12 Tried-and-True Secrets to Control Your Kitchen Remodel Budget

Custom cabinets on display at the Manor House Studio showroom

1. Counter Top Selections 

A traditional laminate (Formica) counter top may be worth considering. Laminate counter tops traditionally cost half the price of a starter granite. There are many different edges available from the standard square drop edge to an ogee edge that simulate curves. These edge treatments add additional costs to the laminated top price; however, they perk up the laminate tops and give the illusion that the top is made of solid materials. 

2. Laminate Up the Walls

If you are looking for a practical back wall treatment, laminate could be a consideration. A laminate back wall will fill and protect the space between your counter top and the bottom of your wall cabinets. It’s easier to clean up than tile with grout lines. You could always paint your back walls and use a 4” high laminated back splash.

3. Avoid Electrical Heavy-Ups

Completely rewiring the kitchen can take up 25 percent or more of your budget. If your existing system is safe and can carry the current load, consider whether or not you really need big, power-sucking appliances like double ovens, super-sized electric ranges, and ancillary appliances like trash compactors.

4. Stay Away From Permits

It’s not that permits cost a lot of money. Rather, anything that requires a permit is a signal that this job has ratcheted up your costs. Plumbing, electrical, and changing exterior walls all involve permits. You should not avoid permitting where permitting is necessary. Instead, scale down your remodel to the point where permits are not required. For example, in some areas, a permit is not needed to lay flooring. However, adding radiant heat below the tile may trigger permitting, creating a domino effect. 

5. Reuse Some of Your Existing Appliances

Just because you are changing out your cabinets and counter tops doesn’t mean you have to change out all your appliances at one time. Some appliances like a dishwasher require a standard opening size. This will make it easier to replace appliances in the future and save you some money on your kitchen remodeling.  Some items like wall ovens are better changed during the remodeling because they require specific cut-out openings in your cabinetry. For items like refrigerators, ranges, microwave hoods, disposals, and dishwashers, Manor House prepares your appliance openings so you won’t need to worry about new appliances not fitting during future replacement.

6. Keep the Soffits (Bulkheads) 

That drywalled box sitting on top of your wall cabinets and goes up to your ceiling is called a soffit, some call it a bulkhead. The soffits are a perfect place for mechanicals to run in new construction.  Often when they are torn out there will be duct work, soil stacks and wiring that will need modified (not always, but certain neighborhoods will have it more than others, and typically when there is a second floor above the kitchen). Today’s clients want cabinets to the ceiling and to achieve that, the soffits need to be removed, mechanicals need relocated, or the drywall needs to be repaired to create a fire break to meet building codes. Then the cabinets can be installed and the top trims like stacked crown moldings can be applied. Although it is a beautiful look, it isn’t as cost effective as keeping the original soffits.

7. Consider Stain Finishes Versus Paint Finishes

All cabinet manufacturers know white and painted cabinetry is a popular choice and will account for the majority of cabinet orders. A manufacturer can only offer a limited selection of paint choices because of cleaning out all the spray equipment and hoses to remove all contaminates before they can apply a different color. Client may be charged extra for a non-standard color or painted surface if other than a standard stain option. Glazes are similar in that they are finishes applied by hand after a cabinet is stained or painted. The handwork involved in the glaze process requires physical labor that machines can’t reproduce so the premiums for glazes are an added cost to the client.

8. Let the Kitchen Window Be Your Glass

Something simple like a glass door cabinet will increase the cost of your kitchen because the interiors will need to be finished to match the cabinet exterior. The increased labor is calculated into the price of a glass door option. Perhaps enjoying the view from the kitchen window versus displaying dishes is a way to control cabinet costs.

9. Cabinet Construction Myths

We only work with high quality cabinetry.  All our cabinets have a limited lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects, so whatever materials the cabinet is made from is confidently backed up by the warranty. Clients may say they want solid wood cabinets. They don’t exist! If you made an entire cabinet out of solid wood, it would fall apart in a few years from expansion and contraction.

What the client is really telling us is they want a plywood cabinet box with a solid wood door. This is a great combination and some manufactures are happy to offer plywood as a standard offering. Some manufacturers use other materials and charge a little more for a plywood option. Plywood is a strong material for cabinetry but depending on the thickness, it’s not always the strongest or most stable way of building a cabinet box.

Clients will say they have to have plywood in case the dishwasher or refrigerator leaks and floods the kitchen floor. We understand that logic, but think of this. When a material that is not plywood, perhaps its a good quality cabinet grade MDF (medium density fiber board) gets submerged in water, it will swell to the water level. When plywood is setting in the same amount of water, the water will wick up the side of the cabinet like liquid in a drinking straw and may cause more damage. If you have enough water damage to make a claim on your homeowners insurance, chances are that the insurance will want you to replace any base cabinets that were exposed to water because of the black mold risk, even though the cabinets have dried out after the water level has subsided.

Another reason to pick your kitchen remodeler wisely is so you can get replacement parts and products years after your purchase for those little incidents that happen. We live in an area (greater Harrisburg PA area) that has local flooding when the river rises over flood stage. This has traditionally been an upscale area that has a lot of our products installed. When the flood waters rise, we put on our boots and go house to house for addresses that have our products and start working on getting replacement estimates prepared for their insurance companies. Often we only have to replace the base cabinets that were under water. We have custom finishes made up from the wall cabinets so the new base cabinets will match perfectly, salvaging much of the original kitchen.

10. Sinking Feelings

Deep sinks are on all wish lists. Sinks vary in depth from 6” to 10”. If you are having stone counter tops installed, you will want that sink undermounted (mounted under the counter top instead of sitting on top of the counter top) and now the depth of the sink is increased by an additional 1 1/4”. If your sink drain is coming out of the floor of the sink cabinet, this won’t apply. However, if your sink drain is coming out of the wall underneath the sink then we may need to lower the waste line drain to accommodate the new deeper sink. This needs to be done during the rough-in portion of the project so we can open up the wall to drill new drain lines lower on the wall studs. This is something that requires a plumber and drywaller to complete.

BTW- if you are tall, working over a deep sink can be uncomfortable on your lower back because you need to stoop over the sink to wash items on the bottom. Sometimes an in-sink rack will help elevate the items in the bottom to a more comfortable level for washing, saving you from back stress.

11. Pull Away From the Pull-Out Spice Cabinets

Why is this on my list when they are so tiny compared to a regular cabinet? Because they have all the same parts as a regular cabinet plus additional materials and special slides, and you usually use two instead of one. This is a great cabinet for spice storage, base or wall, and worth every penny if on you wish list. If you are watching the overall cabinet cost, make the adjacent cabinets wider and stay away from the spice pull-out cabinets.  Besides, you usually see them on each side of a range, but spices shouldn’t be exposed to heat fluctuations as they tend to lose their flavor. There are other options for storing spices. When you visit the Manor House Studio showroom, feel free to bring both your largest and smallest spice container so we can show you the best solution for storing spices. You can bring your lobster pot also so you can see options for storing large items as well.

12. Floored by Flooring Choices

Have you seen LVT flooring? You probably have and didn’t know it. If you have visited the Manor House Studio showroom in Lemoyne PA, you have walked all over it. LVT stands for Luxury Vinyl Tiles (or planks). Luxury vinyl tiles and planks have been a great addition to kitchen flooring over the past few years. They are thinner than most flooring options, so if you have a steel door going into your garage or sliding glass door onto a patio or even fiberglass front door that can’t be cut down, you probably won’t have any problems using LVT flooring like you will with ceramic tile or wood.

LVT flooring can look like a ceramic tile floor if you use the manufacturer’s grout material. If you don’t want grout joints you can install the LVT tiles without the grout and get a dry stacked look. LVT flooring also has some nice wood-looking planks that will give you durability without real wood problems. Ceramic tile can get expensive when you calculate the sub flooring sub straight materials, the cost of the tile, the cost of the mastics or setting mortars, the cost of the grouts and the cost of installation labor. If you break a tile, you are faced with a pricy repair for chipping out the broken tile and the sub-straight, and standing on a ceramic tile floor all day will definitely be felt in your lower back.

With an LVT floor, a heat gun will soften the glue and the damaged tile will lift right out, be ready for the  replacement with a new or leftover tile from the original lot number. LVT tiles will help absorb sounds better than ceramic tile and give you more cushioning underfoot that won’t draw as much heat out of your bare feet like a ceramic tile will. You won’t be able to sand and refinish an LVT plank like you can a solid wood floor, but you aren’t paying the same price as a ceramic tile or wood floor either. In 10 to 20 years when you are ready for a flooring change, an LVT removal will be a lot less than paying for the labor and disposal of removing an old ceramic tile floor.

Your custom kitchen remodel is a collaborative project between you and Manor House Studio. When you contact us to discuss your kitchen remodeling project, you will have is an interview as part of a discovery process. You will be interviewing us to determine if we are really the best contractor to provide your new kitchen. We will be discovering everything we can about you to be able to provide a truly personalized kitchen design, even if you think your dream objectives may be impossible.

You may have noticed too our use of the word design. A kitchen built around you cannot happen without it. Whether you have researched extensively to know every detail you want to see or are so overwhelmed with all the options that your head is swimming, we help you design the kitchen that is ideally suited to your needs, preferences, and budget. We at Manor House believe that an educated consumer is better for us to perform our job of designing you an incredible kitchen. We hope this information is useful for your kitchen remodeling experience, even if you choose not to use Manor House Studio. (Note: We will be disappointed if you choose another vendor, but we understand that we have competition.)

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