Nine Ways to Save Money on a Kitchen Remodel



Unfortunately, kitchens are expensive. Everything is either high end finish, appliances, or fixtures. Regardless of the scale of your project, whether you are just looking to make some minor changes or rip everything out, there are strategies for saving money.

Have a Plan

Having a plan is a good idea both in terms of an approach and a physical set of plans.  If you are doing more than the most minor project, it is important to have a clear set of plans that communicates at the smallest details what your expectations are. Pointing and saying, “I want a sink over there,” is a recipe for disaster.  A quality project is dependent on quality detailed instructions, which is what a set of plans provides. A haphazard approach, or the idea that you will ‘figure it out along the way,’ can lead to costly mistakes.  

Be Prepared

Do not start construction before every selection has been decided. This is a great way to lose track of how much you are spending and end up in trouble.  It is also important to have scheduled every phase of the work so that you stay on time and do not end up waiting three weeks for the plumber and then a month for the electrician.  In construction time is literally money.

Use A Design/Build Firm

Well, as a design/build firm, of course we are going to say this.  But it also happens to be true.  Making sure that you have a single point of accountability saves money by not getting stuck between a designer and a contractor blaming each other for whatever goes wrong. In that situation the homeowner always gets stuck with the bill.  When the company that does design also builds the project, there is more sharing of information to create a complete project that starts and stays on budget.

Keep the Cabinets

Cabinets are one of the most expensive parts of a kitchen. Saving all or part of the cabinets can really help the budget.  If the cabinets are in decent shape but dated, consider painting them. These days the trend is white.  If they are too dated, consider changing the doors and drawer fronts for a more dramatic change.  Because we have a custom cabinet shop, we can build and modify cabinets inhouse.

Focus on Lighting

This is true for all design.  Lighting is a crucial and often overlooked element. Often a kitchen can be made to feel new simply by improving the lighting.  A small amount of accent lighting can provide a good return.  Kitchens are task areas that need a lot of light, up to 80 foot-candles. Make sure your kitchen designer understands lighting. This is also a function of aging in place as we need considerably lighter to see well as we age.

Stay with The Basic Layout

Moving the basic infrastructure such as plumbing, electrical, and ducting can add a lot of cost to a project. If you can avoid moving these elements you will save a good deal of money. Though it is easy to reimagine the whole space in a completely different way, avoid this if the budget is tight.

Counter Tops

The best way to save money on countertops is to use remnants. These are smaller pieces of stone from a slab that has already had some removed from it.  In a kitchen with a lot of counter space, this can be hard to do.  One way to make this more of a possibility is to consider using two different materials. For example, you can make an island stand out by using a more dramatic granite on it and something simpler on the rest of the kitchen. Another good approach for some is to include butcher block in cutting and chopping areas.


Appliance are another expensive item in a kitchen.  Find a scratch and dent sale. Often the blemish is an area that will not even show. Appliances are not unlike cars in that newer models are a frequent occurrence. Often the difference is small from a previous model.  Slightly outdated models will be discounted.

Let Little Features Add a Lot of Pizzazz

If your budget is especially tight, consider a small impactful change such as painting the cabinets, changing the backsplash, or adding some accent lighting. These small and relatively inexpensive changes can have a significant impact.


Stearns Design Build Opens Custom Cabinet Shop



College Station, TX, Stearns Design Build, a local residential remodeling company, has announced that they are now offering furniture grade cabinets to the general public. For some time, Stearns Design Build has built high-quality custom cabinets for their remodeling clients. 

In a desire to better control quality in cabinetry Stearns Design Build started building their own cabinets rather than subcontracting this work as is done by most general contractors. Owner, Hugh Stearns said, “This was a significant commitment in staffing and equipment investment, but it was worth it in the level of quality that we can provide.” 

Stearns Design Build recently hired David Oddo to manage their cabinet shop. Oddo is a third-generation woodworker and journeyman carpenter. He previously owned his own woodworking shop in Houston.  In addition to managing the cabinet shop, Oddo also assists in the design of custom cabinets. “I look at each project as an opportunity to build a relationship through creativity,” said Oddo.

In addition to custom cabinets, Stearns Design Build also provides custom entertainment centers and built-in furniture as well as a full line of residential remodeling including kitchens, bathrooms, and additions. “Often clients want a custom entertainment center or built-in without doing a full remodel. Now we offer that as an option. We will work with the client to design a piece that fits exactly what they need,” said Stearns.

Stearns Design Build has served the Brazos Valley for 25 years. Twice the recipient of the Newman Ten award, last year the company achieved national acclaim by being named to the Remodeling Big50, an award for remodeling excellence that goes to fifty of the top companies in America and Canada every year.  Stearns Design Build also received the GuildQuality Service Excellence Award, which goes to the five companies of the Big50 class that had the highest customer satisfaction ratings. For more information Stearns Design Build can be found on the web at or reached at 979.696.0524.


Reimagining the Bath

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24 years ago, when I was starting out, the conventional wisdom for those remodeling a bathroom was that one had to have both a shower and bathtub in every full bathroom.  This was a shame because the thought of many seeking a bathroom remodel was to forego the awkward tub/shower combo for the convenience and luxury of a stand-alone shower.  But for fear of resell value, most opted to forego the bathroom they wanted for the bathroom they thought they needed.

Slowly, sentiment evolved and the mandate became for at least one tub in the home.  Many still hold to this premise. But, I’m glad to announce, many have let go of the myth of the mandatory tub. To be sure, there is some wisdom in the legend of the tub. It has to do with bathing small children.  But many who do not have small children are reasoning that, should a family with small children buy the home in the future, there are options, including adding a tub back to the bathroom or using a temporary tub. The number of years in which the average family is bathing small children is relatively small.

Let’s face it, bathroom space is at such a premium that even the 13.35 square feet taken up by the average five-foot tub is worth harvesting for more effective use in a shower, for a larger vanity, or in storage.

But the tubs that we most frequently remove take up a good deal more space. They are the space-hogging garden or spa tubs that continue to be seemingly mandatory in every new home’s master suite, even though they are used on average less than once a year.  The tubs with jets tend to break down and their infrequent use causes unpleasant build up in the lines. Most of the time the water heating capacity in the home does not match the requirement for these tubs.

Not to overlook those who enjoy the relaxation of bathing. There are few things as stress abating as a warm bath.  Sadly, those who seek this escape are not often well suited by the typical builder grade tub.  Many would prefer a hot tub in a well-designed outdoor setting. And for those who prefer a solitary quiet escape, we recommend consideration of something more luxurious than the 5’ tub/shower combo or the oversized and too cool garden tub.

Is there a bathtub in your home that is not frequently used or one that does not fit your bathing needs? Can you imagine a better experience or use of space?


Equation for Value in Remodeling

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Do you want value?  Of course, you do. But what does that mean?  Value is not a fixed point. It is an equation. And that equation is different for everyone.  An often-used example in discussions of value is the fine Italian shoes that cost five times more than a regular pair of shoes but last ten times longer.  The Italian shoes are an excellent value… if you can afford them.

Homes provide a much more complex equation than shoes.  Like shoes, durability, fashion and design are key issues but with many more variables within each category. Additionally, the cost of maintenance and utilities are also at issue.

Unfortunately, the single variable for home buying is cost per square foot, which throws all of these variables of value out the cheap, builder grade window.  Price per square foot is not a good benchmark for value and cheap per square foot is a near perfect equation for bad value.  But that is what sells homes.

To get their price per square foot down, builders are encouraged to provide the most space possible for the lowest price possible.  This has given birth to a whole line of building products called “builder grade.”  This means the lowest possible quality that will get through the short warranty period. 


The average American home is built with around 2500 various parts. With everything from the baseboards to the roofing provided at builder grade, the home can be built at a very low price.  The lower the price, the quicker the home will sell.

As a remodeler, we are the beneficiaries of this approach.  Not only are corners cut on materials but design as well.  Though poor-quality materials are an often-mentioned complaint as families consider remodeling, poor quality space is the most common reason for remodeling.

What most homeowners don’t see is the unnecessary energy loss due to corners cut in order to reduce the price per square foot.  But just like you pay a mortgage payment every month, you also pay your utility bill every month. Unlike your mortgage payment, as long as you are buying energy rather than producing your own, you will never pay it off. 

So, what is your equation for value in remodeling?  If you are in a position of needing to get a project done with as little money as possible, we may not be the right company for you. Our crews are trained not to cut corners.  Nonetheless, we are happy to put our expertise to work for you. If you are doing work yourself and have a question, don’t hesitate to email or call us. We will do our best to get you the information that you need.