Cheap Kitchens: How to Create Your Dream Kitchen on a Budget

cheap kitchens white kitchen with roof lantern
(Image credit: Wren Kitchens)

While the term 'cheap kitchens' might not have been one you hoped you would be researching when dreaming of your new kitchen, you can put all thoughts of flimsy cabinetry and low quality appliances aside. 

If the purse strings are feeling a little tight right now, our budget kitchen guide is just what you need. We show you how to achieve a super stylish, well-equipped kitchen that looks anything but cheap, all without breaking the bank. 

As with so many things, when it comes to kitchen design, you need to carry out proper research and shop around to ensure that cutting costs doesn't result in having to compromise on quality and durability. While new kitchens can easily end up costing tens of thousands of pounds, there are certain things you can do when sourcing a new kitchen that will seriously cut down your overall expenditure. 

From making smart buys, exploring the latest trends in kitchen makeovers and rolling up your sleeves to do some of the work yourself, we look at the tops ways you can save. 

1. Consider Flat-Packed Cheap Kitchens 

It doesn't matter whether you're after for a cheap kitchen or are happy to splash the cash, the top priority in the kitchen should always be the same — storage, storage and more storage,

While we all want kitchen ideas that look great, they should also be capable of providing all the space you need for food and kitchen equipment — not to mention all those other bits and bobs we end up stashing away here. 

In the main, kitchen storage tends to be made up mainly of units, drawers and shelving.

Kitchen units are made up of a ‘carcass’ and a door, or drawer fronts. The carcass is the part you don’t see when the door is shut, comprising the sides, shelves, back and base panels and so on.

The way in which your new kitchen is supplied will play a big role in how much it costs. There are several ways in which kitchen units are supplied. Some are sold in one piece, already fitted with doors or drawer fronts, while others come as separate doors and carcasses, ready for you or your kitchen fitter to construct on site.

Others supply flat-packed kitchens, where you or your fitter assemble the whole thing and fix it into place.

At the cheapest end of the market lie standard, off-the-shelf kitchens, supplied flat-packed. Carcasses are usually made from melamine-faced chipboard or similar, and doors will be faced or wrapped in vinyl, PVC, laminate or melamine.

Good examples of low cost flat-pack kitchens can be found at WickesIkea and B&Q where, for as little as £400ish, you can pick up complete kitchens, including carcasses, doors, handles and fixings.

While this type of flat-pack kitchen offers a very low price tag, it is important to look at the cons too. Any damage to the units will be difficult to repair, and you will need to factor in the time and costs associated with fitting it yourself.

B&QGoodHome Verbena Natural Oak Shaker Style kitchen

The GoodHome Verbena Natural Oak Shaker Style from B&Q costs just £1,998 for an 8-unit kitchen. (Image credit: B&Q)

2. Save on Carcasses, Spend on Doors 

As kitchen carcasses are hidden away from sight most of the time, this is one area of the kitchen where it makes sense to save a few pounds.

You have two choices here. If your existing kitchen carcasses are in sound condition, you can retain them and simply buy new doors to replace shabby old ones — the perfect solution for anyone after kitchen makeovers on a budget.

Alternatively, if you are starting from scratch with your new kitchen, there are a number of companies that have sprung up in recent years which offer door upgrades for popular budget carcass ranges, These brands tend to focus on a handful of kitchen manufacturers for their replacement doors, ensuring they can offer standard sizes and fixings to keep prices down. Husk Kitchens, for example, offer doors for specific ranges from IKEA and Howdens. 

While these doors tend to be more premium products than many cheap kitchen manufacturers offer, it offers a more affordable route for renovating a kitchen. Plykea costs its birch replacement doors at between £2,000 - £5,000, depending on the size of the kitchen. 

Companies such as Trend Transformations offer an all-in-one kitchen makeover service, replacing kitchen doors and worktops in an existing kitchen for a budget-friendly alternative to completely refitting cabinetry. 

kitchen fitted with bare wood and black doors from Plykea

Plykea offer plywood doors and worktops to fit standard Ikea units — perfect for creating a high end, individual look on a budget. (Image credit: Plykea)

3. Opt For an Unpainted Kitchen 

If you have your heart set on a solid timber kitchen but are aiming to stick to a tight budget that bespoke kitchens would quickly swallow up, consider an unpainted kitchen instead — a great option providing you are prepared to put in a fair amount of work in getting them ready to fit.  

Companies such as Pineland will come up with a plan and supply a kitchen, assembled, yet unpainted. A 600mm unpainted base unit (carcass and door) costs in the region of £315.

To turn an unpainted kitchen into a fully finished space, bare wood units need to be treated with knotting solution, primed, sanded and given a couple of coats paint (eggshell gives a good, easy-to-clean finish). They can then be fitted. On the plus side, any knocks and scratches can be sanded out and repainted.

paintable cabinetry is one idea for a cheap kitchen

Howdens has several ranges available in an unpainted finish - look out for the Chelfont and Chilcomb Shaker kitchens.  (Image credit: Howdens)

4. Delve Into The World Of Second Hand Kitchens

Second hand kitchens offer so much to those wanting to buy a fantastic new kitchen for less.

Used and ex-display kitchens really do make a lot of sense, making it possible for buyers to afford kitchens from top designers that their budgets may not otherwise have stretched to — used kitchens will come in at 50%-70% lower than the RRP. 

Companies such as The Used Kitchen Company, Used Kitchen Exchange and The Used Kitchen Hub have a huge range of ex-display and second-hand kitchens available for just a fraction of their original price — often around 50-70% off their RRP.

It is also always worth asking in builders’ merchants and kitchen showrooms whether they have any ex-display kitchens available. Even if they don’t at the time, you can often leave your details for when they do.

turquoise shaker kitchen from used kitchen exchange

This pre-loved painted in-frame country style kitchen is from Used Kitchen Exchange (Image credit: Used Kitchen Exchange)

5. Look into Budget-friendly Offshoots

Many luxury kitchen makers have diversified their brands to cater for a wider market, without compromising on the quality you'd come to expect. These more budget-friendly sister brands usually use off-the-shelf measurements for kitchen cabinets, where the company may usually be known for its bespoke kitchen ranges. 

Examples include Kin by Mowlem & Co and Brookmans by Smallbone, however, these are still likely to reach far beyond £5,000. 

British Standard, which is a budget-friendly offshoot from luxury solid wood kitchen maker Plain English, sees prices start from £8,000, with the potential to make further savings with the rest of these economical tips. 

6.  Consider Buying a Kitchen Online

Searching the web is a quick and easy way to find a cheap kitchen. However, without touching the kitchen and seeing it for yourself, it can be hard to assess its quality.

It is quite possible to plan and order a complete new kitchen online, but you will not know its true quality until it arrives.

That said, many online kitchen suppliers will happily send out samples and some, such as have a showroom that allows you to see their ranges on display before buying. 

7.  Shop Around For Cheap Kitchen Worktops

It is always worth shopping around for the best kitchen worktop as opposed to buying it as part of a fitted kitchen. 

Although worktops are often included in the overall quote you get from kitchen suppliers, do check out online worktop companies, local timber merchants and stone masons — they usually offer far better prices.

If you are looking at stone worktops, composite options are usually cheaper than solid stone, and more practical too. If you’re renovating a small kitchen, enquire at your local stone yard about offcuts, as you may be able to make a significant saving on small runs of worktop. 

For the natural stone look, there are also innovative products that will help reduce the price. Maxtop Quartz has all the benefits of solid quartz worktops, however a unique honeycomb centre reduces the amount stone used, bringing down the price. Likewise, Bushboard's M-Stone is a quartz resin mix, meaning that it can be cut, routed and shaped on site, removing the need for expensive stone fabricators, which can cost into the thousands of pounds. 

Another option is to mix and match. Spend more on those areas where the worktops will have the most visual impact — island tops for example — and go for something cheaper in the areas that are more hidden away.

Some timbers are priced very reasonably and providing they are properly treated and maintained should perform well.

If opting for laminate, go for a high quality option — it is a false economy to buy something that is not heat or scratch resistant as they can’t be easily repaired and will require full replacement if damaged.

breakfast bar with wooden worktop and wooden bar stools

Reserve expensive worktop materials such as solid natural stone, hardwoods and high-end composites  for visually prominent areas, such as islands, and use cheaper materials elsewhere. The chunky bar stools here, from Cult Furniture, cost £99 each and add to the high-end look.  (Image credit: Cult Furniture)

8. Discover the Benefits of Stainless Steel Sinks

There is a huge choice of styles and materials when it comes to choosing a new kitchen sink. From ceramic Belfast sinks to sleek and simple composites that can be moulded as one piece with your worktop. 

However, if you are after a high quality, low cost option you really can't go wrong with stainless steel.

There is a reason why stainless steel sinks are a staple in professional kitchens — they are stain and heat resistant and last for years and years.

If you are worried about a stainless steel sink being a bit boring (which you really shouldn't be as there are some really great designs out there) you can always dress it up with a stylish, designer tap.

undermounted stainless steel sink from Screwfix

This undermounted stainless steel sink from Screwfix costs just £79.99 (Image credit: Screwfix)

9. Don't Scrimp on Kitchen Fixings

When it comes to where to spend and where to save in the kitchen, there is most certainly one aspect of buying a new kitchen that you should not skimp on —  the fixings. It is these little details that will ultimately dictate how long the kitchen lasts.

Wall hanging brackets: These attach wall cabinets to the wall. Good quality brackets should be adjustable and concealed.

Shelf adjustments: Look at the number of pre-drilled holes in the sides of the cabinets. These enable you to reposition your shelves at different heights — some of the very cheapest cabinets have less than three positions.

Hinges: Opt for the best hinges you can afford. Most kitchens come with soft-close hinges as standard, but if not, check how much more it costs to have them. Experts at Pineland say that a soft close hinge will add £20 per door and £35-£50 per drawer.

Choose adjustable hinges which allow you to tweak height and opening area of the door. Finally, choose a hinge which allows you to fully open the door and opt for a concealed hinge as opposed to surface mounted.

Adjustable legs: Base units really need height adjusting legs. These compensate for differences in floor levels and make the kitchen easier to fit.

Drawer weight limit: Check the weight limit of base unit drawers — some very cheap units will not hold the weight of heavy pots, pans and crockery.

10. Opt For Built-in Kitchen Appliances

It sounds obvious but do shop around for your new kitchen appliances — it is surprising just how many people take the easy option of settling for those included in a complete fitted kitchen quote — this is rarely the cheapest option.

It is interesting to note that built-in appliances, such as fridge freezers and dishwashers usually cost a little less than freestanding.

Stainless steel fan oven from GoodHome Kitchens at B&Q

Built-in appliances are generally cheaper than freestanding. This stainless steel fan oven from GoodHome Kitchens at B&Q costs just £158. (Image credit: GoodHome Kitchens c/o B&Q)

11. Tackle DIY Kitchen Fitting 

Fitting a kitchen is actually fairly simple job to carry out on a DIY basis — particularly if you have opted for a flat-pack kitchen.

Where it pays to call in the professionals is when it comes to fitting worktops — stone and timber in particular need cutting and joining and trying to do it yourself can result in some costly mistakes.

Whether or not you decide to fit your own kitchen really comes down to time and DIY skills. Just bear in mind that a fitter will charge you anything from £250 for fitting pre-assembled units, up to around £1,000.

retro kitchen in spearmint green from Wren

The Milano Contour Ermine Kitchen in Spearmint from Wren Kitchens comes fully built, ready to be installed on site, and costs from £3,857. (Image credit: Wren Kitchens)

12. Give Your Budget Kitchen a High End Look

There are plenty of ways to ensure your budget kitchen looks like the complete opposite. Customisation and attention to detail are vital.

Knobs and handles: Just because most standard kitchen unit doors come complete with handles or knobs, you don’t have to use them. Select your own separately, from sturdy wooden knobs to brushed steel cup handles for drawers.

Lighting: Consider your kitchen lighting. Little touches such as inexpensive LED strip lights concealed beneath units brings the room to life.

DIY shelving and breakfast bars: Including open shelving gives a bespoke finish, while building a simple breakfast bar with painted timber cladding is an easy yet effective job that will save money.

Freestanding kitchen furniture: Dressers, sideboards and large tables and workbenches will all add an eclectic look to your kitchen — even a standard, flat-packed kitchen can be brought to life with a vintage find such as this. 

wooden wall shelves with underlighting from John Cullen

Details such as concealed LED lights, such as the Etta Eyelid Undercupboard Lights from John Cullen Lighting, shown here, can really boost the look of your kitchen. (Image credit: John Cullen Lighting)
Natasha Brinsmead

Natasha is Homebuilding & Renovating’s Associate Content Editor and has been a member of the team for over two decades. An experienced journalist and renovation expert, she has written for a number of homes titles. Over the years Natasha has renovated and carried out a side extension to a Victorian terrace. She is currently living in the rural Edwardian cottage she renovated and extended on a largely DIY basis, living on site for the duration of the project. She is now looking for her next project — something which is proving far harder than she thought it would be.