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Expert Advice

Kitchen Renovation: Splurge or Save? Kitchen Updates That Pay Off


By: Scott McGillivray

The kitchen is the number one room in the house when it comes to return on investment. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on every little detail in your kitchen renovation. When renovating or upgrading a kitchen, there are some places you should spend a little more, and a few places where you can get away with spending less.

Save – Cabinets

Custom cabinets are great if you have the budget, but if you’re looking for a place to save money, there’s no reason not to go with semi-custom cabinets, or even flat pack cabinetry. These types of cabinets have come a long way over the years, and as long as you don’t require any unusual sizes, you can usually get what you need for a reasonable price – without compromising on quality. If your cabinet boxes are in good shape, you can also consider painting or refinishing as a way to keep costs down. See ideas for kitchens with wood cabinetry here.

Farmhouse kitchen featuring 
Annicca™ countertops and white cabinets


Splurge – Countertops

When it comes to quality, nothing beats quartz countertops. They’re durable, they offer a great return on investment, and they look like a million bucks. Since kitchen countertops put up with a lot of wear and tear (dishes clanging, knives scraping, spills of all kinds, etc.), making the investment in something that won’t get damaged is well worth the price. Make sure to get your quartz countertops from a trusted brand like Cambria to ensure quality. (Get more of my thoughts on finding the right countertop here.) My personal recommendation is to go with a classic neutral like Cambria’s Ella™ or Brittanicca™ that will stand the test of time and never go out of style.

Gray kitchen renovation featuring Cambria 
Ella countertops. Photo: Buyers Bootcamp


Save – Tile

While tile can be a great decorative tool, when it comes to return on investment, it’s not at the top of the list. Good-looking, good-quality tile can be found for relatively inexpensive prices, so I say save on the tile and use the savings to invest in the kitchen countertop. That said, if you’ve fallen in love with a pricier tile, use it as a feature in a small area and surround it with a less expensive tile. If you try to use an expensive tile all over, you’ll see how quickly the cost of your kitchen renovation goes up.

White kitchen renovation featuring 
Torquay™ countertops and herringbone tile backsplash. Photo: Cute and Co.


Splurge – Appliances

Since appliances are something you use every day, you want models you can count on. This doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy top-of-the-line appliances full of features you’ll never use, but it does mean it’s worth it to buy quality brand names with good warranties. And yes, I recommend splurging on stainless steel. It’s versatile enough to fit in with different styles of kitchens and it’s unlikely it will go out of style any time soon.

Sleek, small kitchen with gray cabinets and
Cambria Ella countertops. Photo: Buyers Bootcamp


Save – Lighting

Nowhere is lighting more important than in the kitchen. In a room where people are dealing with sharp objects and intense heat, being able to see properly is fairly important. But there’s good news. Lighting doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective. As long as you have the appropriate ambient and task lighting (overhead, under-counter, and in some cases, pendant) you’re set. If you want a more expensive statement light by all means go for it, but it likely won’t pay off when it comes to return on investment.

Elegant waterfall-edge kitchen island and white quartz countertops in Cambria’s 
Ella design. Photo: Reno to Reveal


Splurge – Hardware

I always say that whatever you touch regularly in a house should feel good. Since cabinet knobs, pulls, and handles are used all the time, it’s worth it to invest in models that are high quality and feel good to the touch.  Also, the visual impact hardware has on a room shouldn’t be underestimated. High-quality, good-looking hardware will help elevate the look of the entire space. And vice versa with cheap hardware.

My home kitchen featuring Cambria 
Brittanicca countertops. Photo: Moving the McGillivrays


Save – Sink

Kitchen sinks take a lot of abuse, but they’re designed to withstand it, regardless of price point. So if you’re looking to save on your kitchen renovation, I would recommend going with an inexpensive stainless steel undermount sink. They look just fine and are just as durable as their costly counterparts.

Kitchen island with 
Windermere™ countertops and stainless steel undermount sink.


Splurge – Faucet

The way I look at kitchen faucets is that they’re small but mighty! Just like with hardware, you can literally feel the difference between those that are good quality and those that aren’t. In my opinion, it’s well worth the cost to invest in a strong, sturdy, and handsome faucet. And definitely consider a pull-down model because it will make washing dishes and general cleaning up a lot easier.


My home kitchen islands featuring Cambria 
Brittanicca and Roxwell™. Photo: Moving the McGillivrays


The kitchen may be the most expensive room in the house to renovate, but if you make considered investments, and scale back where it makes sense, you can create a beautiful and functional space, and get a great return on your investment in the process.