A kitchen transformation, 1 of 8: planning and budgeting

April Dykman | Improvement Center Columnist | March 2, 2015

We instantly knew our home was "the one."

The neighborhood, built in the 1970s, consists of just two tiny streets of half-acre lots. If it weren't for the faint sound of the highway, you might think you were in the Texas Hill Country, but in fact we're right in the city. Austin, to be exact.

Many of our neighbors have lived here for 30+ years. We know because most of them stop by to say "hello." This is what drew my husband and me to our home. Here, I could envision leaving pies on the window sill to cool. But there was one big problem with my pie-making dreams: the kitchen was all wrong.

It was small and dreary, with '70s-chic popcorn ceilings and a "wall-o-cabinets." It was also closed off from the dining area by an odd island, and the dining area was closed off from the living area by a half wall.

Before kitchen renovation


A kitchen and dining room before renovation

For two people who cook on a daily basis and love to cook for others, the kitchen was a priority. So, after purchasing our home, we decided to gut the kitchen, and we were lucky to have my dad on board to help. He's in the construction biz.

The idea phase

Since we were tearing out everything, the options were limitless. But limitless options make decisions difficult. What do you do with a big, empty space?

We thought about how we'd actually use our kitchen. We'd need enough counter space for two cooks. We also wanted to be able to cook while visiting with guests, so a big island was important. Finally, I wanted to keep surfaces clean and appliances hidden away, so ample storage was a must.

Once we knew what we needed from the space, we exposed ourselves to as many ideas as possible. Because design magazines are expensive and there might be only one or two photos I'd like in the whole issue, I went online and turned to Pinterest. I started pinning images of kitchens, and pretty soon we could see themes emerging: white, subway tile, stainless, butcher block, farmhouse sink, barnwood.

Once those basic ideas were taking shape, we started thinking about our budget.

Creating a working budget

We planned to spend about $14,000 for the kitchen remodel, so I looked at prices online to outline a rough budget for the big expenses, like cabinets and appliances.

Tip: IKEA has a great tool called Kitchen Planner that can help you visualize your renovation. There's even a 3-D view, which gives you a better idea of what the space will look like when you're standing in it. Plus, if you decide to go with IKEA cabinets (we did), you can design your kitchen and get a cost estimate, too.

We ended up budgeting about $4,000 for cabinets, countertops, and fixtures, $5,000 for appliances, and $2,000 for finishes. The rest was meant to cover unexpected costs, since I'm no renovation expert and would surely encounter some surprise expenses.

Tip: Expect for your budget to change, especially if you're doing the work yourself! You might change your mind or you might run into unexpected problems. Plan on a "cushion" to cover those unforeseen expenses.

Next: kitchen transformation part 2, demolition

About the Author

April Dykman is a writer who specializes in real estate, personal finance, and entrepreneurship. Her work has been featured on MSNBC, Fox Business, Forbes MoneyBuilder, Inc. Magazine, and Yahoo! Finance.