How to Renovate Your Kitchen on a Budget

Kitchen Title Photo

I am so excited to finally share our kitchen renovation with you, and show you how to renovate your kitchen on a budget. This was our first big DIY project. It’s probably wise to start with something smaller and less conspicuous than the kitchen, but we decided to jump in with both feet and give it a go.

We have lived in our house for two and a half years, which was long enough to decide what would work for the space. We decided not to change the configuration of the kitchen – the cabinets and doors were strong, but the colours were outdated and made the space look dark. Not wanting to do embark on a full kitchen renovation, we decided to follow Young House Love’s lead and paint our kitchen cabinets. The other step was to alter the bench top, which we did with the help of Rust-Oleum’s Countertop Transformations. After much Pinterest and magazine research, the colours cream and charcoal were decided upon. I wanted a country-lite style, and it was important to open up the space further with light colours. The house is very airy, with raked ceilings, and the kitchen was a big road block in the middle of all the light.

We decided to tackle the bench top first, and then start on the doors. It was definitely a two person job and we were able to work as a team to get the job finished.

How to Re-coat Your Bench Top


Rust-Oleum’s Counter Top Transformation system is a game changer. Prior to this, you could try using laminate paint which did not then tolerate heat or certain chemicals. The Counter Top kit is durable and looks great. We watched the DVD included in the kit several times during the process. It was handy being able to reference the separate steps, as we wanted to make sure we were doing everything correctly. Make sure that you wear the recommended safety gear, as the adhesive has an odour, and the sanding can result in dust in your eyes.

The sales assistant at the hardware store made us a little nervous, making us doubt we had enough adhesive paint to cover our kitchen. As a result, we weren’t as generous as we should have been with the first part of the bench and we ended up sanding it back and starting again. This threw a little spanner in the works, but we wanted it to look good once we had finished.

The first step was to sand back the existing bench until it was all scratched. The adhesive was then applied with a foam roller, aiming for the same consistency you would use when icing a cake. The colour of the adhesive will be the final colour of your bench, or perhaps a little darker (ours was black and we had chosen the charcoal kit). Before the adhesive starts to dry, take care to apply the wetting agent to keep it tacky enough to apply the colour chips. We were a little worried about applying the colour chips to the splash backs, but the little machine included in the kit meant that they sprayed everywhere. And I mean, everywhere! We had spread drop sheets in the kitchen, but the chips infiltrated every nook and cranny. Be sure to cover up cupboards and places you do not wish to find the chips. Make sure you are incredibly liberal with these to fill in all the spaces.


This was the first attempt at the bench, and you can see the patches that were left when we skimped on the adhesive application. Once the chips have been spread on, they must be left for 24 hours to dry. You can then vacuum them up and make sure you haven’t left any patches which will need to be rectified, and then take a further four hours to dry.


The box comes with a little portion of bench top that has been sanded, to demonstrate what your bench should feel like when ready for sealing. This is very handy, as you don’t need to second guess your results. The sanding would have taken me around two hours – it was quite tedious but it was important to get this step right.


Once the bench has been sanded back it is ready to be sealed. This is completed with a foam roller and paint brush (for cutting in at the edges). The sealer comes in two parts, and hardens within four hours. Due to our choice to sand back a portion of the bench and start again, we had to track down a new pot of sealer. The incredibly helpful people at Masters were able to find us some, and suggested with the second round (as we only needed a little) that we just use a portion of each. If need be, we have some left over. Once you have applied the sealer, it takes 72 hours for it to dry. You can then use the bench top lightly (placing plates on it, preparing food etc). It takes seven days to completely cure, so we tried to use it as little as possible during this time to be sure it was properly sealed. The end result is a high gloss and strong coating that I feel confident using as I would laminate or granite. We love the transformation and are so happy that we tried the kit.

How to Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets


We decided the easiest way to paint the cabinets would be to remove every component that we could. Luckily, the timber panels under the bench and the trim around the top were all removable, which made for easier (and less messy!) painting. The Young House Love instructions I linked to earlier were so simple to follow, it made the task a breeze.

The first step was to sand and then de-gloss the cabinets. Our lovely neighbours loaned us their electric sander which made the job a lot easier! Once these steps were complete the cabinets were ready to prime. We used one coat of Valspar primer, and applied it generously with a roller and brush. This way, we didn’t need to use a second coat. Valspar paint is a relatively new brand of paint in Australia, but it has been available in the United States for decades. It was the most expensive brand on the market, but we decided it was worth spending the money to ensure the job was well done. The kitchen is painted with Antique White USA, so we compared the colours and settled on a cream to make sure there was a distinction between the walls and the cabinetry. The colour has been such a good choice we’ve now planned to paint our internal doors the same colour.


YHL had recommended using a brush and roller to paint the cabinets, starting with the back. Masters sell a paint sprayer for $30 (their own brand), so we decided to take a chance and try it out. What a good decision that turned out to be! Luckily we have a car port, so this served as the painting booth. The backs of the cupboards were sprayed first, then left to dry, with the sides rolled in between. The sprayer resulted in a professional finish that I doubt we could have obtained with a roller and brush.


The trim was primed and then painted with a brush. It would have been easy, but very messy to attempt this with the sprayer. Once the doors and boards were dry we were able to attach them back to the cupboards. The old hinges and screws were still usable so this cut down on costs.


I sourced the handles from eBay, and bought 26 handles for $50 (including postage). It saved a lot of money, and they really add a point of interest to the cupboards and drawers. They are made of iron, and seem to be very good quality. The other finishing touch we added was a dishwasher, very kindly bought for us by my parents-in-law. We had a dishwasher at our old house, but had to leave it behind. It has been a lovely change being able to use it again rather than washing everything by hand.

The all important before and after comparison is below. The before shot was taken when the house was for sale, hence the different fridge and the green paint that we changed when we moved in.

Kitchen Before and After 1

It has definitely lightened up the area, and makes the kitchen seem bigger. We are really happy with the change, and would definitely do it again, despite the hard work!


The bench and boards


The cupboards and drawers


This cupboard originally had stained glass doors, and a roller shutter. We decided to try leaving them off and seeing the result. We like the openness of it, but have moved the majority of our cups to a closed cupboard and replaced them with plates and bowls for a cleaner look.


A close up of the bench top – final result.

The Breakdown

Time – We tackled this project over the weeks of Christmas and New Year, and it took us around 10 days to complete. We did have a hiccup with the bench top which resulted in it taking a little longer.

Cost – 

Countertop Transformation Kit – $195

Paint (10 litres) – $180

De-glosser – $30

Primer – $40

Paint sprayer – $30

Handles – $50

Assorted items (brushes, rollers, drop sheets etc) – $75

Total – approximately $600

Tips – Prep, prep and prep. Making sure you prepare your surfaces properly is so important, and will really ensure a good finish. Don’t be scared to take on a new project. Do your research and try to be as prepared as you can. Don’t be afraid! We had never done much DIY, but have shown that we can complete a project like this… now what we will tackle next?

Have you ever tackled a big DIY project? Do you think you would try painting your cabinets or countertop transformations?

I have entered a competition to win a Masters voucher which would help us complete our next project. If you live in Australia and would like to vote for our project, please click this link and thank you so much!


10 thoughts on “How to Renovate Your Kitchen on a Budget

  1. Wonderful job Sarah – the cabinet door finish looks incredible. Especially well done DIYing the kitchen with two small children in the house too

  2. Love it. We’re always completing budget DIY projects and have recently done our kitchen too. Yours looks fantastic! I’m off to check out some of your other posts 🙂

  3. Well done guys! You certainly did dive head first into renovations with one of the biggest and hardest rooms to tackle in the house…but you did a fantastic job! It just goes to show with a bit of research and hard work, you really can transform your home without it costing the earth.

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