By Michael Estrin
Remodeling a kitchen may sound like an expensive project. The truth is that there are ways to breathe new life into an old kitchen without spending much money.
“A kitchen remodel can be done on any budget,” says Lowe’s spokeswoman Jaclyn Pardini. “The secret to success lies in careful planning. Conduct research ahead of time, find your inspirations, and know which projects you can complete yourself and which ones you’ll leave for an expert.”
Naturally, there are limits to what you can do on a budget. But many home-remodeling experts stress that moderately handy homeowners with just a little cash to spend can make a big difference in their kitchen. And if the work looks good, you’re adding equity to your home, according Erin Davis, lead designer for Mosaik Design & Remodeling in Portland, Ore.
If your kitchen feels old, there’s no simpler remedy than a coat of paint.
“Paint is by far the best bang for your buck,” Davis says. “One of my design teachers once told me that a gallon of paint is worth $500 (in terms of) the value it brings to a space. Not only does it instantly change the feel of a space, but if you do it yourself, it will cost virtually nothing.”
For about $100, a less time-consuming upgrade is to add molding to the area where your cabinets meet the ceiling.
“If you’re handy with a table saw, it would only take you an afternoon to add a chunky piece of crown molding to the tops of your upper cabinets,” says Atlanta-based DIY blogger Kelly Marzka, who runs View Along The Way. “This is an easy way to make inexpensive cabinetry feel like custom pieces.”
New cabinets can sound expensive, but most DIYers know cabinets are one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways to revamp a kitchen.
One trick is to replace the hardware on existing cabinets.
Changing hardware is easy, and you can choose from many styles without spending more than a few dollars per piece.
Another, more involved, option is to paint the cabinets, which will make them look new without replacing them.
“All cabinets, even laminate ones, can be painted if you use a strong primer,” says Jay Hart, CEO of Sold with Style, a New York home design firm.
Supplies should run less than $100. Before you paint, it’s important to prep. Remove the doors from the cabinets, cover the hardware or remove it, and be sure to sand away old paint.
You don’t have to be a plumber to give your kitchen sink a makeover, but you do have to be somewhat handy, according to Jamie Gold, a certified kitchen designer in San Diego and the author of “New Kitchen Ideas That Work.”
You can replace the faucet on your sink rather easily in about an hour. But, says Gold, the costs vary dramatically. “Depending on the quality and features of the faucet, you could spend anywhere between $150 and $500.”
A more dramatic option, and one that requires a little more muscle, is to replace the whole sink. The project will take a few hours, and it should run you between $250 and $500 for a new sink.
If you’ve ever thought your kitchen might look better in a different light, you may be on to something, according to Davis.
If you’re changing fixtures, Davis says most homeowners can do it pretty quickly on their own with some basic instruction. But adding recessed cans might get a little tricky for a novice. Thankfully, each high-quality recessed light installed by an electrician should run about $150, which includes materials and labor. And if you don’t feel comfortable doing anything electrical yourself, Davis says it’s possible to hire a good electrician for up to $95 an hour.
New counters and floors will probably test your kitchen remodel budget and your handiwork. But if you’re up for it, either one of these changes can have a dramatic impact on your kitchen’s appearance.
At about $2 a square foot, Hart says homeowners shouldn’t overlook vinyl flooring, which “has come a long way.”
On countertops, homeowners have more options. Granite tile can give you a granite look without the price of a granite slab, says Gold, who adds that you can tile over existing tile if you rough up the underlying surface with a sander.
Similarly, Davis points out that you can install laminate countertops on top of existing counters. Hardware stores sell countertops for as little as $45 per section. And if you’re looking for an installation tutorial, the experts say you can find a lot of quality presentations on YouTube. Just remember to keep a laptop or tablet handy as a reference.
Changing an appliance will push the outer limit of any budget. But if you’re willing to accept minor imperfections, it is possible to pick up a new appliance for less than $500.
Unfortunately for your budget, unless you’re talking about a new refrigerator, you may have to hire someone to install the new appliance, which could add a few hundred dollars to the project.