It happens to all of us, or so it seems. You find the perfect house, its in your price range, its big enough, its in the right area, but… Oh, the kitchen is a mess. Of course, we’ll buy the house anyway, I mean, who lets one tiny flaw on an otherwise perfect diamond stop you from picking it up? But, you’re out of money, you can’t possibly afford new kitchen cabinets, or appliances, all you are able to do is stare at it day after day, until you forget the rest of your wonderful home, all you can think of is the dull, dismal place where you cook your dinner, you think back on the big old kitchen of your childhood, almost forgotten in the new mess of old dark wood, or hastily painted cabinets that your children will remember from their own childhood. Its time to make a change, but how? The money is not there, what can you do?
I can tell you how to give your kitchen a face-lift for around $250.00. Now, that is not going to get you new appliances, counter tops, or cabinets, but it can certainly give you a feeling of peace about the most used room in your home. All you need is the minimal amount of money, time, and the will to make a change with your own two hands.
The first thing that you will need to do, is to clean all those old appliances, a can of oven cleaner, and some ammonia and water will do wonders that you can’t imagine if you use some elbow grease. Get the appliances spotlessly clean, and move onto your next step. Make them look as new as you can. This can be accomplished with a couple of cans of appliance paint. It is under $10.00 per can at any hardware store, and probably closer to $5.00 at Lowe’s or Home Depot. This stuff is a little tricky to use and requires patience, and some muscle to get the appliances outside. I will tell you that it is best not to paint the top of the stove if it is not too bad. I heard from the local hardware store associate that he had a bad experience painting the top of his stove. He did go on to tell me that it was years ago, and they have improved the product greatly since then, but I guess the paint oxidized some around the burners, so its your call here on what you feel comfortable with. The fridge, and dishwasher should be no problem, remove whatever hardware you can, mask off the parts you don’t want to be painted with tape, and watch your appliances change before your eyes. I’m telling you, there’s not much more rewarding than taking something old and making it new again!
Now, the kitchen walls, you can buy a good gallon of paint for the walls for about $20.00. Be sure to choose a color that will blend well with the light color that you have in mind for your cabinets. Its a good idea to paint the ceiling and trim at the same time, a nice bright white ceiling and trim will brighten up your kitchen considerably before you even have to do anything else. Again, a good gallon of white paint can be bought for around $20.00
Next step, the cabinets. This is a serious project, and will take some time, I lived with a disaster in my kitchen for a week. I have realized since that i had unrealistic expectations when it came to the time frame. Don’t think that you can do this in two days, you can’t, that I can promise you. You will need to assess what you have to work with with your cabinets, if they are just ugly old wood, lucky you, you’re a step ahead. If you, like me, have cabinets that have been painted in the past, your workload just increased substantially. Remove all the cabinet door faces from the bases, remove all hardware, hinges, drawer pulls, and knobs. Now throw all that ugly old stuff away!
You must replace the hardware. I found Lowe’s to have the best selection, especially if you’re shopping on the lower end of the expense meter. I personally prefer the old black wrought iron look, especially with light colored cabinets, and they have them at Lowe’s for under a dollar per knob and drawer pull. The hinges were I believe about a $1.50 for the lease expensive two pack. I myself was able to buy more expensive hardware since my mom bought me some rugs that I wasn’t able to use, and she told me to take them back and get whatever I wanted. Thanks mom! You should be able to buy hardware for your kitchen for under $75.00, depending on the size of your kitchen it could even be less, and the difference the hardware will make will be a drastic increase to the appeal of your kitchen.
If your cabinets are painted, here come the steps to use, if they are wood, please skip ahead to the section on sanding. I tried several different paint strippers, actually first I tried just sanding, but my cabinets had about 6 layers of paint on them, and the heat my orbit-able sander made basically melted the paint all together. I really don’t know what color it was, but I don’t plan to be the one to name it. Suffice to say, it was somewhere in the green family. The best paint stripper to use, bar none, is Dad’s Easy Spray Paint and Varnish Remover. It is about $35.00 dollars for a large container and it will come with a spray bottle to specifically for the paint stripper that you use to spray it on. Take the cabinet door faces, and drawers outside, spray the fronts only with the gel spray, wait about 15 minutes and use a rigid putty knife to scrape off the paint. I don’t recommend stripping the backs of the doors as well, since you are going to paint them anyway, and how many people are going to open you cabinets to examine the backs of the doors? You certainly can do it, but I don’t really see the point. What we’re trying to do is make the kitchen more pleasing to look at, not turn it into a $25000.00 kitchen extravaganza. Back inside the house, you will need to open all your doors and windows, and maybe even turn on a fan. There are specific instructions on using the paint stripper inside the house on the container, it is a low odor formula and to be honest, I really didn’t even smell any fumes at all when I did the cabinet bases and such in the house. However, please remember that the instructions are for your safety, and follow them to the letter!! Spray the interior cabinet frames, and repeat the same process as you did for the drawer fronts and door faces outside.
Now its time to sand. With all the paint (mostly) gone you should be able to see the wood grain in your cabinets. Some people may choose at this point to stain their cabinets, but I did not have that option due to the low quality of the wood, the grain in the wood however is the key for painting, you are going for a whitewashed look. You should have an orbit-able sander, if you don’t own one you can rent one at your local Home Depot for about $10.00 per day. Use a medium grit sandpaper and sand the cabinets down to bare wood, take off all the paint and varnish remnants, this should be a fairly simple project after using the paint stripper. If you did not use the stripper and you are having problems getting the finish off the cabinets, you may need to use the step above and use Dad’s Easy Spray as well, but I believe that in most cases, simple sanding will work on bare wood.
The next thing I did was to put in new contact paper inside the cabinets. Contact paper is about $5.00 per roll, and will brighten up the inside of your cabinets, and you will no longer have to worry about putting the glasses rim down. That was a major concern for me, who knew what had been in those cabinets over the years? Contact paper is easy to install, there are lines on the back to help you with your cuts, and to prep the cabinets all you have to do it wash them out with ammonia and water.
Now, the paint! This will make such a drastic difference in your kitchen, I cannot even tell you how much you are going to love this. You will want to put on one coat of a primer for light topcoat colors, the primer will be white. Primer will probably cost you around $20.00 per gallon, you will only need one. Use a 6 inch foam roller to apply the primer, it must be a foam roller. This will give you even coverage, and the finish will be super smooth, a regular roller will leave small fibers from the nap on the cabinets, and they will not have the smooth finish that you will want for your cabinets. The foam roller arm and rollers will cost you under $10.00. You will apply the primer to the interior cabinet bases, and the drawer fronts and door faces. Use a light coat only, this is very important. For the backs of the door faces, you can use a heavier coat, as i said before, this part is not as important and will rarely be seen.
The paint color you use is your personal preference, but it must be a light color for the real magic of the project to be seen. I used a beautiful beige color on my cabinets. It blends perfectly with a strong medium blue on the walls. You can buy paint that is specifically for kitchen and bathrooms, this will cost a little more, about $30.00 per gallon, but it is a latex enamel and will give you a very durable finish. Using your foam roller, you will carefully apply one coat of paint over the primer. You can apply more that one coat on the backs of the door faces if you like, remember, you just need them to be the correct color, the wood grain effect is not important on this part of the cabinets. Allow the paint to dry at least 3 hours before you try to handle the cabinets. What you will have for all your effort is are beautiful light colored cabinets with a gorgeous wood grain visible under the paint. Attach your new hinges, rehang the cabinet doors, put the drawers back in place, attach the knobs and drawer pulls, take a step back and take in what you’ve just accomplished.
Sure, you may have a splinter or two, there will be some light sawdust to clean up, and you will certainly be tired. Let me tell you though, when your first visitor comes to pay a call after all your work and they step in your kitchen and their mouth drops open, it will all be worth it. You’ll have a beautiful ‘new’ kitchen without taking out a second mortgage, or maxing out your credit card. Your spouse will be grateful for your hard work, and you’ll find your kids want to sit at the kitchen table and hang out while you make dinner. Yes, its lots of hard work, but the payoff in enormous. You’ll be glad you dug in and went for it.