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17 Cheap Kitchen Upgrades that Make a Huge Difference

Sometimes the biggest impact on a room can stem from the smallest changes. Read these tips to freshen the look of your kitchen, without the headache of a big remodel. These projects take a few hours, some take a weekend.

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Add Under-Cabinet Lighting

Add Under-Cabinet Lighting

We talked about overhead lighting, but adding new task lighting under your cabinets is also a worthy project. Under-cabinet lighting doesn't have to be expensive! LED ropes, for example, are very affordable and easy to install. While it adds a new dimension to your kitchen, it also highlights dust and dirt, so keep your counters clean!
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fh13feb_535_10_009-cabinet-1200x1200 kitchen cabinet hardware tile backsplashFamily Handyman

Switch Out the Hardware

One way to update the kitchen without spending a lot of money is switching out the cabinet hardware. This project can be done in one day and can help tie together the look of a room. For the best way to install the hardware check out these tips.

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neutral gray cabinetsEssential Image Media/Shutterstock

Change the Cabinet Color

Gray has become the go-to neutral, for good reason. Depending on the shade it fits well into most home color schemes. The color also helps to hide any finger prints or food splashes. Check out our other color ideas for kitchen cabinets.

Plus: Check out five kitchen flooring ideas that are trending right now.

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Install A New Island Countertop KitchenFamily Handyman

Install A New Island Countertop

If you don’t have the money to switch out all the countertops in your kitchen, focus on the island. By changing the island countertop a new-look can be tested in a small way. Find more kitchen island ideas here.

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hanging herb garden

Build an Herb Garden

Freshen up your kitchen by bringing the outdoors in with a new hanging herb garden. This project is a good one to build in the late winter/early spring so you can transplant the herbs outside when the growing season starts. Herbs need a lot of sunlight, so make sure the hanging garden is placed near a sunny window.

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Update the Appliances

Stainless steel has been the go-to appliance finish for years, but tastes change. Black stainless steel appliances with a matte finish offer better protection against fingerprints and they contrast beautifully against light-colored cabinets. This is a highly effective, but expensive, way to freshen up your kitchen.

Photo: Courtesy of Kitchen Aid

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Replace Old Flooring With Vinyl TilesTom Gowanlock/shutterstock

Replace Old Flooring With Vinyl Tiles

Flooring is often an expensive project because of the materials used and labor required, but today there are many options for inexpensive flooring projects. If your kitchen has decades-old linoleum, it's time for a redo. Explore vinyl tile styles and colors to find something you like. Today's vinyl tiles are affordable, very easy to install, and can even mimic the properties of other, more expensive surfaces for a high-end look.
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tile backsplash installation Family Handyman

Update or Add a Tile Backsplash

Tile adds interesting texture, color and style to any kitchen. Plus, tiling a backsplash is a very DIY-friendly project. Here are tips on installing a subway tile backsplash and a mosaic tile backsplash.

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sink faucetFamily Handyman

Install a New Sink

The kitchen sink is used every day and can get worn and tired looking before other elements in the kitchen. Replace the sink to give your kitchen a boost. To make sure the installation goes smoothly, avoid these pitfalls.

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Install Expandable Shelves in CabinetsOmiStudio/Shutterstock

Install Expandable Shelves in Cabinets

Expandable or pullout shelves are an easy way to add extra room to your kitchen without changing anything else. This is a relatively small project and you can typically find a very good pullout shelf accessory for around $50—or you can make your own.
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single-handle-faucet plumbing fixtures

Replace the Faucet

If you replace the kitchen sink, you’ll likely want to replace the faucet as well. Another benefit of updating the faucet is it may save water. When choosing a faucet there are a few things to consider, in addition to style. Make sure it aligns with the sink-hole pattern and your family’s lifestyle.

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17oct85_673179370_09 geometric kitchen lighting pendantEkachai Sathittaweechai/Shutterstock

Update the Lighting

A statement light fixture can change the whole look and feel of your kitchen. Find something that doesn’t look out of place, but also doesn’t look like the light in every other kitchen on the block. Then, carefully choose the right bulb(s) to cast warm or cool light, as you prefer. For guidance on light installation projects, check out these tips.

Photo: Ekachai Sathittaweechai/Shutterstock

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kitchen laminate countertops cutting boardFamily Handyman

Resurface the Countertops

Did you know that you can resurface your countertops? You can! It’s no more difficult than a painting project, so basic tools and skills are all you need. Here are the step-by-step instructions.

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dfh17may090-1-kitchen fruit storage rack

Create a Rustic Produce Basket

Sometimes all that’s needed to spruce up a space is organization. This creative way to store fruits and vegetables is inexpensive and attractive. It’s also a bonus that this project will free up valuable counter space.

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laminate countertop juice stainsFamily Handyman

Remove Countertop Stains

Maybe all your kitchen really needs is a good cleaning. Depending on the surface, and the stain, some elbow grease may be needed. These tips on stain removal can help make your countertops look like new.

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Strip Away Old Paint and Redo Your Cabinetszhu difeng/shutterstock

Strip Away Old Paint and Redo Your Cabinets

Many older kitchens are weighed down by poor cabinet surfaces that have been scratched, stained and worn down over the years. But a weekend project can transform them at low cost if you are willing to work at it. Sand down the old paint or stain on those cabinets and see what lies beneath. If the wood has a rich grain, restore it and preserve it with a varnish. If you prefer to paint, then choose a color (lighter pastels are the latest trend) that goes with your walls and appliances. You will be amazed at how different your kitchen will look with new cabinets.
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Turn Dated Countertops Into Cutting BoardsS_Photo/shutterstock

Turn Dated Countertops Into Cutting Boards

Countertops tend to show their age, especially if they are an outdated color or worn out material. Countertops are a tough sell for a cheap kitchen upgrade because new materials tend to be very expensive. An affordable option you should consider is taking off a section of old counter (preferably the worst part) and installing butcher block or other cutting board-style material instead. This adds new functionality to the kitchen and provides a clean, minimalist look.