Minimize your costs on home improvement projects

Home Ikea cabinets
Home Ikea cabinets
More narrow depth at 15 inches

Home improvement project pitch

Back in February, I convinced my wife that we should upgrade our kitchen. Yes, it was time for a new home improvement project.  This was just one of the things I did with my time off. (Click here to read more)
After living with our “standard” flip construction kitchen for 15 years, I convinced her that we could pull off an investment in a new kitchen, and more importantly, that I could do it myself, with minimal help.
What did I get myself into? With her agreement, I started with my first cost saving point.

1. Do your own demolition.
Before I departed for a West coast trip, I removed the first “over the fridge” cabinet, that stored our paper towels and cereal.
Grabbing my power drill and 6 or 7 deep screws later I had it down, and in the trash, in minutes. Ugly furring wood strips exposed, but, the project was under way.

When I returned I installed IKEA’s desktop computer, layout and design program, which allows you to save a project for any room for up to a year.
Simply enter the dimensions of the room you’re working on, and you can then drag and drop, IKEA items, onto the floor layout. You can even create your master purchase list, directly from this design tool when you ultimately place your order.
I got quite adept at using this program, and doing virtual “walk thru’s” and 360 degree fly arounds to see what fit where.
It’s like becoming your own architect, but MUCH more fun.

2. Do a design that works for you.
My wife, Sharon, is ummm..”vertically challenged”, and I had spent a long time trying to imagine a kitchen, that would have universal appeal to the next buyer of our apartment, whenever we decide to sell, if ever. However, I had an “aha moment”, and I allowed myself to think differently about what we were working for, and I came to the conclusion that (especially since my wife does the bulk of the cooking and is quite wonderful at it) the kitchen should work mainly for her.  That helped me with cabinet height and depth, and workflow.  Take advantage of Ikea’s design tool, which lets you create an accurate layout of the room, and drag and drop components. You can find it here.

3. Keep your old appliances if they still have some life.
We had some pangs of guilt, imagining all our cabinets, tiled walls, floors and appliances adding to the a landfill somewhere, so we had another epiphany and said, let’s keep whatever we can from our old design. Our tiled walls and floors, were still in almost perfect shape, and since we were going with a white cabinet design, we decide, we could keep those. Our refrigerator was also white, and was still functioning, so we decided that that could stay too. Also, our new cabinets and the new location of the fridge, would actually provide us with drawer space that we didn’t previously have access too, because the fridge door, had never fully opened all the way.  Our stove, was also white and was functioning just fine, so there was no immediate need to upgrade to a newer model.

Kept oven & fridge
Kept oven & fridge

4. Minimize Plumbing & Electrical changes
One of the big “add ons” of an IKEA project is special lighting.  Depending on how much you add (in drawer lighting, etc.) it can add a significant amount to the final budget.  We had some small LED pendant lights under our old cabinets, that I’d be able to recycle for some in cabinet lighting.

Our existing electrical outlets were also marked on the new layout design program, so I made sure that the new design would incorporate continued access to all existing outlets, without a need to add any new outlets.  The new sink would shift slightly left of it’s original center, allowing for an addition of a dishwasher that we previously didn’t have, along with more deep drawer space to the left of the sink.  Therefore, the only plumbing required would be hooking up the new sink, and installing the dishwasher and that cost me about $150 for the entire hook up, from a reasonably priced plumber who lives in our building.  The stove was also, shifting slightly left of its existing center, and would not require any additional gas/plumbing work.

5. Wait for a sale
Another DIY / Home improvement project site that I had been searching, advised that IKEA usually has a bi-annual sale of 15% off, if you spend $4K or more.  I could have taken the credit 2 ways, that I’ll detail here.  Since I wanted more expensive granite counter tops, I wanted to use the credit to help pay for that.  All in, excluding the counter tops, everything totaled about $6,000.  My credit was calculated on this total, and then we added the granite counter tops in, and applied the credit of $900.

So in essence, I received $1,500 counter tops, including installation for about $600, bringing my grand total to about $6,600, that included all the cabinets, drawers, sink, dishwasher, counter tops w/ installation and delivery.  I could have added the counters on before my discount, and taken a slightly larger discount on the grand total, but that would have left me with an IKEA gift card for about $1,200 that I would need to use on additional IKEA items.

Set a deadline

At the end of the day, the entire project took me about 6 weeks to complete, getting up every morning, and building a few drawers, or cabinets, while removing other cabinets, and storing their contents in various areas around our home.  Thinking back, it was very disruptive during that time and it was cramped living that way, during the transition, but I plodded along, and made progress, and learned a LOT while I was moving forward. I thought I was Mr. Fixit, years ago, but I had been out of that game for quite a few years.  After the project was finished, I was wielding power tools like never before, and fixing small odds and ends around the house, and envisioning new ways of living more efficiently.  Don’t underestimate the power of new knowledge or tapping into your own creativity.

After factoring in my own labor, I estimate that I have a $10K kitchen, that only reduced my bank account by $6,600 and should boost my property value by an equivalent amount when we do sell.

Enjoy the fruits of your work

Month’s later, the joy of being in this space has not diminished.  The functionality of the new space is a joy to move around and navigate and we have improved quality of life enhancements by adding a dishwasher and nicer sink.  In conclusion, if you plan a lot of the details, and take the time to consider each and every component of what you will need, you can learn a lot about project management, and save yourself a lot of money in the bargain.  Now it’s on to the the bathroom.


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