen. This was an old style butcher block island that is no longer in stock at Ikea. We chose to paint the legs the federal gray that matched the cabinets and then used Varathane wood stain in dark walnut ($7.59) to match the counters. This was a simple update that took just a couple of hours to finish and it really pulled the space together.

Refinished butcher block island

Overall, this was a fun, but stressful DIY to undertake. Yet, it was well worth the time and the investment was minimal. The total process took about a week from start to finish. After all was said and done the total costs were $537.96 for the entire update. This is definitely an affordable option, but does require time, energy and some know how. If you are handy and have the tools available, this is a smart DIY to pursue. Even if you don’t have the tools – a great place to find affordable options is Harbor Freight and there is always the option of renting which may be more cost effective.

I hope you enjoyed this latest DIY! Let us know if you want to see more of these and tell us about your latest home improvement project in the comments!


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