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Make Over Your Kitchen

Kitchen Image

Outdated kitchen cabinets, wallpaper and floors made these first-time homeowners wince every time they entered their kitchen. It was time for a kitchen remodel. Thanks to careful planning, frugal choices and a lot of elbow grease, they made this intimidating home improvement project both manageable and budget-friendly.

Tools & Materials

Use this checklist when you go to the store and purchase your items.

  • Bucket
  • Caulk
  • Drill/Driver
  • Finishing Nails
  • Floor Primer
  • Hammer
  • L-Brackets
  • Liquid Nails Adhesive
  • Liquid Underlayment
  • Level
  • Mop with Disposable Head
  • Miter Bolts
  • Paint
  • Palm Sander
  • Pine Shelving (12-inch)
  • Primer
  • Pry bar
  • Putty Knife
  • Sandpaper
  • Screwdriver
  • 1/2-inch Screws
  • Shims
  • Sponge or Spray Bottle
  • Steel Wool
  • Strip of Wood (1-inch )
  • Trisodium Phosphate (TSP)
  • Trowel
  • Vinyl Flooring Squares
  • Wallpaper-Removal Tool
  • Wallpaper-Removal Solution
  • Wrench

Kitchen Demolition

Outdated Kitchen Image

The first step in this major kitchen remodel was to undo some of the choices made by a previous owner:

  1. The couple stripped off the wallpaper and smoothed rough spots with an electric sander.
  2. They removed the sink and saved it for reuse later.
  3. They ripped out the countertops. A laminate countertop with a separate backsplash had been unprofessionally glued in. To remove it, the owners pushed the countertop up from underneath with a hammer and pried it off with a crow bar. (Some countertops are secured with screws and simply require a screwdriver for removal.)
If you're planning to reuse or donate the sink, take it out before removing the countertop to minimize damage.

A New Kitchen Layout

With the countertops out of the way, it was easy to move the appliances, which had been awkwardly arranged on one side of the room, partially blocking a door. Only one foot of countertop separated the sink, stove and refrigerator.

  1. The couple followed the classic work-triangle layout, which dictates that the total length between the stove, sink and refrigerator be between 12 and 22 feet.
  2. A vacant corner on a diagonal to the sink was perfect for the refrigerator.
  3. They moved the stove 4 feet to the left where the refrigerator had been. This created a large workspace, completed the triangle layout and provided space for a dishwasher and a 21-inch cabinet.

New Paint for the Cabinets

Instead of replacing the cabinets, the homeowners saved money by painting the cabinets they had. The original handmade pine cabinets had a clear polyurethane finish atop a dark stain. Although in good condition, they made the room feel tiny, so the homeowners chose to paint them white. They:

  1. Cleaned the cabinets with a mixture of TSP (trisodium phosphate), a heavy-duty powder cleaner and water.
  2. Sanded them with 150-grit sandpaper, followed by steel wool. These steps roughened the polyurethane coat and left the surface free of oils and buildup so paint would adhere.
  3. Applied a coat of primer, a crucial step to improve adhesion.
  4. Used a latex paint once the primer was dry. Although oil-based paint is the most durable and often used in kitchens, light oil-based colors tend to yellow over time. The homeowners chose a semigloss, which is easier to clean than flat paint. Light colors require up to three coats.

Learn more about painting and refinishing cabinets.

Frugal Flooring Choices

Snowflake Decal Image

Self-adhesive vinyl squares are an easy and expensive way to brighten up a floor. It was simple to cover up the old linoleum without having to remove it:

1. The homeowners cleaned the floor with TSP.
2. They applied a floor primer followed by a liquid underlayment, which filled in any cracks or texture in the old linoleum for a completely smooth surface.
3. The squares were carefully put into place.

New Countertops and Paint

Paint Swatch Image

White paint further lightened the room and made it seem larger. This presented a clean slate for decorating. The couple decided to incorporate elements that coordinate with the rest of their house to add a splash of color.

The cherry wood countertop was selected because it has a natural look and plays off the color of the home's hardwood floors. The accent colors, Olympic Yellow Coneflower (#214-5) and Southern Heritage Colonial Green (#790-4), were chosen to match the adjacent dining room. The accent designs were easy to create with foam stamps. The diamonds were made by taping off sections of the wall with a low-adhesive tape.

The result is a colorful and casual look that's durable and easy to clean — a good thing in a home with two dogs. "We're thrilled with it — and we never strayed from our budget," say the owners. "Doing it ourselves was the best decision even though we had no experience. The cost would have at least doubled with professionals. It's a real confidence builder to realize that you don't have to pay someone if you're willing to learn."