When we moved into our house over a year ago, the room I hated the most was the kitchen. Such a good opening line, right?! Ha, no but seriously our kitchen was completely closed off, ugly, and really just three different shades of yellowed 90's oak.
Our very first project was ripping out that wall to the right of the stove. I explained more of that in the 1st "Renovating our house on a budget - part 1" on the blog. It allowed for a much more open layout of our home and completely transformed the functionality of our kitchen and living room. Originally when entering our house, you had to walk to the back of the house to enter the kitchen. Now you can simply just walk through the living room to the kitchen.
A few months later, my in-laws purchased new kitchen flooring for us for our Christmas present. We chose this luxury vinyl flooring. It's advertised as being waterproof and scratch proof, and I liked the variety of shading in the floor.
We took a break from renovations for a few months after that as we saved and geared up for the largest part - the countertops and cabinets. It also gave me some time to plan out exactly how I wanted to do everything, where I could save on costs, and what our splurge would be.
The update ended up including 5 major things:
- Painting the cabinets ($60)
- Updating the hardware ($70)
- Installing a new sink and faucet ($220)
- Making a concrete countertop ($35)
- Installing a subway tile backsplash ($70)
** This post does contain a few affiliate links I found afterward for the products I used. If you shop directly from them, it helps support my family and makes more detailed blog posts like this possible in the future! **
Paint & Hardware
I initially tried Annie Sloan chalk paint and wax on our cabinets, and I didn't like the feel, finish, or how the cabinets wiped down. I wanted a smooth, sleek finish that I could wipe down no matter how dirty our husky got outside (she has a habit of running into cabinets when she's dirtiest *insert eye roll*.)
We finally settled on lightly sanding the cabinets, primer, and Behr Ultra paint. It took us three days to paint them from start to finish, and I used 3 coats of primer and 3 coats of paint on each cabinet facing (front and back). Little 4inch paint rollers were my best friend for being able to complete this job so quickly. I'm pretty sure a paint brush would have taken over twice the time.
I chose inexpensive hardware from Home Depot. I tried to stay with $2-3 per piece so that the cost didn't get out of hand. In a perfect world, I would have chosen sleek pulls but I didn't want to blow our entire budget and miss out on a new countertop, sink, and backsplash!
Sink & Faucet
If there's one thing I can scream from the mountain top about renovations, its prioritize your splurge! Your splurge should be something that really helps improve the functionality of your home in some way!
In our case, the sink that was in the house when we moved in was a double bowl sink with a 4 inch depth. You could put about 2 plates, 2 bowls, and a couple pieces of silverware in it before it was heaping and overflowing. I felt like I was constantly doing dishes and within a couple months, I was completely over it! (If you're looking at the pictures and wondering why I don't use the dishwasher, it leaked when we moved into the house and would cause severe water damage if we ever used it.)
I priced out the beloved farmhouse sinks that are popular right now and debated how long I wanted to wait and save up for a sink that is trendy right now and I might hate in a decade when it goes out of style. So we decided to go with a more inexpensive option that fit our needs at the moment, still served as a modernized update, and most importantly made doing dishes MUCH more pleasant.
While we were at it, we upgraded the faucet since the old one was a bit rusted and had brassy gold finishes on it.
The sink is hands down my favorite part of our kitchen now! I'm happy to try new recipes that require a ton of dishes because I know I have room to do them. This is why I emphasize picking your splurge wisely. Had I splurged on handles, my drawers would have opened just the same but I would have been stuck with non-functional sink that continued to discourage me from wanting to cook!
From the second we moved in, I wanted beautiful white marble countertops. BUT....the budget. Did I really want to sacrifice updating everything else in my home for countertops? No, I could compromise. After all, countertops do go in and out of style over the decades and I didn't want something that I would be stuck with forever and ever. Enter concrete countertops.
I've seen many Instagram home decor influencers do them in their homes and they didn't look bad! Plus, I think it was Joanna Gaines that made them popular first so I felt like I should at least entertain the idea. The more I looked into it, the more I realized just HOW budget friendly they were! Once I realized I was looking at the possibility of completely transforming my 10 foot long countertop for under $50, I was 100% on board.
To get started, I purchased one box of Henry's Feather Finish, a small can of Minwax Polycrylic, and a 6" drywall trowel. Other items you'll need are a measuring cup (probably one you don't mind throwing out), a cheap spatula, water, some of those cheap plastic paint cups, and whole lotta bravery to just go for it.
I wish (oh how I wish) I had taken more in-progress pictures but honestly it was just me working on it between about 10pm and 3am three nights in a row while my husband was at work. So I'll do my best to give you tips on how I figured out how to do it!
The Process Behind Concrete Countertops:
The basic concept behind feather-finish concrete countertops is that you are applying SUPER thin layers. All of your layers combined shouldn't be any thicker to 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch above your original countertop. Less is more and your first layer won't look great - in fact it might look a little scary at first.
- Start by lightly sanding your existing countertops so that the concrete has a scuffed surface that it can grab onto. Wipe off the sanding residue and you're ready to begin your concrete adventure.
- Tape off any areas like walls, sides of counters, and bottom cabinets that you don't want to accidentally get concrete on. We had one section of cabinets that were right up against our countertop so I taped it off about 1/8 inch above the current countertop/where I thought the finished countertop would be height wise.
- The directions on the back of the Henry's box says to mix 2 parts concrete to 1 part water. Do small batches at a time so you can work with what you have mixed up before it dries out. Also you can be "slightly" generous with your water part - I found it worked much better if I added just a tiny bit more than exactly 1 part, till it was more a toothpaste consistency.
- I found it was easiest to mix it up in those cheap little packs of clear plastic paint containers you can get at Walmart in the paint section. I just used a cheap, throw-away spatula that was at the end of it's cooking life anyway to mix up the concrete and scoop it out of the container.
Once you have your first little batch of concrete mixed up, get your trowel ready. Your goal is to just smooth a thin layer of soupy concrete across your countertop, and make it as level as possible.
The edges are a bit tricky and I had to finally concede that they won't be factory perfect. The goal is to just get them as smooth and straight as you can, to apply thin coats, and to sand gently. It's easier to be overzealous sanding on the edges to the point where you can see the old countertop. Then you'll have to add even more layers and that's just plain annoying!
Once your first layer is dry (about 2 hours), sand it with 60 grit sandpaper till it feels pretty smooth to the touch. Clean off all the sanding debris with a wet rag.
And do layer #2 exactly the same way! You'll find it's easier and less scary this time. It's starting to look more like a countertop! Sand and clean off again.
And... do layer #3 exactly the same way! You should be seeing a solid looking concrete countertop at this point that is as smooth and level as you can get it. I progressed on this layer from 60 grit sandpaper, to 150, and then finally 220 grit to get a buttery smooth finish. You'll see little variations in the color and texture but honestly that's the fun part about concrete countertops! The texture is gorgeous and the variations are so forgiving of things that will happen to your kitchen in the future!
Things to note: this is a very messy project! You can see the layer of dust on my oven and I spent a lot of time vacuuming and cleaning up afterward. Thoroughly worth it through for the price!
Let your countertop cure at least overnight if not for 24 hours before applying the minwax polycrylic. All you need is just a good quality clean brush meant for applying stains. You'll start by applying a very thin layer to the entire countertop - it'll darken up a tad but then dry somewhere in-between where it used to be and the darkness it is right now. Brush quickly to work out as blotches or drips over the edge - those drips will be permanent if you don't brush it out immediately.
Allow 2 hours between coats of polycrylic and aim for 3-5 coats total to fully seal that countertops. Once you've applied your final coat, allow 24 hours for it to fully cure before regular use. That's it. You're done and you have brand new, budget-friendly countertops!
Lastly, we installed our subway tile backsplash. We'll be installing another backsplash soon on the other side of kitchen soon so I'll leave that tutorial till I have step by step pictures to go with it.
So that's our kitchen renovation in a nutshell and how we did it on a super tight budget. We still have to caulk the seam between the backsplash and countertop, I would LOVE to update our appliances, and I dream of a custom wood vent hood someday. But for now, I'm so happy about how far it's come and the pretty, clean kitchen I have to cook in! I don't think I've ever cooked or baked this much, and my husband is quite ok with it.