Kitchen Upgrades on a Budget

by Donna De Palma


You don’t have to spend a fortune to give your kitchen a fresh look.  The average cost of a kitchen remodel is $25, 000.  If your budget is closer to $2,500, do what experts do and transform your kitchen with these budget-friendly makeover ideas.

First, prepare a realistic budget.  Begin with the one item you can’t do without.  To cut expenses, consider working with the kitchen layout you already have.  Most kitchens are one of four basic design footprints: L-shaped with an island, two triangle, two-wall galley or U-shaped with an island.   Tearing out and replacing cabinets and walls, repositioning a sink, or converting a peninsula into an island, can mean big bucks. Instead, inject some love into what you already have.  Use a little DIY know-how and your dream kitchen will become a reality.  Improve flow, give your kitchen an open feel, and make it look like new by following these simple tips:

Open up the space you already have 

By taking doors off cabinets and replacing them with open shelves, you can create an airy, spacious feel in any room. A kitchen with windows offers an opportunity to incorporate storage in unexpected places.  Place a shelf above a window or above the sink.

Put unused walls to work by installing floating wooden shelves with invisible brackets for a contemporary, open feel.

Refinish existing cabinet doors with paint or strip and stain.  If you reface your cabinet doors, remove them first and be sure to refinish them somewhere other than in your kitchen.

If totally exposed cabinetry sounds daunting, consider replacing some of your cabinet doors with frosted glass.  Or, install a row of small clear or frosted glass cabinets above your existing cabinets to display oversized serving bowls and decorative items.  This simple step updates an entire room.

Install new hardware

Tired or worn knobs and pulls on cabinets date your kitchen. Give your cabinets new life with pulls that complement your design scheme.  If your kitchen is traditional, try decorative pewter pulls or select a sleek stainless steel design for contemporary cabinets. Switching out old knobs and pulls can transform the look of your cabinets.

aunt patty - kitchen collage

Do something simple to add counter space and improve workflow

Getting everyday items off your countertops improves workflow.  Hang a magnetic strip to hold utensils so they’ll be within reach.  Look for a short metal rod outfitted with S hooks to hang spoons, whisks, ladles and spatulas.  Pass on the professional-grade stainless systems which can be too pricey if you’re remodeling on a shoestring.

If it’s limited cabinet space you’re trying to overcome, install a pot rack.  Hang a rod above your stove or above an island to keep your pots and pans within easy reach.

Light up your kitchen

Hang a unique pendant light.  Balance style with function by selecting pendants that provide adequate lighting for kitchen tasks.

Switching out an overhead light fixture is easier than you think.  Don’t forget the value and convenience of under-cabinet lighting.  Light up your work space.  A well-lit kitchen is more inviting and functions better.

Replace your countertops

Countertops, especially in an open concept kitchen, play a prominent role in the overall look of your kitchen.  If you’re replacing countertops, quartz is an affordable alternative to marble, granite or other natural stone.  Quartz comes in a wide variety of colors and is low-maintenance.  Laminates are another cost-effective choice and can make a statement even on a budget especially if your look is contemporary.

Look underfoot at your floor

Replace an old, dingy floor with porcelain tile or laminate flooring. Both are budget-conscious alternatives to hardwoods and natural stone.  If you’re using porcelain tile, choose a grout color as close to the color of your tile as possible for a seamless finish.

Wood laminates simulate hardwoods with wood planks and graphic grain patterns and are much more durable than wood.  They’re also easier to install if you’re doing it yourself.

Another wood-like flooring is vinyl planking which has depth and texture and is soft underfoot.  These new vinyls are not what you’d expect.  The look is high-end and comfort factor rates high for children and pets.

Don’t overlook natural materials like cork and bamboo.  Cork comes in rich colors and adds texture to your floor.  Have a professional install cork or bamboo.  If you choose bamboo, buy the highest grade possible for best results.


Add a backsplash

If your kitchen needs some color, pattern, or shine, install a backsplash behind your sink or stove.  A mosaic-tiled backsplash adds character and texture to a plain wall.  Tiling a backsplash is an easy DIY project.  Tiles come pre-attached to sheets of mesh to ensure accurate spacing.

If you want to add color and surface design to a ho-hum kitchen, try a backsplash.  An even more cost-effective choice is porcelain subway tile available in a variety of colors.

Replace an old faucet

Often called ‘kitchen jewelry,’ a faucet draws attention to your sink just as an old, nondescript faucet gives away the age of your kitchen.  A single-handed faucet in an attention-grabbing design can be found for as little as $80.00.  Shop for finish and shape.  A faucet’s shape should be unique enough to draw the eye yet mimic other shapes in your kitchen.  Match the finish of your faucet to your cabinet pulls.


Decorative brackets add detail to the traditional kitchen.  Either in wood or wrought iron, they impart an understated flourish to solid panels of wood on cabinets.  If your kitchen is traditional, search for brackets that match the style of your cabinets.

For a unique take on the traditional bracket, position brackets below your countertops or under the countertop of an island or peninsula. Repurpose vintage brackets from historic house parts or from old furniture to add charm to your kitchen.


Paint, paint, paint

When in doubt, paint.  With so many color choices available in paints that wipe clean, if your kitchen needs color, paint walls so they come alive.  Find a palette that breathes fresh life into your kitchen project.  If you like crisp white, use it as a trim color for molding instead of on an entire wall.

Paint walls and ceilings in warm and cool neutrals for the perfect backdrop to your new color scheme.  Paint an accent wall in a contrasting color to add variety.

Add a rug

Put down a 4’ X 6’ cotton rug near your sink or add a colorful runner alongside an island or in a walk-through area of your kitchen.  A rug draws the eye down to the floor, introduces pattern and a pop of color.


Add softness with window dressing

Keep it light when covering kitchen windows.  Natural light gives your kitchen a clean, fresh look.  Window treatments are a great way to soften your kitchen’s look.

Roman and roller shades, stationary valances and cornices, accent kitchen windows without obstructing views or reducing natural light.

Another good choice is floor-length curtain panels, for large areas of color and pattern, either over sliding doors or a bay window. A swag, over a single window, can be eye-catching too.

Replace your sink

For a seamless look, install an undermount sink.  Match your sink to the scale of your kitchen.  If your sink is large, you may be giving up precious counter space.  Choose a finish that matches your appliances. If you’d rather make a color statement, Kohler has a line of colored sinks that are great for contemporary kitchens.

Swap out kitchen accessories

Update your small appliances, dish towels and oven mitts.  Play off the design elements of small appliances and other accessories stored out in the open. A fire engine red KitchenAid mixer, retro toaster, stainless steel dish rack or a set of navy blue and white striped kitchen towels bring color and style to your new kitchen.

Think surplus

Some fabricators keep off-cuts on hand that are cut from larger pieces of stone.  These are usually sold for a fraction of the cost of the original material.  Ask your contractor for surplus from other jobs.  Tile or laminate from another job can be half the original cost. Look for close-outs.  Shop online for deals on discontinued items.

Don’t ‘live with’ your outdated kitchen.  If you’re willing to be creative, share some of the work with your contractor, and get a little dirty, your dream kitchen can be yours for under $5,000.  You may be working nights and weekends for a while but your new kitchen will be well worth the extra hours when complete.


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8 End-of-Summer Tasks for Homeowners

By Shannon Roxborough

Summer can wreck havoc on your home, both outside and in. Soaring temperatures and high humidity cause surfaces to crack, chip and separate, contribute to dust, dirt and debris build-up, and create a breeding ground for harmful bacteria, mold and mildew.

With the season winding down and fall just around the corner, now is the time for homeowners to get ready for the cooler months and avoid potentially costly fixes down the line.

Here are eight preventative maintenance tasks to keep your home in tip-top shape as summer fades:

Protect the Porch, Deck or Patio

Give outdoor areas a good general cleaning then inspect them for signs of damage or deterioration. Repair holes and cracks in wood with a quality epoxy-based filler. For brick and stone surfaces, use the proper mortar or sealant to keep damage to a minimum. Sand or scrape flaking or chipping paint or stain, then recoat the surface before fall rains arrive to keep moisture at bay.

Repair Outdoor Surfaces

Fill any cracks in your paver, concrete or asphalt driveway, walkways and paths to minimize trip hazards and prevent the coming rain (and eventual snow and ice) from causing more damage. For concrete cracks less than a half-inch wide, run a bead of acrylic latex repair compound into the seam then smooth with a putty knife. For larger cracks, trowel on a vinyl concrete patching compound and let it cure (a full day before foot traffic; three days for vehicles). Repair blacktop with asphalt filler or patch. And remember to always start with a clean, dry surface.

Weatherproof Windows and Doors

Use latex or silicone caulk to seal gaps larger than ⅛ inch around windows and doors to keep the elements out and reduce your seasonal heating bill by up to 15 percent. Use foam weather-stripping on the sides and top of doors, and install a door sweep on the bottom to keep drafts out. For windows, use adhesive-backed closed-cell foam on the bottom of the sash. For looses sashes, install plastic V-channel weather-stripping in the groove the sash fits into, then secure it with finish nails.

Inspect the Gutters, Roof and Attic

end of summer projects home improvement rochester ny

Leaky gutters and overflow due to debris clogs can result in water damage to the foundation and basement or crawlspace walls. So, Take a good look at the gutters and downspouts and repair problem areas with a waterproof sealant. Check your roof for leaks and water damage before the rainy season to keep minor issues from becoming major ones. Address small roof leaks with tri-polymer elastomeric sealant in a caulk tube. From inside, inspect the attic on a bright, sunny day or during a steady rain to look for rays of light or water infiltration.

Check Your Appliances

Thoroughly clean your stove and oven, being sure to use a degreaser to remove any build-up from the range hood or vent fan. Vacuum behind and underneath the fridge to remove dust, dirt and pet hair from the coils, which can interfere with performance. Check the washer to make sure that it is level and plumb, and clean the dryer vent of accumulated lint with a long-handled brush.

Tend to the Air Filter

Summer humidity causes moisture that spawns bacteria, mold and mildew on dusty air filters. Wash your reusable HVAC filter and leave it to air dry in the sun. For disposable furnace filters, buy a replacement at your local home improvement or hardware store (be sure to write down the size printed on it) or order an upgrade—a hypo-allergenic, mildew resistant filter—online.

Give Bathrooms the Once Over

Pathogens tend to build up faster in bathrooms during the humid summer months. Use a strong soap scum remover on your sink, tub, tile and shower surfaces. Spray any mold or mildew with a bleach-based killer (or 10 percent bleach solution—1¼ cup of household bleach per gallon of water). Allow cleaned grout to dry completely then repair any cracks with new grout or reseal with silicone caulk.

Clean the Kitchen Sink, Garbage Disposal and Dishwasher

Pour garbage disposal cleaner down the drain to remove small clogs and disinfect the line. Tackle any food stains or rust in the sink with bleach or a calcium, lime and rust remover. Take out the dishwasher filter and soak it in warm, soapy water for 15 minutes. After replacing it, add two cups of distilled white vinegar to the bottom of the dishwasher and run it empty for one heavy cleaning cycle.

Shannon Roxborough is a widely published freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in numerous national magazines, newspapers and websites. An avid home improvement enthusiast, he has more than a decade of DIY experience and previously ran a property maintenance business.