10 Spending Mistakes To Avoid When Updating Your Kitchen

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It has been a long time coming, but you’re finally ready to remodel your kitchen. You’re currently in the planning stages, and you’re seeking advice on ways to transform your space on a budget.

A mid-range kitchen remodel ranges in price from approximately $26,214 for minor updates to $75,571 for a major overhaul, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2021 Cost Vs. Value Report.

Related: 8 Affordable Ways To Upgrade Your Kitchen
More Ideas: 30 Ways To Upgrade Your Home Without Blowing Your Budget

Here’s a look at 10 spending mistakes you don’t want to make during your kitchen remodel.

Investing in High-End Cabinetry

They’re used frequently throughout the day, so you might think you need high-end kitchen cabinets. However, Susan Serra said this isn’t the case.

“Cabinetry is often the X-factor in the total cost of a kitchen remodel,” said Serra, president of Susan Serra Associates, Inc., a firm offering kitchen e-design services and consulting. “With today’s cabinet technology, homeowners do not need to purchase high-end cabinetry — especially if the style they choose is simple, such as a flat slab door.”

Make Your Money Work for You

Serra, who is also the founder of online rug brand Scandinavian Made, said the construction and interior accessories of standard cabinets are nicer than ever before, making them perfectly acceptable.

“Since cabinetry is usually the most expensive item to purchase for a kitchen,” she said, “this will be a significant cost savings in the tens of thousands of dollars.”

Incorporating Too Many Trends

Modernizing your space with popular kitchen trends might make it look amazing right now, but Serra warned against taking this route.

“Using several trendy products rather than perhaps just one will date the kitchen fairly quickly,” she said. “If you see a product or surface style in many places — shiplap, for example — be aware that this is a trend which will eventually fade.”

Instead, she said, it’s best to create a timeless look that reflects your own personal style.

Choosing Gold-Toned Hardware

Gold-tone hardware is currently considered chic. However, Serra advised against choosing hardware — such as faucets and cabinet pulls — in this metal, because this style likely will fade within a few years.

Make Your Money Work for You

“The danger with choosing trendy hardware is that not only will it date the kitchen in the short term,” she said, “but, when it comes time to replace the hardware because it’s out of style, new hardware has to be selected that has the same size holes that are already drilled into the cabinet, which could pose a challenge. Hardware can easily cost well over $1,000, so choose carefully.”

Installing Too Many Cabinets

Storage is important in a kitchen, so you might think the more cabinets you can jam into your space the better. Serra said this isn’t the case, and she advised against overdoing it.

Other Updates: 10 Affordable Ways To Upgrade Your Living Room

“This can create a hard, utilitarian, look,” she said. “Many thousands of dollars can be saved by designing in less cabinetry.”

Instead, she recommended cleaning out your existing cabinets to see what you actually use and getting rid of the rest.

Opting for a ‘True’ Built-In Refrigerator

Considered the ultimate in elegance by many, a built-in refrigerator makes a kitchen look sleek. However, Serra said simply creating the illusion of this feature can save you $6,000 to $8,000.

Make Your Money Work for You

She said there are two ways to make your refrigerator look built-in.

“First is to add panels to each side that are deep enough to cover the refrigerator box,” she said. “Add a cabinet above and slide in the refrigerator.”

If that option doesn’t work for your space, she recommended recessing the refrigerator into the wall behind it.

“All that is needed is a few inches to make the kitchen look built-in,” she said. “Finish with panels on each side and save thousands of dollars.”

Not Thinking 3-D


When updating your kitchen, Richard Fung said it’s important to focus on functionality as much as on aesthetics.

“While planning the space, take the doors’ size and direction, the appliances and the cabinets into account,” said Fung, owner of Forever Homes, a custom home builder based in London, Ontario. “The best idea would be to take a walk through your kitchen space and plan the door openings to ensure you are not creating a cramped kitchen.”

Making Impulsive Design Decisions

It’s easy to get excited about a certain material in a showroom, but Fung said they often look different in your actual kitchen.

“This is why you should refrain yourself from committing to a major design element, like flooring or countertop material, until you have brought actual samples to test,” he said. “Remember to test the samples under the same lighting that you would actually use in the new space.”

Elsewhere: 7 Affordable Ways To Upgrade Your Pantry

Taking this step can save you major money, because you’ll have to redo the work if you ultimately can’t stand your first choice. For example, marble countertops cost $15 to $190 per square foot, while granite countertops are priced at $15 to $140 per square foot, according to HomeAdvisor.

Doing Unnecessary Mechanical Work

If you’re not crazy about your kitchen layout, you might want your remodel to include some major mechanical changes, but Bill Samuel advised against it.

“In most cases this would be relocating the location of your appliances when the existing layout is perfectly fine,” said Samuel, owner of Chicago-based home-buying company Blue Ladder Development. “For example, moving the kitchen sink would cost you thousands of dollars and in most cases wouldn’t provide any additional ROI.”

Not Choosing Durable Materials

When pricing materials and finishes for your kitchen remodel, it can be easy to get sticker shock. This might cause you to contemplate choosing cheaper options for features such as countertops, cabinets and flooring.

You’ll save money in the short-term; but, if the quality isn’t there, you’ll likely have to repair or replace these features much sooner than intended. The average cost to replace a 200-square-foot kitchen floor is $1,000 to $5,000, according to Fixr.

Keep that expense in mind if you’re tempted to take the cheap route.

Painting the Cabinets Yourself

Your kitchen cabinets are a huge focal point of the room; so, if they’re painted a color you don’t like, you’ll almost definitely want to change that. Since the cost to have your kitchen cabinets painted by a professional can be anywhere from $700 to $4,000, you might be tempted to do it yourself.

However, this isn’t recommended, because you might end up spending more money on the necessary equipment — e.g., a sprayer, masks, drop cloths, protective tape — than it would cost to hire a professional. Also, if you don’t sand the cabinets properly or the paint is uneven, the work will have to be redone, costing you even more time and money.

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