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DIY Tips & Tricks: Our Affordable Kitchen Remodel

We bought our house in July 2015, and my immediate to-do list included painting the walls and updating the cabinets (needless to say it didn’t happen as immediately as I thought). I’ve always liked light color schemes in kitchens – they seem so much more airy and cozy to me, and well, the cabinets we had looked like this:

Straight out of 1983, when the house was built, with an old school faucet to match.

Many of my clients in Salt Lake find themselves in a similar situation, with kitchens that are pretty drab and outdated, but without the funds to do a total kitchen remodel which could run you $10,000-20,000 easy. My boyfriend, Kyle, and I are DIY- handy around the house types, so we decided to do it ourselves the affordable way.


Appliances were the most expensive part – We bought a brand new stainless steel dishwasher on KSL from a contractor for $150, and a used black fridge on KSL for about $100. My mom was going to paint the stove hood black so that it would tie everything together a little better, but Kyle accidentally ran it over with his Jeep while it was sitting in her driveway waiting to be painted. Whoops! So my mom kindly bought us an above the range microwave for $200.

Another Whoops! came along when our stove top broke, and luckily we had a home warranty that gave us $500 towards a new one. We decided to run a gas line for $375, and purchased a sexy gas stove for $895 (which was way more than we intended, but $500 towards it meant it was really $495).

So we’re at a total of $1,720 for all new appliances, minus the $200 from mom and the $500 from the home warranty – so $1,020 out of pocket, which includes upgrading to gas instead of electric. Not too shabby!

Cabinet Remodel

Now for my favorite part, and the most time intensive part. I just finished painting our cabinets this past weekend, and I am SO excited to show them off. We used the Rustoleum brand Cabinet Transformations kit that you can get from Home Depot for $75.

We have a very typical, U-shaped kitchen, and we only needed one box to cover the entire thing.


Disclaimer: This project took me several weeks because I did not dedicate myself to getting it all done quickly. This was a MISTAKE. Take a few days and truly dedicate yourself to finishing this project, otherwise your kitchen will be a disaster for what seems like forever and by doing it a little at a time you add so many more clean-up steps that wouldn’t be necessary if you jumped in and did it all at once. It’s a pain, but like a band-aid it’s best if you get it over with quickly.

The Rustoleum kit comes with most everything you’ll need. Additional items you will/may want to purchase:

- Paint brushes (one for each coat)

- Painter’s tape

- Primer (optional – see Step 2)

- Extra cheese cloth (I went through about 16 yards more than the kit came with)

- Foam craft brushes (I recommend two large combo packs from Michaels with multiple sized brushes)

- New hardware: hinges, knobs, handles

- Wood filler (if you have holes and gouges that need to be filled)

- Gloves (I opted for reusable kitchen gloves)

Start by removing all cabinet doors and all hardware. I recommend numbering all of your drawer covers and cabinet doors along with the corresponding place they belong to make it easier to put things back together. A bit of painter’s tape works well for this.

Look at those nasty hinges! I am so glad we replaced them.

Step 1: Cleaning, Deglossing, & Prep

This step is perhaps the most important! If you don’t clean properly the paint won’t stick well and you’ll wind up with paint that is chipping and peeling way sooner than you’d like. Ours had a good layer of grime on the top edge of them, so I literally used a Brillo pad to clean the tough spots. The kit also comes with Deglosser that you’ll scrub the cabinets with – make sure you cover every inch so that the bond coat adheres properly. Definitely wear gloves during this whole process or your hands and nails will be worn and dry from all the cleaner and chemicals.

After this part, take a minute to fill in any holes with wood filler before moving on. Also, if your new hinges or hardware doesn’t match up with the holes of the old ones make sure to fill those in as well.

It looked like someone had taken a knife to this drawer front before we filled it in.

And don’t forget to tape off all areas you don’t want painted and cover your counters, appliances, and floors to avoid getting paint on them.

Old towels, sheets, and pillowcases work great for this.

Step 2: Primer (optional)

The Rustoleum kit was designed to not need primer, but after reading many reviews we decided to use it for two reasons: 1.) Our cabinets were in bad condition, and we didn’t want to risk the paint not sticking. 2.) We chose to do the lightest color, pure white, and many reviews said they needed several coats to go over dark cabinets with this color. A $30 gallon of primer and a little extra work was worth it to me to not have to buy a whole other $75 kit. You’ll also need some paint thinner to clean your primer paint brush.

One coat of primer on the left vs two coats on the right.

Step 3: Bond Coat

Before you leave the store – you MUST get the bond coat tinted at the paint department with whatever color you want, even if you opt for pure white. This coat has surprisingly good coverage, goes on easily, and you can clean the brush with soap and water. I highly recommend simply rinsing the brush and storing it in a ziploc bag in the fridge so that you don’t have to thoroughly clean it between each time you use it. This will keep it from drying out for at least a few days if needed. Be sure to use a paper towel to soak up any extra water before using it again though.

If you choose not to use the decorative glaze, the bond coat will look like the cabinet door on the top, compared to the glaze we did on the bottom.

Step 4: Decorative Glaze

I am happy that we chose to do the glaze – it gave our cabinets a lot more character and charm. Although, plain white is quite trendy at the moment so I’m sure it would have turned out well either way.

You’ll use a brush to paint the glaze on the entire surface like this:

You’ll then use the cheese cloth to wipe off the glaze to give you whatever look you desire. There are several techniques to doing this – I chose to wipe it off in the direction of the wood grain. I recommend using two squares of cheesecloth at a time, scrunched up together, and be VERY careful not to leave any smudges or fingerprints on the opposite side while you’re doing this. If left to dry these marks will not come off.

I did leave a few fingerprints on the backside of a couple doors and chose to sand them off and repaint before glazing that side. If you’ve already glazed that portion, be warned it’s extraordinarily difficult to fix just a spot that was messed up to make it blend in. I tried to fix a tiny messed up spot on a drawer front, and after many attempts to blend it I wound up repainting the entire thing before glazing again.

Step 5: Clear Top Coat

In the instructions it says to use a paintbrush for this step, and I highly recommend using foam craft brushes as well. You’ll notice if you read reviews on this product that the most common complaint are the streaks left in the top coat from the brush, and by using this technique that problem is eliminated. Watch this Youtube video I found demonstrating this technique. It’s not the most glamorous video, but it is the best way to get amazing results.

Step 6: Reassemble & Admire

Next, match up all your cabinet doors and drawers to their proper places, and attach any new hardware you have purchased. I recommend checking Amazon, especially for hinges.

Our new hardware – SO much better than what we replaced.

All that’s left to do is to stand back and admire your new, amazing cabinets!

Before & After





Money Breakdown

After all is said and done, we spent $1,422 out of pocket; if you consider the contributions from the home warranty and my mom that comes out to $2,122. Not a bad price tag for what looks to be a brand new kitchen!

Let me know what you think, and if you have any questions!

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