The $500 Kitchen Makeover

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When Patty and I moved into our house a little more than two years ago, the one thing we knew had to go was the kitchen floor. It was ugly, pockmarked, discolored and soiled by a thousand or so varieties of dirt and grime.

The problem is, we’re sort of cheap. And indecisive. Consequently, we spent the next two years debating what kind of flooring we wanted, how much we were willing to spend, and finally, whether we should pay a contractor to do the job right or take a chance on our own abilities as do-it-yourselfers.

From the beginning, Patty thought we should just do the floor ourselves. I resisted the idea, noting that our previous home improvement projects had yielded mediocre results. We went back and forth on the issue until one day Patty stumbled across this blog post, which describes how to redo your kitchen floor in black-and-white checkerboard for under $100 using vinyl, adhesive-backed tiles.

I know black-and-white checkerboard isn’t very popular anymore, but for some reason Patty and I seemed to gravitate toward it. We looked at a lot of modern, more conventional tile and sheet vinyl options, but everything looked boring. In any case, we thought we could make the black-and-white checkerboard work in our kitchen. I read the blog post, studied the photos, and then read it again. I clicked through to the how-to video on YouTube and checked out the website of the company that sells the tiles, Mazer Wholesale, Inc. It all seemed pretty self-explanatory.

The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like we really could do this ourselves. The tipping point came when Patty pointed out that if we could pull off a project like this for such a small price, we would still have enough money left over to pay a contractor to come in and fix it if the end result was so bad that we couldn’t live with it.

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I could go into detail about the actual process of laying the tiles, but it really is pretty simple and there are plenty of resources available online to help explain it. The edge pieces can be tricky, but after the first few you’ll get the hang of how to measure them. I will simply say that before doing this project, I had never done flooring in my life. If I can do it, anyone can.

We found our kitchen had a some qualities that meshed well with the checkerboard pattern — namely the yellow walls and the wood grain countertop, both of which help warm and soften the room. We decided to repaint the cabinets to match our appliances; that, of course, necessitated repainting all the molding and the door to the basement as well. (We found out that painting cabinets is a vastly more difficult task than laying down self-adhesive tiles over linoleum.)

When we got to the end, we still found that something was missing. We decided the room needed more color — something to punch it up a bit. We found some cheap red accent rugs at Target, and then went on Amazon and ordered some red-and-white checkerboard valances for the windows. We also bought a new dining set that we both liked from Ikea, and threw in a few plants and some framed prints on the walls for good measure.

Here’s what it all cost us:

  • Tiles (including shipping) ~$125
  • Painting supplies from Home Depot ~$150
  • Rugs, valances, cellular shades and wall decorations ~$125
  • Table and chairs from Ikea ~$100

There you have it. New kitchen, $500. Finally, here are a couple of blog posts from Apartment Therapy that I found helpful:

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