Small kitchen remodel on a budget | DIY makeover

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Learn how to renovate a small kitchen on a budget with this DIY makeover guide.

The kitchen is the reason people fall in love with a house. 

It’s the heart of the home. And it has to function well, in addition to looking fantastic! 

You carefully examine the layout, cabinets, flooring, and lighting to see if it will work for you and your family. If not, you dream about how you could make it better by renovating it.

But the renovation itself can be a nightmare! 

We’ve all heard the stories: unreliable contractors, expensive emergency repairs, or appliances that don’t fit the space. And if you do it all at once, the whole project could stretch out to a year, instead of a few months, while you live on takeout and microwavable meals.

Knowing all this, we planned carefully for our kitchen renovation. We did it ourselves and focused on one area at a time. And above all, we needed to stay within budget.

This article is the breakdown of each step we took in our small kitchen remodel on a budget.

kitchen after makeover

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The Plan

Before you can start any remodeling project, you need a plan. Why do you want to do this makeover? What areas do you want to change? 

These are just some of the important questions we asked ourselves. 

This is what our kitchen looked like before:

And our living room:

When deciding what you want, pay attention to the daily struggles you go through. The biggest change we made was removing the wall that separated the living room from the kitchen. 

We wanted to move the dining table out of the kitchen and build a bigger table because the kids were not fitting as well around it anymore. And I was tired of having to pull it away from the wall everytime we sat down to eat. 

I was also going to build more cabinets, remove the bumpy trim from above the sink, and surround the refrigerator with a cabinet.

At the end of this project, I wanted our kitchen to look custom-built but stay within our budget. 

This was our plan; what’s yours?

Remove the Wall

To truly transform the kitchen and dining room, we needed to remove the wall that separated the spaces. 

Now, when it comes to removing walls, you need to determine if that wall is load bearing. This was the case for us so the process would be more difficult. We needed to transfer the weight of the roof with a beam. 

We talked with an engineer to determine the correct size needed for our home. Since this was a more complicated job, my dad (also a contractor) helped us remove the wall. I am not going to share this process because every situation is different and there are many factors that come into play. But please remember that when you remove a load bearing wall, the weight needs to be transferred all the way down to the foundation.

removing load bearing wall with roof jacks

Create the Cabinet Plans

After the wall was properly removed and the beam installed, I pulled out some of the unwanted cabinets to make room for the new ones.

removing base cabinets in small kitchen

I am not sharing the exact process I used to build my cabinets because I designed them to match the old original 1950’s cabinets. Houseful of Handmade has a great article about how to build cabinets

You can design your cabinets with a pen and paper or use SketchUp’s program (this is what I use to create all my woodworking plans). 

Here are some of the plans I created for this kitchen remodel:

Build the cabinets

With my plans in my hand, I started cutting the wood needed to build my cabinets. 

I planned to use pocket holes to assemble my cabinets together. 

After cutting the pieces I needed, I added pocket holes and sanded the wood with #220 grit sandpaper. Then, I built the cabinet boxes and installed the trim.

women building cabinet in kitchen
building cabinets for small kitchen

Next, I filled in the nail holes and pocket holes with wood filler. When everything was dry, I sanded it smooth. 

I used a vacuum cleaner to remove any dust from sanding; then, I applied caulk to the joints to give me a smooth, clean finish. I have a full post dedicated to how to apply caulk if you want tips on how to do that. 

TIP: If you have larger gaps, use a backer rod to fill in the gaps first before caulking.

Paint and Primer

This step can be done at different times, depending on your remodel. When I was ready, I primed the cabinets with two coats of Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 primer, followed by two of the base color (custom mixed color) and three of the white color of Behr Urethane Alkyd Satin Enamel. 

There are lots of steps so I have a full tutorial (including video) on how to paint kitchen cabinets without sanding. Be sure to visit that post if you want to paint your cabinets.

process of updating kitchen cabinets

Installing new floor – LVP

To make both spaces feel cohesive, we chose to install the same flooring throughout. We used Luxury Vinyl Plank as our flooring because it could easily be installed over our old flooring. 

Check out the full, detailed tutorial all about installing LVP for the first time

installing LVP flooring

Replacing the countertops

We hired a local company to install our new kitchen countertops. After researching different materials, we decided to use quartz because we loved the look and how durable it is. 

Once the countertops were installed, I did the final painting of my cabinets. 

kitchen after makeover

The Makeover

We relocated the lights in our kitchen and added new light fixtures by the window. 

I also built a custom chandelier for our dining room. Check out that tutorial on how to build a DIY modern chandelier and see how you can do it too. 

When everything was installed, our kitchen and dining room looked better than we ever dreamed!

wood beam between kitchen and living room to create open space
ceiling to floor kitchen cabinets
looking into dining living room from kitchen after removing wall


Are you someone that does better with visuals? Check out the full project video below, and don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube so you don’t miss out on future projects!

play button for video

I hope this process will help you understand what it takes to remodel a kitchen. Happy remodeling!

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  1. Di Corente says:

    Hi what colors of paint did you use on the cabinets, please. Both white and gray colors.

    1. Hi, thank you for letting me know that I didn’t put the color of the cabinets. The white was called White (didn’t get it colored because it was the color in the can), and the gray was a custom-made color. I share how I made the color in this blog post.

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