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The kitchen is often the heart of any home, and most homeowners are constantly seeking ways to improve the look and functionality of that space. But a full-blown kitchen remodel can be lengthy, disruptive, and expensive.
The average kitchen remodel costs $26,000, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association. While nice kitchens tend to wow homebuyers, remodeling and home repairs may not offer a complete return on investment, particularly in today’s housing market.
Instead of gutting your kitchen, consider less expensive home improvements that will make a big impact on the kitchen but a low impact on your budget.
If you don’t have the budget to replace all your old appliances with newer versions or with the ever-popular stainless steel models, try upgrading them. If you’re in a DIY spirit, you can actually paint over your old fridge, range, and dishwasher with black paint or liquid stainless steel for less than $100. You can also hire an auto body shop to do the work for you.
In addition, you can try replacing or thoroughly cleaning and restoring old, worn out handles, knobs, or gas stove grates. And if you have mismatched appliances, scour Craigslist or other classifieds for cheaper used alternatives to the pricey new models.
Cabinets and counters
Greasy build-up can make good cabinets look bad. Start by removing as much grease as possible—there are plenty of solutions available to remove various levels of grime, from new coats to the hardened, stuck-on grease.
If you have less-than-desirable wooden cabinets, try painting them. You can paint your kitchen cabinets nearly any color, but white and lighter shades tend to be more popular and appealing. Buy quality paint because kitchen cabinets take a lot of wear and tear from heavy use and fluctuating temperatures. And if you do paint, make sure that the colors you choose work with the rest of your kitchen colors, including your countertops, tables, walls, appliances, and curtains.
If you need more counter space, add a kitchen island. Although it may cost upwards of $200, you can order one that will sit in the middle of your kitchen, or you can buy a less-expensive pre-made island that can wheel out of the way when you don’t need it. You can also use Craigslist here to find great buys. Either way, an island will add counter space, change the look of your kitchen, and create a place for entertaining.
Adding a fresh coat of paint to your walls is the easiest and most striking way to change the look of your kitchen. Because the kitchen is typically a vibrant place full of activity, it really poses a great opportunity to try fun, bold colors.
A tile backsplash makes a big impact as well. While this isn’t a particularly expensive project for a contractor, you can still save some money by doing it on your own. From fake tile sheets to simply buying the tiles and carefully laying them yourself, this is a manageable project, especially if you keep the backsplash area small.
The little things
Little details can make a big difference.
Try purchasing a new faucet—particularly one that has a sprayer—for a fresh, modern look that will add functionality to your sink. You can also replace your sink with a sleeker model, as long as it still fits in the original footprint of your current sink. Look around Craigslist for a potential deal, and think about selling your old one as well.
Unless you’re going for a classic design, ditch the curtains for shades, as they tend to be more popular in modern kitchen design.
Replace the hardware on your cabinets. Ditch dated knobs for modern brass handles, for example, and you’ll notice the difference immediately. Be careful though—all those hinges and handles can add up.
Ilyce R. Glink is the author of several books, including 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask and Buy, Close, Move In!. She blogs about money and real estate at ThinkGlink.com and at the Home Equity blog for CBS MoneyWatch.
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