Kitchen Improvement Ideas: A to Z Guide to Kitchen Renovations

Whether you’re getting ready to sell your home, house flipping, or you just need a home upgrade, one of the most popular things to tackle is the kitchen. The kitchen, with so much wear, often could use some improvement after many years. But coming up with ideas as to what to do, or, in some cases, even where to begin can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve created this handy A to Z guide so you can be on your way to your best kitchen improvement projects yet.

When it comes to renovating your home, focusing on kitchen improvement may provide one of the best overall values. To be sure, kitchen improvement ideas are not always cheap. A modest remodeling project costs an average of twenty-two thousand dollars. That said, in terms of resale value, you’ll recoup about eighty percent of what you spend.

Even minor improvements to your kitchen can make a difference if you’re trying to sell, or just increase the overall value of your home. In a survey published on Realtor.com, eighty percent of homeowners mentioned the kitchen as one of the three most important factors when considering the overall impression of a house. Even those who did buy less updated kitchen mentioned that they would consider making improvements themselves–nearly seventy percent would pay for more updated appliances, while fifty-five percent would spend on granite countertops.

There’s no denying that kitchen improvement can make a big difference even for just how you feel living in your own home, either: many homeowners consider the kitchen the most important room in the entire house.

But even if you know you want to make improvements to your kitchen, where do you start? And what ideas make the most sense? Read on for our A to Z guide, after a few general pointers.

Is a kitchen renovation really worth it?

Whether or not a kitchen renovation is really worth it depends on a number of factors, including your current budget, overall goals, and your purpose.

  • If you’re making improvements to sell your house, get an estimate from a realtor how much costs you’re likely to recoup. Also, think about how quickly you’re planning to sell your home. Investing in kitchen improvement ideas well in advance might make sense, but trying to squeeze in a last minute project may not be helpful.
  • Know your neighborhood. Do other homes in your neighborhood have fairly updated kitchens? If you are planning to sell, know that if your home falls out of range as to what is typically around where you live, you might have a worse resale value or have time selling it in general.
  • Know why you’re doing it. If the objective isn’t to sell your home, identify the purpose behind your kitchen improvement ideas. There are purely lifestyle reasons to do it: in a 2017 survey focusing on house trends in the United States, thirty-three percent reported a healthier way of living after kitchen improvements–perhaps the nicer space encouraged families to cook more healthful foods. That aligns with the over forty percent of respondents that said they cooked more at home in general.
  • You don’t have to go all in. If you have a tight budget, there’s a balance between a full kitchen remodel and small improvements, like switching out your kitchen cupboard handles for more modern ones. In some cases, a remodel doesn’t make sense–either because of your budget or because it simply isn’t necessary.

How do I set a budget for kitchen improvement?

Setting a budget for kitchen improvement projects is one of the most daunting tasks, but it’s also one of the most necessary. One of the main reasons consumers spend more they can afford when it comes to home improvement projects is that they haven’t bothered to set a budget. It’s also critical to set a budget even before you start your project; that way, you will not be enticed to simply splurge on every aspect of your kitchen.

While it’s easy to see a budget as limiting, setting a budget can actually provide a sense of direction. There are nearly countless ways you can improve your kitchen, and you could easily spend over one hundred grand doing it–but that’s neither practical nor necessary.

You can slash some of the costs by doing it yourself, so long as you have the proper tools, but you also need to be aware of what you should leave to professionals.

By setting an upper limit on how much you can, but do not need to spend, you can eliminate some options and figure out what you want to target.

In order to set a budget, consider the following steps:

  1. Some suggest you spend no more than ten to fifteen percent of your total home value on your kitchen. Keep in mind this advice is with a full home renovation in mind, but it’s a good rule of thumb overall. Not only does it keep things in perspective, but it also leaves you room for other home improvement projects, such as painting, roof repairs, and repaving driveways.
  2. Prioritize. Even before you start to calculate costs, ask yourself what is most important to you. Normally, it helps to pick a central area of focus, then fit in other improvements if you have time and money. In the kitchen, cabinet and counter improvements are among the most popular, followed by appliance upgrades, replacing old flooring, painting, and changing out light fixtures.
  3. Splurge or save? To that end, even in one target focus area, you need to know where you’re willing to splurge or save. In the case of kitchen counters, is a granite countertop more important to you or cabinets with the latest features? Jot down your ideal, then note what is essential for you and something that would be simply nice to have.
  4. Estimate costs before the professionals. If you’re having professionals working with you on your kitchen improvement projects, you can get ahead of the game by estimating average costs yourself using an online tool like Home Advisor, which will factor in labor and installation costs. What this does is helps you understand if your ideas are within your budget; it also helps you to know if you’re being offered a reasonable value.
  5. Dave Ramsey, a famous businessman and radio show host and author of the bestselling Financial Peace suggests you place the most effort into first replacing things you don’t want to change often, such as kitchen cabinets; he also recommends making sure you start with essentials and make sure you don’t go above and beyond what you really need to do.

Are there any ways to save money on my kitchen improvement?

While we’ll be giving some tips on how to save money within our A to Z guide, here are a few quick tips:

  • Paint your appliances if they don’t really need to be replaced. This can give you an updated look and slash costs.
  • Invest in more affordable flooring options–while hardwood may look beautiful, lower-cost flooring, including options like bamboo, is actually quite popular.
  • Paint or switch the handles on your cabinets. Again, if your cabinets are in good shape but simply look a bit outdated, a great way to remedy the problem is by simply repainting or switching out handles.
  • Paint the room a new color. Simply brightening up space will make your kitchen look fresher and optimize whatever improvements you do make.

A to Z Guide to Kitchen Improvement

Now we’re ready to jump into our A to Z guide for kitchen improvement ideas. We’ll give you different projects, materials, and factors to consider. The goal of this A to Z guide is to just give you a starting point and generate ideas of your own.

A

  • Accents, appliances. Accents refer to the small improvements that make a big overall difference in your kitchen. In terms of staying true to your budget, these are very helpful to look at. In the home improvement industry, accents normally are add ons that make space feel more cohesive. Adding a stand-alone cabinet, end tables, display shelf, framed pictures, or even artificial floral arrangements can brighten the room for little money. Many of these items you can even find at craft stores.
  • Appliances on the other hand, of course, may end up being a big investment. Stoves, fridges, and dishwashers are among the most common. If you’re planning on getting both new appliances and cabinets, shop for your counters and cabinets first. You want to make sure your appliances fit as seamlessly as possible and don’t jut out. A more updated option for incorporating microwaves is opting for a suspended unit. Also, make sure whatever you’re replacing actually needs replacing.

B

  • Backsplash, Bamboo, Built-in. A backsplash is a popular and excellent way to make an outdated kitchen appear more modern and cohesive. Ceramic tile may be a better option over stainless steel because it’s not as prone to scratches or abrasions. Just make sure whatever you pick that any potential ‘porous material’ around or behind it is properly sealed. Recycled glass is a less convention but environmentally friendly option that is also stain resistant.
  • Bamboo floors are a consideration if you’re looking to put in flooring at a lower cost. While many people associate tiles with kitchens, it doesn’t need to be tile. While untreated bamboo is not stain resistant, most of the bamboo flooring options, including engineered and strand woven, can be first treated with a sealing agent. This is essential if you’re considering bamboo floors. Bamboo floor is fairly hard compared to hardwood, but it’s still important to make some common sense options, such as placing cushioning on chair legs, mats in busy areas, and regularly sweeping off debris.
  • Built in appliances are increasingly popular both as space savers and modern updates. Microwaves are the most common, but there are also options for built-in wall stoves and others. These tend to be more expensive than free-standing appliances, so they probably shouldn’t be a top priority. If you are planning on completely redoing your counters, however, then you’ll need to factor these in.

C

  • Cabinets, Countertops, Cupboards. This is one of the biggest targets when it comes to kitchen improvement ideas, but where to start when selecting kitchen cabinets and cupboards? First of all, in most cases, this is better done by a professional than as a DIY project, if you plan on taking out and reinstalling new cabinets and cupboards completely. While you’ll have to pay for labor, doing it on your own has the potential of costly mistakes. You’ll have to consider style, materials, fit, cost and features. We’ll cover some of this in more in-depth with other letters, but here are a few things to keep in mind.
  • With cabinets, don’t worry too much about trends. While it’s nice to make your kitchen look updated, keep in mind that it’s arduous work replacing cabinets and that they’ll likely be around for many years. Trends come and go, so still with classic styles. Shaker-style, glass front, beadboard, flat front, plywood, and natural wood cabinets are among the best style and materials.
  • Countertops tie in the look together. The main options for countertops include quartz, marble, laminate, granite, soapstone, solid material, and ceramic tile. All come at different price points, have different costs, and require different installation. We’ll cover each under its respective letter.
  • Be wary of bad contractors. When it comes to kitchen counters and cabinets, bad contractors is a big concern, in part because installation is a fairly large project. The key to protecting yourself from bad contractors is to take several steps. First, do your research and make sure the contractor is properly accredited and has a track record of good service. Then show them an exact plan of what you envision. Make sure you both are clear on all costs total; ask to see itemized estimates before you begin. You can go further and check if the contractor’s license is current.

D

  • Doors drain. Replacing kitchen doors on your pantry or even your cabinets is to way to make improvements without going all out. If your cabinets are looking outdated but are generally in good shape, replacing doors can be a more practical option. Consider glass frosted doors or even swapping traditional doors out for more open concept shelving.
  • Drains are less glamorous, but still need to be considered in your renovations, especially if you’re thinking of investing in a new faucet. When looking for new drains, remember to get at least one with a garbage disposal feature, and one without. You can choose normally from brushed nickel, chrome, antique copper and steel.

E

  • Eggshell, energy saving. Eggshell paint provides what some call a satin finish to any paint product. This highly popular option is the perfect compromise between a completely flat and full gloss finish, adding dimension without being overwhelming.
  • Energy saving appliances may cost more in the short term, but save you or future homeowners in the long term. Energy saving appliances, of course, consume less energy overall and may be a good investment to make if you’re considering replacing your appliances anyway. For lower costs ways to make your kitchen more conducive to saving energy, seal your windows and replace iridescent light bulbs.

   

F

  • Faucet, Flooring. If you’re thinking about replacing your sink faucet, you need to make sure you pair the faucet with the number of existing mounting holes and choose from single, two handle, pull down, hands-free, and bar faucets. Check for a lifetime warranty and also consider the spout style. We’ll talk more about spout style under ‘s’.
  • Your flooring options for your kitchen are seemingly endless. We’ve already covered the pros and cons of bamboo, so what are some other popular options? Laminate flooring will be the least expensive option and is attractive in that it can cover existing flooring and has easy installation. It does have an artificial feel to it and can wear not as well, making it less ideal for long term investments. Hardwood is a gorgeous option and can be refinished easily, but it’s also less durable in areas with moisture. Vinyl flooring is water resistant, but has the same issues of feeling and looking fake as does laminate. Ceramic tile is a favorite for its durability; the main downside is that it requires pretty frequent cleaning. Other options include cork, rubber, and engineered wood.

G

  • Garbage disposal, granite. Garbage disposals are batch fed or continuous.  Batch fed disposals, while easier to install and consider safer, also are slightly less easy to use than continuous disposals. Garbage disposals range from fifty to several hundred dollars; shoot for a mid-range one or higher if you have the money. Aim for the disposal that has ½ to 1 horsepower and if you can, opt for an air pressure switch, which protects against electric shock.
  • Granite is among the most popular options for kitchen countertops. Not only are they attractive and more affordable than marble, but granite countertops are also heat and scratch resistant, resistant to stains and generally hard to chip. However, it is essential that a tight seal is placed on granite because it’s considered a porous material, meaning it can absorb liquid. It will have to be resealed at some point; the best installation can last about ten years, but it’s good to check before then.

H

  • Hardware, hinges. Hardware refers to pulls, knobs, hinges, as well as nuts and bolts, normally referring to kitchen cabinets in our case. If you’re replacing cabinets, your decision will be split into style and function. In terms of style, you’ll have to select the finish, with the most popular options including brushed nickel and chrome for a modern look, and pewter, bronze, brass, and black handles for a more timeless look. Knobs are most commonly available in round, oval, square, and rectangle.
  • The two major types of hinges include face frame hinges, which are mounted directly on the cabinet frame, and frameless, which are instead attached inside and cannot be seen externally. In terms of style with overlay doors, you can choose from concealed, semi-concealed, wrap around, and surface mounted hinges, all of which are stylistic choices.

I

  • Island counters are an increasingly popular option, especially for larger kitchens. The look can fit in both modern and traditional kitchens and offers a space for people to informally gather and eat at, as well as spacious preparation surface area. Also called kitchen islands, island counters that are built in the range from six hundred to six thousand dollars, including installation. It’s best installed in a central space, with proportionate and ample room from either side.
  • Different types of island counters include those with storage, prep and wash stations with a sink unit, dining with an overhanging counter, cooking or cooking and eating with built-in stovetops, and a moveable counter.

K

  • Kitchen nook. A kitchen nook is a great idea for a simple improvement that goes a long way. Nooks are secluded spots that are still part of the room but feel set apart. Ideas include window/ reading seats, a casual sitting area with storage under chairs, and a corner with floral arrangements or plants. Play with pops of color and different textures to define your nook.

L

  • Lazy susan, lighting. A lazy susan is another option for a corner cabinet. Lazy susans allow you to rotate shelves in a circular fashion and are a fun and convenient twist on storage space. You can also opt for a table top option, which is a more simple and cheaper way to incorporate a lazy susan unit in your kitchen. Proper measurement is critical for lazy susans; see this guide.
  • Lighting can make a huge difference in the overall look of your kitchen. From changing up light switches to replacing harsh fluorescents, you can make your kitchen seem distinctly more updated with a few simple changes. Ambient lighting is useful for everyday and practical use, Recessed lighting is your best option, followed by flush mounts. Task lighting refers to lighting by and under your cabinets. The lighting should be small fixtures, soft but bright enough to work by. Accent lighting is where design comes in–think modern overhangs and chandeliers. These are less for function and more for setting the overall style in your kitchen; these are best placed over key places, like dining areas.

M

  • Marble, microwave. Marble is a beautiful option for kitchen countertops. Though some marble can be quite expensive, there are more affordable types of marble, such as Carrara marble, a more gray-toned marble that originates from Italy. Marble has a classic look and stays quite cool; it is also so commonly available you’ll have plenty of variety to choose from. On a less positive note, some downsides to marble are that it tends to be less scratch and stain-resistant. Red fruits are especially notorious for causing stains on marble.
  • Microwaves may not seem like a big deal, but opting for a microwave installation is another relatively simple kitchen improvement idea. Mounted microwaves are most commonly over the stove range, and does require installation some may be able to do themselves, but keep in mind you have to be very careful with the wiring.

N

  • Natural wood cabinets, or unfinished wood, gives a very rustic look to a kitchen and is popular for a country or cottage feel; it is also, at least initially, among the cheapest options for kitchen cabinets. However, if you do opt for unfinished wood, you need to ensure that you have a solid venting system. Regardless of how much you like the look, it’s also a wise choice to add a finish and seal of some form, to protect the cabinets from moisture, wear and other elements. A flat varnish will do just that, without taking away from the rustic appeal.

O

  • Open concept, oven. Open concept homes, in general, have become popular in recent years as a way to make homes feel more spacious. Normally, the open concept is defined as rooms that seamlessly connect by removing walls that would normally more distinctly separate them. Open concept kitchens, instead of supported by walls or panels, are normally supported by support beams. While an open concept can really open up space and make it more inviting, that isn’t to say that open concepts don’t come at a cost. For one thing, it’s an expensive task sometimes and must be done ideally by a professional, as some homes are built in a way that knocking down certain walls could cause a ceiling collapse. Open concepts may also add noise to your kitchen. However, they do tend to add value to your home and make it easier to sell.
  • Ovens or stoves or ranges are among the most important appliances in the kitchen and the options are seemingly endless here as well. The first decision you’ll have to make is whether you want an electric or gas based unit. Electric units are easiest to operate, but they also do cook food more slowly and tend to stain more easily. Gas stoves also cook food more evenly but tend to be much more expensive. Contrary to popular belief, gas stoves do not produce much risk in terms of carbon monoxide poisoning, because open burners emit next to no carbon monoxide, though it is recommended to crack a window open for slow cooking. In terms of design, you’ll need to select a freestanding, slide in, or drop in. Extra possible features include wi-fi connection, convection fans, specialized cooking settings, and double ovens

P

  • Paint, Pantry, Plywood. Paint colors can really help your kitchen look and feel updated at a very low cost. In addition to considering an eggshell finish, you might want to consider if you want a smoother look or to add unexpected paint with a stucco paint. Yellows, reds, blues, whites, and greens are among the most popular general color families for kitchens. You can also paint your cabinets; just keep in mind that the paint colors on the walls and the cabinets should be complementary.
  • Pantries are more than a place to store food; they can also help update your kitchen. A traditional floor to ceiling cabinet provides easy access with tall doors and pull out drawers. For small pantry storage, you can purchase hand or clip-on shelves. Hideaway, walk-in pantries are both great options depending on how much space you have to work with. Styles range from minimalist, with simple cubbies, to traditional. Built-in pantries can replace typical shelving units and feature pull out drawers and are a great way to save space.
  • Plywood is actually used for the construction of many types of cabinets, but all plywood cabinets have become more popular as a modern but cozy appeal to any kitchen. Plywood does not shrink or expand, is known to be durable, and works well with a clear finish. It’s also quite affordable; just make sure it’s high-quality plywood.

Q

  • Quartz actually typically aren’t solid quartz, but made from a mix of materials. Quartz has become a popular option as an alternative to granite, which tends to have a somewhat similar look. Quartz tends to be more affordable than granite and hovers around the same price as natural stone. Most countertops made with quartz come with a warranty of ten to fifteen years, though it is among the more expensive options for counters. While quartz is low maintenance and stain and odor resistant, it does not do well in extreme heat and should only be used indoors.

R

  • Refrigerator. Shopping for a new refrigerator may not be first on your list, but if you’re doing a complete kitchen renovation, it’s likely something you might look at.
  • Door type is a matter of preference, though French Style and side by side doors tend to look more updated then bottom or top freezers. Bottom or top freezers may be more suited for smaller spaces. Counter depth refrigerators may fit more seamlessly because they’re meant to fit alongside your cabinets rather than stick out.
  • In terms of finish, stainless steel is the most popular–it looks updated but can fit with almost any style of kitchen. Brighter colors are usually reserved for retro-themed models, and other finishes usually for lower-end fridges. There is also the option of black stainless steel.
  • Handle style, ice makers, digital menus, smart features, multiple cooling zones, and drawer type are also factors that will affect the cost. In terms of capacity, make sure first the fridge is the proper dimensions for your kitchen.

S

  • Shaker style, soapstone. Shaker style cabinets are one of the few traditional cabinet styles that have regained popularity. They are fairly minimalistic and feature five main segments, with recessed panels and horizontal and vertical lines. It’s also quite adaptable: these cabinets can look industrial with the proper finish or more formal with glass fronts. They also tend to be fairly affordable, though they do require regular cleaning.
  • Soapstone is a less common surfacing option for kitchen counters. In general, soapstone features the look or granite or slate but with more warmth and a more rustic finish. It can found in pure white, marbled, and gray tones and is easy to clean pliable, and not prone to cracking. It is, however, on the softer side so you cannot cut directly on it.

T

  • Trim. Finish molding and trim can make just the right impression to finish off your kitchen improvement project. For trim and molding, there are numerous style options for your cabinets and cupboards. Select from traditional, cove, angle, soffit, shaker, and corner molding.  Trim and molding is mostly an aesthetic choice, but different options may be available with different cabinets. Click here to see a more complete guide.

U

  • Under counter storage, utensil drawers. Under counter storage or even under table storage is a way to save space and update your kitchen. Pull out trays and even baskets add to both style and function within your kitchen.
  • Utensil drawers, of course, are going to be another feature you need to consider when looking at new kitchen cupboards and cabinets. The most common options include corner drawers, pocket drawers, flip-up doors, and sliding doors.

W

  • Wallpaper, windows. Wallpaper has mostly gone out of style, not only for kitchens but for homes in general. If you do currently have wallpaper and want a quick and cheap kitchen improvement idea, consider stripping it away and replacing it with paint. That doesn’t mean that wallpaper can’t be properly done, however. One popular way to use wallpaper is to use is upper trim, especially above backsplashes. Steer away from something heavily patterned and go for signature or complementary colors or in neutrals to add some texture to the room.
  • Windows are technically not a kitchen improvement job, but what you do with them can make a big difference when it comes to the overall look and feel of your kitchen. Installing bay windows can give you a
  • n attractive nook and also bring in natural light. Blinds, shades, and curtains can update the kitchen’s overall look, and at a low cost. For a more formal look, go with a silk fabric for curtains; light cotton is more common more a kitchen area. In terms of color, it should be just a shade or two lighter or darker than your walls.
  • Kitchen Desk. Adding a desk to your kitchen is just one of five useful ways to repurpose a kitchen and optimize space, according to Rachel Brougham, writer, and editor for Family Handyman. Updates such as adding granite counters, making a kitchen open concept, and making use of nooks and crannies are some of the major changes we recommend for the best kitchen renovations.

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