5 Kitchen Updates That Make a Huge Impact Without Breaking the Bank

September 14, 2023
These simple and affordable updates will give your kitchen the “wow” factor it needs without cleaning out your wallet and covering your house in a thick layer of construction dust.

Updating your kitchen is a popular renovation to do when selling a house because homeowners spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Buyers are looking for move-in ready homes, and the kitchen is one area they’ll be scrutinizing when comparing which homes to make an offer on.

Sellers don’t have to do a complete gut job, though. A popular method of updating your kitchen before selling is called a “kitchen refresh.” It involves just a few cosmetic updates, and it often has the best ROI.

Upgrade Appliances

Appliance wall before and after photo showing updated stainless steel appliances
Replacing appliances on this wall made room for a wine fridge and opened up counter-space.

Appliances are a big-ticket item in buyer’s minds, but they’re not always a huge expense. If you have older appliances from the 90s or early 2000s, upgrading them is the single best way to give your kitchen a facelift. Swap out dated white or black appliances for stainless steel or new matte varieties. It’s also probably the easiest item to check off on a kitchen refresh. You can save money by purchasing all appliances in an appliance package, and pay a little bit more to have the delivery person install your new appliances and take the old ones away. Typically, the cost to install a new suite of appliances will run you less than $2,500.

Paint or Reface Cabinets

kitchen showing old wood kitchen cabinets repainted new white bright kitchen
Painting aging solid wood cabinets and replacing the countertops and fixtures gave this kitchen the facelift it needed to sell.

If your kitchen cabinets are still pretty solid, and you’re not planning on redoing the layout of your kitchen, save time and money by painting or refacing kitchen cabinets with a modern flat or shaker style cabinet face. We spoke to Seattle home seller Michelle who had her older oak cabinets professionally painted white for $2,800 instead of paying $12-16k for brand new cabinets. Refacing cabinets will probably run a little higher than that, but certainly can make a huge impact and will be much more economical than replacing whole cabinets.

Refresh the Countertops

kitchen with replaced tile countertop with white quartz countertop
A new countertop and a fresh coat of paint helped brighten up this dated kitchen.

Replacing your kitchen countertops has gotten more affordable in recent years, as solid surfaces and engineered versions of more pricey stones have become more widely available. If you’ve got old tile or laminate countertops, it’s definitely worth it to replace them before you sell. One budget-friendly option is butcher block, which can be purchased in varieties of walnut, oak teak, birch and more. Then you can stain and gloss the installed countertop to whatever rich shade of wood you want! Butcher block countertops can add a natural ambiance to your kitchen without compromising on style or quality.

DIY a Tile Backsplash

DIY a tile backsplash before and after
Installing a permanent tile backsplash is an easy way to elevate the look of your kitchen.

Not everyone is equipped to do-it-yourself with kitchen projects, but installing a basic white subway tile backsplash is fairly simple. Home Depot has a great article on how to install a tile backsplash yourself, but even if you hire a local handyman to complete the task, you will be elevating the entire look and feel of your kitchen. Supplies for installing a DIY tile backsplash will only cost you a couple hundred bucks. Installing a permanent backsplash is a great way to add value. Buyers will love it because it looks better than a bare wall or flimsy stick-on sheet, and will be easier to clean and preserve in the long term.

Update Fixtures

kitchen sink stainless sink replaced with undermount sink and taller faucet
Update sinks, faucets, handles and knobs with a united finish.

Updating your fixtures such as sinks, faucets, cabinet handles and lights with a united finish can really make your kitchen shine and tie everything together. New undermount or farmhouse sinks typically cost between $300-$500, spray faucets cost between $100-$300, and cabinet knob packages cost between $30-$60. The cost of light fixtures will vary depending on your current lighting, but modern flush mount fixtures are recommended. The best part is, with the exception of the sink install, all of these items are easy to take care of by yourself and you should be able to update kitchen fixtures for $1,000 or less. Check out these tips from Houzz.com on popular kitchen fixtures and finishes in 2023.

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