Paint the walls!
Sometimes all you need to do is put a coat of paint on the walls. If you have a small kitchen and it seems too dark; try adding a lighter colour. I recommend painting your ceiling first because cooking tends to cause the ceiling to change colour over time. If you paint the ceiling first, paint down the walls about and inch when you cut in the corners so when you repaint the walls it is easier to cut in a new line. Make sure you sand the walls first to get rid of all the roughness and help get the dirt off. Use 80 grit sand paper on a sanding pad and pole. If you find the walls and ceiling greasy then clean it with TSP first. You do not have to prime the walls before you repaint;even if its a bold colour! Primer/sealer is used to seal new drywall but your wall have already been sealed before they were painted the first time.
Paint the cabinet doors and Drawers!
This is another great way to spruce things up. You must give all the surfaces you plan to paint a good sanding. You do not have to remove the entire finish but just remove the shine. Ask your paint supplier what they recommend to use to paint the doors. Usually a good quality melamine paint will work. It is a good idea to test that the paint will stick by painting the back of a door first.
Change the knobs and/or handles!
Changing the handles is easy to do. If you replacing handles be sure to buy a new handle with the same drilling pattern. They have some standard sizes but be careful that you don't get metric and imperial mixed up.
Change the counter top!
The sky is the limit with counter tops. Plastic laminate tops are the most economical choice if budget is a concern. They make so many different colours, textures, edges and other finishes that you can easily get it mixed up with natural stone. Natural and man made solid surfaces are also a great investment if the kitchen is in good shape. I wouldn't recommend installing solid tops in a kitchen you plan to rip out in the next 5 years.
Change the flooring!
There are a lot of options for floors that can help spruce things up. Plastic laminate flooring can usually be installed right on top of the existing floor to help save time. They come in many styles and some even look like tile. If you are handy, you can easily install it yourself on a weekend. Tile is also an option but quality ceramic or porcelain tile is expensive. Vinyl is a good, inexpensive option that can often be installed over the existing floor.
Change the lighting!
Upgrading your lighting in the room can add a lot of needed light. There are many LED options these days that can save money by using less energy and not having to buy bulbs.
Install a Micro Hood!
Microwaves can take up a lot of counter top space. Micro Hoods have become very popular because they put 2 appliances together! Before you run out and buy one; you may need to update the electrical that goes to the hood. Most range hoods are direct hookup where as micro hoods plug in. You also need a dedicated circuit to run these units. Consult an electrician before you make the investment.
Install back splash tile!
Tiling your back splash is a great way to add life to your kitchen. There are many options available and a handy home owner can often do it themselves.
Change your sink and faucet!
Sometimes a new faucet is all you need but a sink can look awful too. If you buy quality products they will last longer and can be reused if you ever install a new counter or upgrade your entire kitchen. If you notice your current faucet is starting to leak but it still looks good you may not need a new one. Often a cartridge inside just needs to be replaced and sometimes the faucet parts will be covered under warranty.
I think these are all great tips for the frugal home owner that wants an upgrade in the kitchen. If your cabinets are in bad shape; look on classifieds for used kitchens. Home owners often sell them if they are in good shape to help fund their new kitchen!
By Brent Darlington