Oct. 15, 2012 at 1:25 PM ET
Remodeling the kitchen will certainly add to the value of your home, but it can be very expensive. Try any of the following projects to give your kitchen a pick-me-up without breaking the bank!
1. Refinish your cabinets.
In many cases, the finish on your cabinets will soften around the handles—that's because body oil can break down the finish. Most finish can be stripped off fairly easily and, on one episode of our PBS series Handy Ma'am, we showed how to do this. We used one of the newer citrus-based strippers and layered it on. After the finish was removed, we applied a poly and stain combination that gave a totally new, fresh look.
2. Freshen up your walls.
A fresh coat of paint does wonders. Try your hand at one of the faux techniques that are so popular, including sponge painting, the ragged effect or the fresco effect. There are roller covers now available that will help make the task go faster and even striping rollers, which give the illusion of striped wallpaper at a fraction of the cost. You might also consider a new wall covering or even a simple border.
3. Add molding.
Molding can be the finishing touch in any room. If you are handy with a saw, try topping off your wall cabinets with crown molding. Mitering the corners can be a little tricky however; check your local home centers for "miter-less" molding. The idea behind miter-less molding is the pre-formed corners—they form a 90° angle for inside corners and outside corners. All you need to do is make straight cuts.
Keeping this in mind, you may even try your hand at installing crown molding (at the ceiling) or maybe a chair rail. In general, choose a more expensive wood (such as oak) if you plan on staining the molding, and use a stainable wood putty to cover over set nails. If paint is the way you want to go, consider pine, and fill over the head of the nail with spackle.
4. Replace the countertops.
Cabinets in good shape? How about the countertops? Countertops take a lot of abuse and can look worn and drab. Replacing the countertop is certainly more expensive, but often worth the effort. New countertops will really make it feel like a new kitchen.
5. Decorate your windows with color.
Does your window treatment need updating or a little color? Here's a quick remedy: Hang a curtain rod and simply fold fabric placemats or napkins over it. If they are square, hang them on the diagonal. For rectangular fabric, fold lengthwise. Another option is to fold all of the rectangular fabric the same length, or fold in half on each end, allowing it to drape in the middle.
6. Get creative with knobs and handles.
Changing knobs and handles is very easy. There are so many styles to choose from—I've seen handles shaped like fruit, vegetables, knives, forks, spoons and even teapots. Be sure to measure the distance between the holes of the handles, as they are not all the same. There are backer plates available that will cover existing holes in the event you need to drill new ones.
7. Change the cabinet fronts.
There are several ways cabinet fronts can be embellished or totally changed. If the doors are flat, add molding to give the illusion of a paneled door. This can be done very inexpensively using screen molding. Draw a line around the door (1 1/2 to 2 inches in from all sides is pretty standard).
Cut the molding to that length, miter the corners and attach to the front of the cabinets with wood glue and 1/2-inch brads. If you have paneled doors, remove the panel from a couple of doors and replace them with glass. Consider colored glass that is available in sheets. Cut the glass to size and secure the same way you would reglaze a window, using glazing points. Another alternative is to insert plain glass and use faux stained-glass paint and faux leading (available at craft stores) to really create a focal point.
8. Update appliances.
Got appliances that work great—but the color went out years ago? Fronts of dishwashers and some refrigerators are easily replaceable. Most manufacturers offer several colors, or you can have fronts made to match your cabinets—check with your cabinet manufacturer.
Appliance paint can also bring you a new color. Just remove the handles and use masking tape on any areas you don't want painted. Also, place the appliance in a spray booth to prevent over-spray. Hint: An appliance box makes a great spray booth (check with your local appliance dealer; they will likely have some empties).
9. New flooring.
There are so many types, styles, patterns and colors of flooring to choose from it will make your head spin. A couple of points to keep in mind when looking for flooring: ceramic tile is thick and will make your cabinets lower (about 3/4 inches or more) than you are used to. For me that was a good thing—I'm 5'1" and standard cabinets are a bit too tall for me. Self-adhesive vinyl tiles have come a long way over the years and are very easy to install, not to mention much less expensive than some of your other options.
10. Add accents.
The kitchen is a great place to display collections, and you can make inexpensive pine shelves and secure them with ready-made brackets. Or, you can sandwich each shelf between two strips of 1'-by-1' pine boards cut about 1/2 inch shorter than the shelf. The shelves should fit very tightly between the one-by-ones. Paint or stain them.
Create another fun accent with colorful placemats. This is also a great way to save your children's artwork or dried leaves or flowers. Simply place a design between clear, self-adhesive laminate cut about 1/4 inch larger than the size mat you want. After the laminate has adhered to the front and back of the design, trim off about 1/8 inch of the laminate. Leave the small outside trim to seal the objects. The mats can be wiped with a damp cloth without disturbing the inside.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.