Kitchen Updates for the Budget Savvy

Your kitchen makeover does not have to break the bank! Plan wisely, and rejuvenate and refresh your space in an impactful way. Projects outlined below are those you can tackle yourself in an afternoon or weekend, but also extend to tasks which may require you to bring in a professional, like electrical updates. For more ideas, check out this article on when you should hire out to a pro, or DIY. 


Emily Fazio

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio, 2016

Less Than $25

New Lightbulbs: Graduate to LED bulbs and save money in the long run. Also use it as an opportunity to experiment with the differences in bulb brightness; you might just find that replacing warm white bulbs with a cooler white (or vice versa) is just the pick-me-up that your work area needs.

Change Out the Hardware: It might be costly to update all of the drawer pulls and knobs in your kitchen, but for a manageable price you can update select knobs with something a little more special. Consider changing out the knobs on just the lower drawers, or just the uppers, or dress up a standalone pantry with a specialty knob.

Update Your Appliances With Paint! Appliance paint is a miracle-worker if new appliances aren’t in the budget, and if you can’t stand the idea of living with mismatched appliances for another moment. Start by lightly sanding the existing surface, and use painter’s tape to protect any areas you don’t want to paint. In a well-ventilated area, use a foam roller to apply specialty Appliance Epoxy for a smooth finish. You can also use chalkboard paint to reinvent the exterior of your refrigerator, just apply a coat of tinted primer to the sanded fridge surface to aid with chalkboard paint adhesion, coverage and durability.

Drawer Liners: Making kitchen shelves and drawers feel uniquely yours has been an issue since the beginning of time. My mom lined hers with fun wrapping paper. Mine are coated with a fresh layer of contact paper. It’s nice to know that any dust and grime that settles in there is mine, and not something left behind by a previous owner (yuck!).

Less Than $50

Electrical Updates: Changing out old switches and outlets for new models can easily make an outdated space look refreshed. Electrical work can be easy to DIY, but if you’re reluctant to update yourself (or local codes prohibit DIY electrical), call a pro. If you’re looking for products that are really cool and modern and full of impact and functionality, check out the Adorne line from Legrand. We installed push button switches throughout our home that instantly made our dated midcentury home feel very tech-savvy. 

The kitchen is a fun place to integrate high-tech appliances and features. Don’t forget to update the switch plates and outlet covers too – if making these upgrades pushes your budget, consider painting the old plates with a fresh coat of spray paint.

Paint: Because it’s one of the easiest ways to transform any space. Go for a semi-gloss product in the kitchen; it’ll hold up well in the more humid cooking environment, and it’s easier to clean too. Before you begin, make sure that the walls and ceiling are cleaned well, because residual grease will repel both primer and paint. If you’re painting over wallpaper, refer to these tips.

Organize Your Drawers and Cabinets: Seek out new storage solutions so that everything in your kitchen has a place. I promise you’ll smile every time you open a cabinet door to find an organized shelf. (Working on a smaller budget? Here are a bunch of stylish and functional DIY drawer dividers.)

Less Than $100

New Countertops: If your kitchen has existing laminate cabinets, you can actually resurface them easily with a few sheets of new laminate without the cost of purchasing an entirely new countertop! Many big box stores have a small selection of sheets in stock, but manufacturers can also sell sheets if you’re looking for a particular finish. Another idea? Resurface a laminate countertop with ceramic tiles for an entirely new look.

Install a Backsplash: A tile backsplash may be your priciest option when it comes to backsplash products. But a backsplash typically covers such a modest square footage in the room, that the cost is usually easily contained. You’ll need mastic to adhere the tiles to the wall, and grout to finish, but the impact it brings to a kitchen is incredible. Other affordable ideas for backsplashes? I love a good painted backsplash (this one will make your jaw drop), and unexpected materials such as tin sheeting, shiplap, adhesive tiles or even beadboard like the robin’s egg blue beauty shown below. (For more backsplash ideas, go here.)

New Light Fixtures: Out with the outdated, in with the trendy and new. Shop around to find new pendant lights, ceiling fixtures or recessed can lights – they’re all quite budget-friendly, and as with the aforementioned electrical updates, are reasonably easy to install yourself (check local codes).

Make Your own Island: HGTV shared a clever tutorial on transforming a console into a functional kitchen island. Get inspired, and go make your own to outfit an open space in your home’s kitchen.

Less Than $250

New Floors: Depending on the size of the space and the cost per square foot, updating your kitchen floor may be more cost-effective than you assume. I installed 12”x24” groutable vinyl tiles in my kitchen for $1.69/square foot, which the left us with a durable, lovely end result that completely changed the look of the kitchen. If you’re going over an existing vinyl floor or are able to remove the existing floor straight down to the subfloor, a kitchen flooring makeover isn’t nearly as expensive as you might believe it to be!


Ana Donohue

Update the Sink: If your existing drop-in sink is damaged, it’s likely that you can find a standard size replacement in this budget. Disconnect and remove the existing sink (it often clamps on and can be loosened if you reach beneath the countertop), and install the new product in its place.

Replace the Faucet: A new faucet goes a long way. Shop around for style and finishing options, and you’ll find lots of products in the <$250 price range that will immediately update the look of your kitchen.

Add a Garbage Disposal: Install a disposal beneath your sink and revel in how easy it is to prep and clean up after dinner. Just note, they are usually not recommended for homes with septic systems!

Refinish Outdated Cabinets With Either Paint or Stain. Gel stain is a personal favorite (it gives existing wood cabinetry an entirely new lease on life), but I painted the cabinets in my current home using an alkyd-enamel, and they have held up flawlessly for two years. For more insight into painting kitchen cabinetry, refer to this list of 25 tips for painting kitchen cabinets.

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