Renovating an 80's Kitchen on a Budget

thespudhunterAugust 16, 2009

It started with a microwave, and ended with a cabinet refacing, new lighting, and a granite countertop installation. The goal: get this 1980's Pocono kitchen refurbed for under $3,000.

We decided we needed to ditch our counter top microwave, and install an over-range model. Once it was in place, we realized just how horrible our yellowed laminate cabinets looked, and started to notice the water-swollen areas of the vast expanse of beige formica countertop. Our major restriction, aside from budget, was the large amount of almond 4x4 wall tile that we just couldn't afford to rip out and replace.

Without realizing we were heading into a complete refurb, we started by raising our over-range cabinets, and installing a stainless microwave.

This is was our concept plan for the refurb. Originally, we thought we would be installing a replacement laminate countertop.

Our first snag was dealing with the cabinet over the range, which had been damaged by years of exposure to cooking steam.

That problem was neatly (and frugally) solved with a sheath of brushed aluminum.

We've decided that the heavy wood framed light has got to go, and we need to add lighting over the peninsula. We'll miss our hanging baskets, though.

Our existing black dishwasher (with faux walnut trim!) gets the aluminum panel treatment. A little lacquer thinner makes history of the faux wood.

A new halogen light (on a dimmer) is installed over the peninsula. The existing fixtures have been replaced with more streamlined florescent fixtures with a satin nickel finish. We've decided to paint the cabinet faces a rich semi-gloss black (Behr Ultra Premium, Broadway)

For cabinet doors, we've decided on RTF Thermofoil. The doors will be in a maple finish, the drawers will be a reddish pear. We're also residing the cabinets with RTF covered plywood.

The countertop, originally planned as laminate, is now going to be Sensa Caledonia Granite.

Rather than extend the 4" backsplash behind the range, we've opted to use stone tile with a grey grout.

The finished product! The walls have been painted with a soft grey (Behr Ultra Premium Burnished Metal in eggshell). A wooden trim strip has been installed above the granite backsplash to take up gaps from the original tilework.

The ceiling gets a finish of Behr Venetian Plaster, untinted and unburnished.

We've had two holes drilled for the fixtures on the undermount sink, to accommodate the faucet and the filtered water spigot.

To make the cabinets over the refrigerator more easily accessible, we've hinged them from the center stile.

That's it! Final cost of the refresh came in at under $3500.

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Nice job!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2009 at 6:11PM
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What a difference! Congrats on your new space. :)

    Bookmark   August 16, 2009 at 6:33PM
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It looks great, how did you reface the cabinets?

    Bookmark   August 16, 2009 at 7:46PM
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Palimpsest, for the cabinet sides, I used Rigid Thermofoil (RTF) coated plywood panels, glued over the existing cabinets. The doors and drawers are thermofoil coated MDF. Doors, drawers, and panels were all obtained from They pre-drilled the doors for the hidden hinges, and I reused my existing hardware.

For the face frames, we toyed with the idea of refacing with either veneer or RTF, but settled on painting the frames a velvet black. We also lengthened the upper cabinet doors to the full height of the cabinets, so only the sides of the frames and stiles would show. We think it makes a nice contrast with the maple/pear surfaces.

If I had room in the budget, I would have gone with solid wood rather than RTF, but all of the doors, drawers, and panels together were less than $700. At that price, if they peel or get discolored, it's easy enough to replace them.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2009 at 8:11PM
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Well done! It looks like a completely different kitchen--you must really be enjoying it and feeling great about the low cost!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2009 at 9:43PM
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Congrats on sticking to your budget despite all of the tempting gorgeous products that are out there! It looks great and will hopefully serve you for many years to come!

Like your idea about hinging from the center style above the frig. Definitely makes it easier for us "vertically challenged folks" to access those cabinets!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2009 at 9:52PM
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Love the colors and the style. Very clean and refreshing. You did an awesome job!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 7:17AM
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OMG. We had the same kitchen right down to the floor tiles. I just started my so-called "budget" diy. I'm waiting for new Ikea cabinets to be delivered and have started to look for granite/marble countertops. I live in Westchester, NY and the pricing for this stuff is scary. I only need about 38 sq ft to cover two countertops in a galley kitchen--the cheapest price I could get is $65 per sq. ft. How did you manage to do your diy (including the granite countertops) for $3500? Where did you get your granite? Thanks and nice job on your kitchen. Bebe

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 8:13AM
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the1bebe, yes, lots of those 'contractor's kitchens' around, especially in our neck of the woods.

Our granite is Consentino Sensa. We purchased it at Lowe's, and it was installed by Eastern Surfaces out of Allentown, PA. Price was $49.95 per sq foot, 43 square feet including the 4 inch backsplash, installed, with an additional $250 labor to install the undermount sink (The sink itself was included as part of the promotion). So the installed total for the sink and granite was about $2400. The granite has a 15 year warranty against staining, by the way.

The doors, drawers, and panels came from Their website has a pretty good pricing calculator, but our total came to about $700 for 18 doors, 9 drawers, and two sheets of RTF coated plywood. With the exception of the counter top installation, we did all of the labor ourselves.

We spent an additional $400 or so for the new lighting fixtures, paint, some tile and trim, and a Delta faucet.

Here is a link that might be useful: Reface Depot

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 9:55AM
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This is fabulous! So nice to see renovations done frugally, yet beautifully!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 1:49PM
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Tell me more about your $50 granite! I live near Allentown and have been shopping for granite - visited elite granite and prestige but both were well above $50. Do you have to go through lowes to get that price? What if you just buy direct from eastern? How did you like their work - it looks like they did a great job. I'm not looking for anything exotic, just a basic black or grey granite.

We were considering having refacing done (we have zero diy skills!) Our estimates were way more that $700, although that included labor. How difficult was the installation? We have been leaning towards having the cabinets painted instead because of the cost.

I'm in awe that you could got such a beautiful kitchen for such a great price!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 5:02PM
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Fantastic Transformation.

Tell me more about the Behr Venetian Plaster. Did you like working with it?

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 5:10PM
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    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 5:19PM
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Winnipausaukeefan, we didn't try buying it direct from Eastern, so I don't know how they would price it. Lowe's has been running a promo on it at $49.95 plus a free sink for a couple of months, and I think it's still running...only Group "A" colors were included, Caledonia, Luna Pearl, Ubatuba, and I think Blanco Leblon. The pricing included installation, a single bowl 18 gauge undermount sink (installation of that at an extra charge) and two holes drilled for faucets.

They sent someone out to measure and template about a week later. Then, a couple of weeks for fabrication. We were offered the opportunity to drive over to Eastern to see and approve the slab, but we declined due to time constraints.

They used two crews for the installation, since they had to haul the counter up a steep flight of stairs. Installers did a fine job, very careful about protecting our floors and walls! The counter is seamed in one spot, midpoint of the sink. They carefully color matched an epoxy compound, and worked the seam so it's practically invisible.

We had a little issue with the granite backsplash...our existing 4x4 tiles were out of kilter, so the splash wouldn't fit properly all around the perimeter. Rather than tear out an additional row of tiles, they recut the backsplash to a lower height (at their expense) and reinstalled it within a week. We just needed to add a trim strip to cover the areas where there was a gap between the backsplash and the tile.

All in all, they did a great job, and we couldn't be more pleased.

I don't know if you can get comparable pricing by dealing with Eastern directly.

Here is a link that might be useful: Eastern Surfaces

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 6:10PM
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Pondbucket, Mrs. Spudhunter is the painter in the family. She loves working with the Behr Venetian Plaster, but she's a little wacky that way :)

It's the consistency of marshmallow fluff, and spreads on very easily. You basically put it on in two coats, using a steel painter's trowel, using random strokes. After it dries, you can burnish it by rubbing it with the trowel. It takes a bit of elbow grease, but looks amazing. A clear topcoat is optional.

Very durable and easy to clean. It also hides a lot of imperfections, or, as we like to call them, "Builder Features".

Unfortunately, it's one of those things that's really hard to photograph well.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 6:35PM
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By the way, thanks for all the kind comments!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 6:36PM
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Here's a link to the brand of granite we used...Sensa by Cosentino. I think the 15 year stain resistant warranty is a big plus.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sensa by Cosentino

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 6:44PM
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Wow, awesome outcome!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 9:21PM
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