Four quick kitchen upgrades that you can afford

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ July 14, 2011

Enough complaining about the sad state of affairs. You want to perform a home improvement now and you don't want to finance it with new debt. Besides, in response to the housing crisis and economy, big lenders are dropping the top end on home loans, reining in most homeowners to projects that simply cost less to complete.

ConsumerReports' Ed Perratore writes that the larger federal agencies and programs like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are slashing ceilings on guaranteed loans from $700,000 to a diminutive $271,050. Ouch!

Perratore recommends that you undertake kitchen remodeling projects that come in at $2,000 or less. Pay attention, he says, to low-cost upgrades that can add value later when the housing market rebounds. Four suggestions include:

1. Adding fresh cabinet paint: cost $200 or less.

2. Upgrading your countertops: quartz ($40 to $100 per square foot) or laminates ($10to $40 per square foot)

3. Sprucing up the backsplash: ceramic tile ($10 per square foot)

4. Prettying up your flooring: vinyl and laminate floors (vinyl tiles start around 80ยข per square foot and vinyl sheets cost between $15 and $20 per square yard, according to House Flipping Helper)

Remodeling ideas for the small kitchen

One of the best tricks for the small kitchen is installing natural lighting to make the room brighter and seem larger. Skylights are sold as fixed models, ventilating skylights and roof windows.

You can also put in an economical sun tunnel, a tube in the ceiling that directs light where you need it. For example, Wisemen Trading and Supply advertises a sun tunnel kit that fits in 14" and 21" tubes and retails for $32.

Kitchen countertop materials come in a dizzying assortment of natural and man-made materials. If you're looking to install new countertops, don't just settle on cheap ones. You want to compare each for cost as well as for ease of maintenance.

Other kitchen cost-cutting measures

Let's face it, spending $1,200 on a new microwave is simply imprudent today, unless you're flush with cash. You can also spare the full cost of employing a contractor by handling chores that you're comfortable doing. For example, you might do fine tearing out old cabinets and painting the doors of replacements. But you may want to leave back-end electrical and plumbing details to the professionals.

Spend some time maintaining and preserving what you own. That's another reason to choose easy-to-clean, easy-to-maintain cabinet, countertop and backsplash materials that scrub to a shine with the least amount of elbow grease. When you're ready to sell, it won't take months to put a fresh look on things.

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