Kitchen remodeling on the cheap

Painting cabinets an eye-catching color can revive a kitchen without costing a lot. This kitchen, photographed by Flickr user Jerome Scott-Blount, is in London. Click the photo to go to a gallery of kitchen photos from Yahoo! Homes' Flickr pool.

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If home is where the heart is, then kitchens are clearly one of the vital organs that convert a house into a home. So it is no surprise that kitchen renovations are among the most popular remodeling projects tackled each year.

Not only does updating your kitchen breathe new life into your home, it adds value to it should you decide to sell. According to Remodeling Online's Cost vs. Value Report, even a moderate kitchen remodeling project will return an average of 80% of its cost when it comes time to sell the home.

Any home improvement projects can be complicated, but major kitchen remodeling can turn your life upside down, not to mention all the fast-food pounds you'll put on waiting for that kitchen to welcome you back in. To avoid the indigestion and home improvement hassles, it makes sense to break down the projects into "modules" that can be completed independently of one another. Not only does this make the project more manageable, these smaller changes can have a big visual impact and cut down on the need for more major makeovers.

Here are some ideas to help you separate the wheat flour from the kosher salt and cook up the kitchen of your dreams:

Replace the Kitchen Countertop

Kitchen countertops create bold statements and become the feature point of the entire room. Changing the kitchen countertops is simple way to make a big change that can be completed in a short time frame with little impact on family life. Kitchen countertop materials can vary as much in price as they do in style. Laminates are a cheaper option, but if you are willing to invest more, natural stone is an elegant option.

[Planning to install new counter tops? Click to find the right contractor now.]

Granite is the most popular choice for kitchen countertops; it can handle a hot pan, is very durable, and just looks great. If you want the dimensional stability that natural stone has to offer but want a bit of a break on the wallet, then engineered stone is the way to go. Engineered is made from quartz, it comes in a large variety of colors, and it is a nonporous surface that resists stains and scratches and is easy to maintain.

Ceramic tile is also a great choice for your kitchen countertops, and it doesn't have to end there: You can continue your tile up to the backsplash for a whole new look. Tile is inexpensive, can be installed by a homeowner and is easy to maintain. To avoid the hassles of cleaning grout, choose darker colors, seal the grout right after you are done, and use grout with an antimicrobial additive that resists mold growth.

Laminate countertops are the most cost-effective and available in standard sizes at your local home center. Countertops can also be made of butcher block, stainless steel, and even concrete.

For the best results when having countertops made for you, the fabricator should make a template of your existing walls. Homes are never square, and having a template is the best way to make sure the new top fits your old walls.

Keep the Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchen cabinet replacement is one of the most expensive parts of a kitchen renovation project. But in many cases, you can create an entirely new look to the kitchen by giving those cabinets the love they deserve.

If your cabinets are in good shape but you just are not thrilled with their finish, you have many options to change their appearance. You can strip off the original finish and stain them any way you like. Stain colors are not limited  to the brown family; they can be  just about any color of the rainbow. Be sure that when you put a topcoat on them you select one that does not yellow; this is especially a problem in the kitchen.

Painting your kitchen cabinets is another great option. Crackling is a beautiful effect for cabinets, especially if you use a bright color that will pop under a more neutral tone like off-white.

For the more adventurous, vintage wallpaper is a hot ticket. Patterns are available in Asian prints, floral, stripes, botanicals, you name it. Elements can be cut out of the vintage wall covering and decoupaged to the kitchen cabinet door face. You can create your own pattern and style by mixing and matching different details from the wall coverings and sealing it with a top coat.

If the idea of having a pattern on the exterior of your cabinets is a bit frightening, then how about replacing your cabinet doors with glass doors and using the vintage wall paper as a liner to brighten up the interior? If the crafty thing is not your style, you can purchase new cabinet doors, which are an instant facelift for your kitchen.

[Need help refacing your cabinets? Click to find the right contractor now.]

Finally, don't forget about replacing the kitchen cabinet hardware. Small changes like new door handles and drawer pulls can make a huge difference in the overall look of the kitchen. Most home centers stock a huge variety of handle designs and styles, and many more are available by special order.

Replace Kitchen Appliances

The "dated" look of kitchens can often be traced to the appliances. Just like cars, appliances reflect the style of the day, and changing or repainting can make a kitchen appear 20 years younger, especially if you repaint the walls to match the new colors.

When replacing, choose an EnergyStar-rated appliance. This designation means the appliance exceeds the Department of Energy guidelines for efficiency by at least 10%. Not only will you save money on your energy bills, you may be eligible for rebates from your local energy supplier as well.

Replace Kitchen Faucet

New faucets also make a nice feature in an otherwise dreary space. Kitchen faucet replacements are  fairly simple plumbing projects, with all of the parts available at your local hardware store.

Replace the Kitchen Floors

New flooring alone can really change the look of a kitchen and can be installed with little impact on family life. There's a wide variety of durable vinyl and laminate products to choose from. Engineered hardwood flooring is also a great choice for the kitchen. It responds well to all conditions, including moisture, and wears beautifully.

Update the Lighting

Lighting is just as important in the kitchen as it is in any other room of the house. You have more options than just recessed cans. Track lighting is a great choice for the kitchen, and it doesn't have to look bulky and awkward anymore. The tracks can be a thin cable with beautiful beaded shades hanging above your island, or a bendable metal track with lamps that spotlight artwork or bathe the room with light.

Fixtures can be added underneath your upper cabinets to put the light where you need it most in your prep area.

Update Window Coverings

Simple changes like window coverings can have a dramatic effect, as Flickr user
Simple changes like window coverings can have a dramatic effect, as Flickr user

Kitchen windows beg for beautiful swags, which don't always require sewing. Swags are drapes' lesser-known cousin. They are versatile top treatments for your window and can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Swags occur where fabric balloons down over the upper middle portion of the window. The fabric does not even need to have a pocket; you can just drape it decoratively over the rod, if you like.

Try using napkins or vintage dish towels with a bold pattern or a subtle strip tied onto a rod to create a new spin on the tradition swag. You can also drape the napkins over the rod to create an overlap of triangle as your swag. If you have a modern kitchen and just love something different, you can install a ball chain track instead of a rod and hang them at varied lengths to create a metal beaded swag. Ball chain doesn't have to be just silver. Get creative! Go to to see just how many colors and finishes they are available in.

No matter what your budget, kitchen remodeling can be cheap and fun! With a little creativity, you can add sizzle and spice, and cook up the kitchen of your dreams!