kitchen refit

How to upgrade your own kitchen on a budget

When we moved into our new house back in 2014 the previous owners had recently refurbished and fitted a new kitchen.  So I thought great, one less job to do… But Victoria had other ideas.  Didn’t like the floor, the tiles or the worktops!

So it wasn’t long before I had my orders to make it look light, bright and white. Everything in my house seems to be turning white these days.

I’d never fitted a kitchen before but was well up for the challenge. First things first was to choose the worktops, sink, kitchen tapware and tiles. Easy, I just let Victoria loose on eBay and soon enough we had some lovely solid oak worktops, tall brushed steel mixer tap, white ceramic double sink, white tiles and grout.

Luckily we were able to save some money as Victoria was happy with the kitchen units – phew!  I’m sure she’d rather white and wood if it were up to her, but glossy cream was just fine and the wipeable gloss surface was perfect as we had a two year old when we moved in and have since had another child.  They are super easy to clean sticky fingerprints off!

The first job was to treat the worktops with some Danish oil.  This oil is best for treating wood found around water. Its very hard wearing and water resistant. What we hadn’t anticipated was how long this job was going to take.

We had to put 4 layers of oil on and without a suitable indoor space to do this it had to be done outside.  And of course with this being England it rained every weekend for several weeks. We had 3 lengths of oak to treat, 4 layers on each side and had to wait at least 8 hours for each coat to dry. So basically 3 months later we were ready to get cracking. 😁

Now for my biggest learning point.

We bought a double ceramic sink and had it delivered to a local Argos for collection.  Big mistake, whilst carrying back to the car the cardboard box split and I dropped the sink.

It chipped one of the corners which at first didn’t look too bad but as I started to tap out the tap hole, another crack appeared. This only got worse as we moved the sink about.  There was no going back… new sink required!  Ouch.

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My next challenge was to get the old kitchen out and the new one in within one weekend, which for a professional probably doesn’t seem like much of a task but this was my first, so had a fair few learning points along the way.

Job list included:

  1. Remove old tiles
  2. Remove old sink and worktops
  3. Measure and cut new worktops
  4. Measure and cut hole for sink
  5. Tap out ceramic hole for tap
  6. Fit worktops and sink with waste pipes
  7. Fix wall with plaster
  8. Tile and grout walls
  9. Clean and tidy

We also had to think about waste disposal. We had the old tiles, old worktops, old sink and the broken new sink to get rid of. We had to decide whether skip hire was more practical than us taking everything to the recycling centre ourselves over several trips, especially as we had more DIY to do in other rooms!

The most physically challenging of these tasks was to remove all the existing tiles.  I ended up taking most of the plaster with them.  I was hoping this didn’t happen as again, I’ve never plastered before and I know this is a skill that requires a fair bit of experience to get right.

Anyway, we were trying to do this on a budget and didn’t want to spend money hiring tradespeople, so I decided to do this. A couple of YouTube videos later and I was plastering.  The end result wasn’t amazing but it was good enough for a nice even wall base to tile onto.

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Now for my second mistake.  The lovely solid oak worktops.  I can’t emphasize this rule enough – Measure twice, cut once.  NOT! – Measure once, cut twice, stick back together and cut again.  Enough said on this one.

I’m not keen on tiling because I find it a very monotonous task.  I don’t make things easier by not having the right tools for the job.  An electric tile cutter would have saved time and so much effort.  I can’t count how many tiles I broke trying to cut right angles out for the electrical sockets.

I’ve taken away a lot of learning points from this job and could quite happily do it again… with the aim to get it absolutely perfect the second time round.

We’ll take a look at the finished article in a moment but first let’s just take a look at the tools required to complete this job.

  1. Router
  2. Router jig
  3. Circular saw
  4. Orbital sander and sandpaper of different grits
  5. Wood glue, Danish oil and beeswax
  6. 3″ wood Clamps
  7. Drill and bits
  8. Chisel, masonry chisel and hammer
  9. Trowel and bucket
  10. Tape measure, ruler, set square and pencil
  11. Spanner set and all the fixtures and fittings

And also, here are a few tips on how to save money and update your own kitchen on a budget based on what we did.

Quick tips to update your kitchen on a budget

  • DIY – the first tip is to do as much as you can yourself and save on labour costs.  Luckily I love DIY and I’m keen to learn new skills, as well as learn from my mistakes, so doing up my own homes is the perfect way to do this.  It’s also cost-effective as I don’t have to pay for tradespeople.
  • Think about rubbish removal – if you have a car or van then you may be able to take the rubbish yourself to your local recycling centre, but otherwise you’ll need to search online for budget skip hire to get the best quote for a skip to remove the rubbish for you.
  • Have the right tools – if you have the right tools or can borrow them then you’ll definitely make the job easier.  At the time I didn’t have an electric tile cutter which would have cut everything really quickly and saved us some money on tiles as I broke a few with a manual cutter.
  • Measure twice – as I said above, don’t rush and measure everything twice.  I accidentally cut a worktop too short and so we had to split one of the worktops into two pieces instead of having a lovely long one-piece of oak.  I’ll not make that mistake again.
  • Salvage what you can – we actually didn’t mind the kitchen cupboards so we saved a small fortune by replacing everything else aside from the cupboards .  Even if we didn’t like the doors it’s a lot cheaper to keep the existing units and just replace the doors.  Online websites like Kitchen Warehouse sell doors only if you want to revamp your kitchen on a budget.
  • Shop online – we ordered nearly everything we needed off eBay and it was much cheaper than shopping in a regular kitchen retailer.  Our worktops came from a local company and were a great deal.  We managed to buy them from their eBay store with a special discount and as we’re not too far away the delivery cost was low.

Before and after kitchen makeover

So here is the before and after.  As always, any questions please drop me a line.

How the owner’s before us had the kitchen:

Cheap kitchen updates before and after photos ideas


How to upgrade your own kitchen on a budget - keep the units
How to upgrade your own kitchen on a budget - white wood kitchen
How to upgrade your own kitchen on a budget

Check out my other articles on:

Bathroom sink unit upgrade

Or get creative and:

Fit your own under stairs drawers

Make a wood store with a difference

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