Jun 16, 2011

Kitchen updates on a budget

If you are longing to replace your dark oak cabinets, worn counter tops, and white appliances, but the price of a renovation and going through months of construction make you queasy, here are some solutions. They're best applied when the  layout is good and the cabinets are sturdy. With the downturn in the economy predicted to continue for at least three more years, getting a  good return on a large remodel may not be possible. You can transform a kitchen by changing just a few things.

1) GIVE CABINETS NEW LIFE Replacing existing pulls or knobs with new hardware is easy and can be a dramatic change.  You can even modify the position and go from pulls to knobs if you can fill and cover the old holes.  Coupled with adding glass or other inserts (wire and fabric) to the existing doors can create a whole new look.  Take off some uppers and use open shelves instead.

2) REFACE or PAINT CABINETS As long as your cabinets are solid, a new coat of paint will make them appear new. Re-facing can be done, by a professional, and covers your old frames and replaces doors and drawer fronts with veneer. You can get a light maple kitchen instead of the dark oak for less than half the cost of new cabinets.

3) UPDATE THE LIGHTING Remove the old fixtures and replace with new ones - go ahead and use the same finish as your hardware.  Even changing shades, globes and adding low wattage compact fluorescent bulbs into older fixtures, can have a big impact.  Adding more fixtures to a dark space may be necessary.  Try adding flush mounted ceiling fixtures if recessed lighting cannot be installed.  LED or fluorescent under or in-cabinet lighting will brighten the counters and dark corners.  Plug in versions are available and wires can be tucked away.

4) CHANGE or ADD A BACKSPLASH  Many older kitchens don't even have a backsplash, or the 4-6" Formica piece running along the counter looks dated. Install the one you like and cover the entire 14-18" between the counter and the upper cabinet.  Don't limit yourself to standard tiles...try bead-board, sheets of stainless or tin, or other material that suits your style.

5) COVER UP/UNCOVER THE FLOOR  For old linoleum or tiles, you can go directly over floors - be sure to maintain level with adjoining rooms - by installing laminate right over the top. Many older homes have wood flooring underneath vinyl and linoleum so you may find a nice surprise.  With the new finishes available the durability will be high, and the cost to re-finish is likely more reasonable than replacement.

6) REFINISH THE APPLIANCES If your appliances are a dated color, send them to an appliance refinisher. For a few hundred dollars they will re-enamel the surfaces in the hue of your choice, such as black, stainless steel or barn red. If you can afford to - and the energy savings may make it worthwhile - update them instead with newer models that have the function you need every day.