Heart of the Home: Kitchen Reno


Also known as the ‘heart of the home’, the kitchen is the central hub of every house and apartment. It’s also the most frequently used, meaning it can get dingy and damaged quickly from frequent use, food prep and water leakage. 

The idea of renovating a kitchen can turn investors off due to the sheer magnitude of effort and work involved. However, while some may see the kitchen as a massive renovation challenge, it is also one of the greatest opportunities to add value to your property. 

In fact, when it comes to renovation projects, the kitchen is one of the most profitable rooms to work with. 

Whether renovators go for a full revamp of the kitchen or a quick cosmetic refresh, there are always opportunities to make a big impact on a small budget. 

Kitchen renovations don’t have to be overly expensive – and as this renovation project shows, a full kitchen upgrade can be achieved with change from $7,000. 

Here, we show you how you can upgrade your investment property’s kitchen smartly and beautifully through a few strategic transformations that won’t break the bank. 


First things first: step back and see what you’ve got to work with instead of deciding right away to redo everything. Sometimes all it takes is a fresh perspective.

“Look at what you can retain or recycle,” advises renovation expert Cherie Barber. “It’s far cheaper to cosmetically refresh what’s there rather than demolish and start from scratch.”
For instance, Barber suggests that maybe all you really need is to change a few things, like replacing a laminate benchtop with one of stone, or going for a tiled splashback. Little modifications can enliven an old space without having to resort to taking everything down.

While the splashback is an opportunity to add some colour and personality to the kitchen, don’t go too bold: vibrant shades of deep red and shocking lime green can quickly date the home.


If your current kitchen offers a lot to work with from a structural perspective, you’re all set, because you can just make minor cosmetic changes to update its look. Barber recommends using specialty paints and finishing products from brands like White Knight.

“If the cabinetry, benchtops and tiles are in good condition, you can simply revamp them,” Barber explains.

“Paints can be tinted to virtually any colour, so the possibilities to modernise are endless.”

Aside from a paint makeover, an old benchtop can also be given a facelift by adding a granite-like finish. This can be achieved using a resurfacing kit from a brand such as Rust-Oleum.

Lighter colours suit a smaller kitchen as the neutral tones create the illusion of space and help to reflect light. 


It’s definitely possible to achieve a new facade for your kitchen without sacrificing the foundations. For instance, you can simply replace the fronts of cupboards and drawers to freshen them up aesthetically, while taking advantage of perfectly functional aspects of the room.

“This gives you the flexibility to choose any door profile you want, from the popular shaker style to the classic flat finish,” Barber says. 

“Not having to pull out all the old carcasses will also save a lot of the time and disruption that comes with replacing an entire kitchen, but you’ll still get a brand-new look.”

The installation of cupboard doors can certainly be a DIY task – just don’t rush the process. Take it step by step, based on the instructions.


If you do opt for a complete overhaul, try to work with the existing layout of the room to minimise costs.

“Messing with a perfectly adequate layout is just wasting money,” Barber remarks.

The plumbing and electrical installations, such as lighting, in particular, are best kept where they originally were, as relocating them can be more trouble than they’re worth, especially if things go wrong. 

It can be easier to adjust your vision in accordance with your means rather than pushing a major makeover that could cause damage throughout the house.

If you need to make structural changes, get an architect on board to help you come up with a design plan, to lessen the chances of making expensive mistakes.


Even minor details can make a big difference when it comes to creating an impact. Make sure that small finishing touches, like doorknobs and handles, get updated, as well as the bigger items, Barber says. This goes for whether you get a new kitchen or opt for a cosmetic renovation. Modern accessories can add to the overall aesthetic of the room by helping it look shiny and new, while enhancing durability. 

There’s definitely no need to go all out and splurge on doorknobs and accessories – the important thing is to go with a timeless style that suits and complements the surrounding space. 

Around $100 may be all you need to update all of the handles and boost the aesthetics of your kitchen. Do a lot of shopping around so you have as many options as possible.


Before you start on a kitchen reno, endeavour to determine the order of works to minimise tradie call-outs.

“For example, sparkie and plumber will invariably need two call-outs – once at the start to disconnect and rough-in, and then at the end to connect appliances and plumbing,” Barber explains.

Knowing the process also helps you determine the materials you need to order, such as tapware and lighting, so you can have them ready at the right time. Thus it’s important to talk to your installer about project time frames and requirements, as this will limit potential problems such as miscommunication, inadequate tools to work with, and making unnecessary appointments.

Keep your reno project schedule tight so that your tradies don’t get the chance to slack off. Time is money – the sooner the reno is complete, the sooner a tenant can be found and income can begin flowing once more!


With affordable flat-pack kitchens becoming more and more customisable these days to fit different room layouts, this type of kitchen could be a great option for reno work on a budget.

“A customised flat-pack kitchen offers many of the pluses of a bespoke designer kitchen, without the hefty price tag. They can be custom-made to fit most sizes at very reasonable prices. Just search online under ‘flat-pack kitchens’ to see the options available, or try the likes of Bunnings and IKEA,” Barber suggests.

Quality should definitely be kept in mind when picking out a fiat-pack for assembly. Badly made sets could end up collapsing on you. Check that each component is stable and drawers and doors close properly and gently.

Installing a kitchen can be intimidating for DIY renovators, but stress not – many tradies specialise in installation of flat-pack homes. 

CASE STUDY: Low-cost kitchen reno

When Cherie Barber gave one of her Western Sydney rental properties a makeover, she realised the kitchen space was a perfect contender for a budget kitchen makeover.

“The kitchen was nice and large, with everything in the right spot, and it was in surprisingly good condition, so I had no intention of pulling it out,” she says.

“However, as I was going for a modern look with the rest 
of the renovation, I needed the kitchen to suit, so it needed to be refreshed.”

Barber chose to upgrade cosmetically, to give the appearance of newness and modernity.

“Out came the cupboard and door fronts, benchtop and old wall tiles. Through the main living areas, including the kitchen, I installed laminate flooring, which is a robust choice for rental properties.”

Barber had a kitchen company construct end panels and cupboard doors in Formica Brushwood for $1,600. She also picked up a new laminate benchtop for $650, and for the same amount purchased an appliance package. 

To contrast with the cupboard fronts and walls that were painted in the ‘Shindig’ shade from Taubmans, the kitchen splashback was redone using plain white ceramic tiles bought at $29/sqm from Bunnings. 

“The solution was just to update the bare minimum to give the appearance of a brand-new kitchen, at a total cost of around $7,000,” Barber says.

Consider the existing product
Barber realised the existing structure worked – it just needed to be freshened up

Add a fresh coat Fresh, white ceramic tiles created a cool contrast with the rest of the kitchen

Put up a front
Cupboard doors were replaced with wood-look Formica Brushwood panels

Limit structural work
Costs were minimised by working with the existing layout of the room

Notice the small details All handles were replaced with affordable cheap grips

Know the flow
Barber scheduled her tradies to maximise their time and minimise delays 

Opt for flat-packs
Flat-packs are an ideal option for affordable kitchen renos, though in this case they weren’t needed

Invest in good lighting
LED lighting saves energy and pendant lighting can improve the room’s aesthetics

Cherie Barber
is the CEO of
Renovating for Profit,
which teaches Australians
how to buy and cosmetically
renovate properties for
a profit.

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