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10 Ways to Remodel Your Kitchen on the Cheap

By E. E. Kane

If you are considering a kitchen remodel but cannot afford the tens of thousands of dollars that a complete renovation would cost, consider these projects below. Even if you only tackle a few of the projects, your kitchen will beam with new life. It's a smart move to update your kitchen on a small scale, especially if you plan to resell your home in a few years. You might as well get started now, complete projects as you can afford them, and enjoy the benefits for awhile.


1. Freshen up your countertops


Everyone else may be going for granite, but you don't have to choose a pricey natural stone countertop to beautify your kitchen. The cheapest option to replace your current kitchen countertops is probably a laminate. Laminate offers hundreds of choices, including (if you must) look-alike stone options in granite, slate, or marble.


A tile countertop is also an economical option, especially if you feel comfortable tackling it yourself. Your bottom line will mostly depend on what type of tile you choose. Keep the price down by going with a less expensive tile and integrate a few decorative tiles of the same thickness.


The cheapest way, hands down, to freshen up your countertops is to refurbish the ones you already have. If your laminate countertop is in fairly good condition, a coat of tough oil paint and a coating of varnish, along with a creative faux finish, can go a long way to jazzing things up. You can even repair those chips and gouges before you paint, and your counters will look like new. This option costs less than $100, and offers the greatest flexibility for a new color scheme.


2. Add some interest and breathing room by subtraction


Does your kitchen have an abundance of cabinets? Is the view to a living area blocked by said cabinets? Do all of your cabinets have wood door coverings? If so, you can give your kitchen a more open, free-flowing look in several ways. You can remove a few cabinets altogether, such as over a bar, especially if a living area is on the other side. Or remove a few key upper cabinet doors and use those opened cabinets as display shelves for your favorite pottery or china. If you don't want to ditch the cabinet doors altogether, replace the insert: use glass for a classy kitchen, or screen for a rustic kitchen. Remove a drawer or two, along with the tracks inside, and replace with shallow, long baskets.


3. Give new life and color to your cabinets


Dark cabinets can make a kitchen look small and confined. A coat of light paint will brighten the room considerably. Before you do anything drastic to your cabinets, think carefully about what you want for an overall color scheme. Even old, dark cabinets can breathe new life with the right color on the walls to set them off. Explore magazines and books for color scheme ideas.


When you are ready to make a change, this is one remodeling project you can do yourself, if you have the time and patience. Painting is the easiest option. Re-staining is probably not an option unless you are darkening the stain. Also consider colored stains, or adding a glaze to the surface of a lighter paint to antique the look.


4. Replace hardware


This is by far the easiest way to update your kitchen, and you can do it for about $100, more or less. Be sure to choose a style that still suits the overall theme. If you are not planning to paint your cabinets as well, choose the same size hardware to avoid exposed holes. Even if you fill them, they will be obvious without paint.


5. Add texture to walls


A boring kitchen will pop with just a touch of texture. Add beadboard to a backsplash and below the bar, and possibly to the ceiling as well for a cottage kitchen. Add tile to a backsplash, or a fancy faux paint finish on the walls. Consider adding a few really unique features, such as patterned tin behind the range, or a strip of copper as a backsplash.


6. Cover older appliances


Replacing your appliances would be really nice, but if they still have plenty of life in them, why add to a landfill? Consider covering them with doors to match your cabinetry, instead. Unless you are a skilled carpenter you will have to hire one for this job. However, you might still come out ahead since you will be saving several thousand dollars in new appliances.


7. Increase storage space


Need more room for storage? Instead of expanding, look inside your cabinets, that is. Any full cabinet with no shelves contains wasted space. You can add sliding drawers within, or shelves to the inside of the door.


8. Jazz up garish flooring


Aged and dated flooring can be an eyesore, and will only look worse as you freshen up other areas in the room. The least expensive options for replacing kitchen flooring are vinyl and tile. Vinyl is easy to install for the beginning to intermediate DIYer, and tile is more challenging, but doable for the somewhat experienced handyperson.


9. Replace light fixtures 

A dim room will never live up to its potential. Besides a ceiling fixture, your kitchen needs task lighting. Concentrate your financial efforts where they count: over the kitchen sink, an island, or a bar. Even with the extra expense to hire an electrician or handyman for installation, this project can give a lot of punch for a small amount of money.


10. Replace the kitchen sink and faucet 

Don't forget the kitchen sink! Your kitchen sink might make the transition well as you remodel other parts of your kitchen, but if it is made of a limiting color, or has chips or scratches (acrylic sinks damage easily), you can replace it for a few hundred dollars. A new faucet will also add greatly to the entire scheme. New kitchen sinks and faucets come in a variety of styles and prices, but you should be able to find something you like of good quality for a modest price. Plan to spend at least $200 for a new sink, and $150 or more for a faucet.

Before you begin any kitchen remodel, do plenty of research to get ideas. The library is a great resource for home improvement books. Gather paint chips, magazine pages, and other samples into a file. When you know what you want, tackle each project one at a time to lessen the stress of remodeling. Then when you are done, toast your efforts, and enjoy the results.