A kitchen makeover can add sparkle to a home and enhance its appeal to prospective buyers. The job doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars.
“A kitchen remodel can be done on any budget,” says Jaclyn Pardini Hartzell, a spokeswoman for Lowe’s. “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.”
While there are limits to what can be done frugally, many home-remodeling experts say moderately handy homeowners with just a little cash to spend can make a big difference in their kitchen.
Here are eight kitchen remodeling projects that cost $500 or less.
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Spruce up your walls
If your kitchen feels old, there’s no better low-cost remedy than a coat of paint.
“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,” Davis says. “Not only does it instantly change the feel of a space, but if you do it yourself, it will cost virtually nothing.”
And, for about $100, you might 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 the website View Along The Way. “This is an easy way to make inexpensive cabinetry feel like custom pieces.”
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Freshen up cabinets
New cabinets can be expensive, but adding or replacing the hardware on existing ones is among the easiest, most cost-effective ways to revamp a kitchen.
“Hardware is like jewelry for your cabinets,” says Davis, of Mosaik Design & Remodeling. “You’ll be surprised at how different your cabinetry looks with updated hardware.”
Another, more involved option is to paint the cabinets, which will make them look new without replacing them.
Even laminate cabinets can be painted, if you use a good primer.
Supplies should run less than $100. But 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, says 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 the costs can vary dramatically.
“Depending on the quality and features of the faucet, you could spend anywhere between $150 and $500,” Gold says.
A more dramatic option, and one that requires a little more muscle, is to replace the whole sink. That will take a few hours and should run you between $250 and $500.
If you’ve ever thought your kitchen might look better in a different light, you may be on to something.
“It is amazing what a great light fixture can do to a room,” Davis says. “Just swapping out new fixtures in the existing locations is the most affordable way to go. Another good idea is to add recessed can lights to a kitchen to improve the general lighting.”
Most homeowners can change out fixtures pretty quickly on their own with some basic instruction.
But adding high-quality recessed lighting might get a little tricky for a novice. Hiring an electrician to do the job should run about $150 to $200, which includes materials and labor.
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.
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Renew counters and floors
New counters and floors will probably test your kitchen remodel budget and your handiwork. If you’re up for it, either of these changes can have a dramatic impact on your kitchen’s appearance.
Vinyl flooring can look great and costs only about $2 a square foot.
When it comes to countertops, you have even more budget 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, you can install laminate countertops on top of existing counters. Hardware stores sell countertops for as little as $45 per section.
Considering new granite counters? Look into a home equity loan, which might offer a solid source of funds.
Replacing kitchen appliances may exceed your budget. But if you’re willing to accept minor imperfections, it is possible to pick up a new appliance for less than $500.
“You can update appliances by going to a ‘scratch-and-dent’ store where they sell new appliances at a steep discount due to minor cosmetic flaws,” Gold says.
You might have a hard time seeing the flaws, and you’re still getting a new product.
Still, unless you’re buying a new refrigerator, you may have to hire someone to install the new appliance, which could add a few hundred dollars to the project.
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Add a backsplash
The wall space behind your sink can offer a surprising amount of design potential.
“One of the easiest ways to spruce up a kitchen is to change the backsplash,” says Christine Tse, an interior designer in New York. “This small change will instantly change your kitchen from drab to fab.”
Coming from New York, Tse says she’s fond of subway tiles, which can run about $350 for 12 square feet. If you want something high-end like white Carrara marble, you should plan on spending about $450. But if you want to keep costs down, you can hunt around for options in the $200 range.
You don’t have to be a tile expert to put in a backsplash. A lot of hardware stores run free weekend classes.
If you’re running out of storage space in the kitchen, the room probably isn’t aesthetically pleasing either.
“Clear the clutter by moving cookbooks and other clutter off of the countertops and adding some floating shelves to the walls,” says Dorothy Myers, an interior designer and real estate agent at Long & Foster in Washington, D.C.
You can pick up thick floating wood or glass shelves for about $40 each, Myers says. Thinner, less expensive shelves can be had for as little as $5 apiece.
A moderately handy homeowner should be able to do the project in a few hours.
“Just make sure that you anchor the shelves to studs to ensure that the shelves can hold some weight, if your wall is drywall,” Myers says.