Small Kitchen Upgrades. Part 2. Guide to Cost-Effective Home Upgrades.

Adding Cabinet Accessories

Installing ready-made plastic or wire pullouts solves the problem of how to reach the back of the shelf in lower cabinets. Each of these lightweight sliding trays is capable of holding a half-dozen or more heavy frying pans. It is wise to select pullouts in a width narrower than the door behind which they will be installed so that you won’t have to open two doors to get to one pullout. If you aren’t handy with tools or you want the choice of a full line of these options, contact a local cabinetmaker. They have access to hundreds of cabinet accessories that can’t be found in home-improvement centers.

Cabinets with false drawer fronts below the cooktop or sink can be fitted with a tilt-out that can add storage space and versatility. Tilt-outs can be used to store spices, scouring pads, and other small items in the otherwise unused space between the front of the cabinet and the sink or cooktop. Al though tilt-outs are not as easy to install as pullouts, the project can be completed the afternoon. For each tilt-out, you will need two hinges, which should match those on the existing cabinets. You will also need a tilt-out tray, which you can purchase or make from a scrap of wood.

Kits for appliance garages are available through all major cabinet-supply distributors. You can assemble, stain, and varnish (or paint), and install in the appliance garage on a weekend. Appliance garages are most versatile when a plug is available within, but even without one they are worth the investment for the tidy look and clean lines they lend to the countertop.

For a home with toddlers, it wise to consider child-proofing doors and drawers with safety latches. Hidden itches are the most convenient use and easiest to install, but the best protection is the more expensive key lock. It can be installed in a wood cabinet door in less than an hour. A double door configuration takes a little longer and requires the addition of a latch mounted on the inside of the second door.


Adding a Small Cabinet


You can use empty wall space in a kitchen for extra storage. A 2- or 3-foot-long cabinet costs less than a good cast-iron sink. Like furniture and light fixtures, modular cabinets usually have a considerable markup. A wise shopper can save 30 to 70 percent off the retail price of most brands.

When shopping for a ready-made base cabinet, try to find one in size, color, and style to match the existing cabinets. When the new cabinet is not immediately adjacent to existing ties, casework detail and color can vary slightly without detracting from the appearance. In such an installation the countertop can be made of different material and actually add interest to the room.


First, find a cabinet of the right length. Most kitchen base cabinets are 24 inches deep; you can shorten this dimension if necessary with a handsaw, nails, and glue. Keep in mind that if the cabinet has drawers, you must also shorten the drawers and the tracks on which they slide—a more difficult alteration.

After finding the right size cabinet, consider doors and drawer fronts. You can purchase these individually from a local cabinetmaker. Buying all new doors and then staining or painting them can be far less expensive than having the entire cabinet custom-made.

Adding a base cabinet to an existing run, rather than as a separate installation, can be expensive—old and new must match precisely, and lengthening a countertop can, in some cases, require a full replacement. Remember, the kitchen is an important room in calculating resale value and will not be enhanced by mismatched styles.

Because a wall cabinet does not require a countertop or drawers, the job of adding one is less complicated than that of adding a base cabinet. However, not every manufacturer makes wall cabinets. That will align with the bottoms of existing cabinets and be tall enough to reach an 8-foot ceiling. Be careful not to vary in style here. If you can’t find a good match, consider a custom-made cabinet.

The trick to installing a wall cabinet is to make sure that there is a positive connection with existing wall studs. Do not use expansion screws or toggle bolts. Instead, hold the new cabinet in place with temporary supports, then pre-drill the wall studs and the mounting strip at the top and /or bottom ends of the cabinet. Use 3- or 3½-inch-long wallboard screws for the connection. Two screws per linear foot of cabinet width (one at the top and one at the bottom) will be sufficient.


The need for plentiful storage led to a handsome addition to this galley kitchen, with an inviting window seat in the eating area.

Painting Cabinets


Painting your kitchen cabinets can give your kitchen a fresh, new look unmatched by any other project in the same cost range.

As is the case with any painting project, the best results are achieved by careful preparation. Do not remove old paint completely. If several coats exist, remove only the top three or four. Attempting to remove all the paint down to the wood will cause unnecessary work and expense, and you could damage the cabinets themselves in the process.

Fill all voids, dents, scratches, and nicks before sanding the cabinets. It is wise, to begin with, a medium sandpaper (80 grit), and then proceed to fine (150 grit) and finally extra-fine (400 grit). If the wood feels like glass after it has been sanded, it will look like glass when painted.

The prime coat creates a bond between the existing finish and the new layer of paint, lightens a dark surface, and seals and fills the sanded surface. Do not apply the primer so thickly that it covers the old finish completely unless you are lightening dark cabinets. The primer should be similar in color but not identical to the finish coat so that you can see any spots you’ve missed when painting. Sand the primed surface with 400- to 600-grit sandpaper. Be careful not to sand through to the wood. If this happens, re-prime and touch-sand the area.

A careful painter can easily avoid the three most common mistakes when applying the finish coat: working in a dusty area, failing to use clean paint and painting equipment, and trying to do the job in one coat.

First, make sure that the work area is well ventilated, and then completely clean and vacuum the room and area adjacent to where the cabinets will be painted. Next, wipe the cabinets with a dust-free cloth dipped in the proper solvent (use a sparing amount). Then, use cheesecloth or a store-bought paint strainer to filter the paint. Unfiltered paint and dusty surroundings will result in a rough finished surface no matter how well the cabinets were stripped and sanded.

If the paint is too thick or is applied too heavily, it will run before it flows to a smooth finish. Thin oil-based paint to a watery consistency for the first of two finish coats. (Use 20 percent solvent and 80 percent paint.) Filter the paint after thinning it. Once applied, the wet coat should be trans parent; you should be able to see the primer. Let the first coat dry, then sand lightly and apply a second finish coat.

Varnishing Cabinets



Bringing new life to stained and varnished cabinets is much easier than repainting painted cabinets. Again, success lies in professional preparation and in knowing what to expect during the process.

First, wash the cabinets with TSP. This removes grease and other residue from the surface and slightly etches the existing finish. Next, lightly sand all surfaces with 400- to 600-grit wet- and -dry sandpaper. Keep the sandpaper wet with water at all times. The sanding process will turn the varnished surface a milky white, and as it dries it will have a matte and lightly scratched appearance. This is normal. Sanding too much could damage the stained surface beneath the varnish. Finally, vacuum the work area thoroughly, wipe all surfaces with paint thinner or lacquer thinner on a soft, lint-free cloth, and then apply the first coat of finish. It is important to have good ventilation when working with chemicals that generate flammable and toxic vapors.

To make the cabinets look new again, apply two to four coats of clear varnish or a similar product. Lightly sand between coats with water and 600-grit wet-and-dry sandpaper. Make sure that the coat to be sanded is completely dry. It is wise to wait twice as long as the instructions on the can recommend. Varnish takes longer to dry in cool temperatures or high humidity.




This kitchen upgrade features the original cabinets with new chrome drawer pulls to match the chrome faucet and light fixture over the sink.

Applying Wallcoverings



When selecting a wall covering for the kitchen, keep in mind the same considerations concerning color and pattern that apply to the selection of paint—essentially, low-key patterns are more appealing to a wider range of tastes.

Wall preparation is as important when you are putting up a wallcovering as when you are painting. Wall surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned, smoothed with a filler (such as joint compound) if necessary, and then primed with oil-based paint. Although you can apply a plain white base layer of wallpaper to rough wall surfaces to smooth them, smoothing the wall itself is the way professional paperhangers do it. Priming with an oil-based paint will prevent the adhesive from penetrating too deeply into the surface of the plaster or wallboard, which will allow for easy removal later. Ease of removal can be a big selling feature to a prospective buyer who prefers paint or another wallcovering pattern.

It is especially important in the kitchen to use a wallcovering that will resist damage from grease and harsh cleaning products. Although some heavier papers hold up well, vinyl-coated ones are best. Note that special adhesives are required when you are applying vinyl-coated wallcoverings. Using the wrong adhesive could allow mildew to grow between the wall surface and the wallpaper. It will show up as black splotches a few days after the paper has been installed.

A tip from the pros: Whether or not the wallcovering is prepasted, apply a coat of paste by hand. Over-wetting a prepasted wallcovering can completely remove all the adhesive that was applied at the factory. Thoroughly smoothing the covering to the wall to remove air pockets is also very important. The other secret to a good job is to have plenty of sharp razor blades on hand (30 or more for the average room). A new razor blade will be good for two or three cuts and should then be saved for later use that doesn’t require extreme sharpness.

To remove old wallcovering, you must bring the adhesive that bonds it to the wall to a semi-liquid state. Two processes are currently available to accomplish this—steaming and enzyme chemical reduction. Regardless of the process, you select, you must perforate the surface of the wallcovering so that the steam or enzymes can reach the old adhesive.

A tool specifically made for this purpose, when rolled over the surface of the wallcovering, creates thousands of holes through which steam or enzymes can pass and begin to dissolve the paste. Rubbing the teeth of a handsaw across the surface of the wallcovering will produce a similar result; however, a zealous hand can damage the surface of the underlying wall, which can be costly to repair. Working from the top down when removing wallcovering allows gravity to help the process along.


Thoughtful touches in this remodeled kitchen include a tiled cooking area that’s echoed in the tiled backsplash in the photo at left.

Re-grouting Ceramic Tile



Usually, the first part of a ceramic tile installation to show wear is the grout. Natural settlement of a newly installed counter surface and general house movement are the culprits. Because tile grout is a cement-based material, it’s brittle. When the house moves, grout cracks, and the resulting valleys trap food and allow water to pass to the wood below.

When re-grouting it’s important to match the existing grout color. Tile stores have samples of grout on hand for making a comparison.

First, clean the cracks with bleach and a nylon scrub brush. You can use a hairdryer to remove excess moisture. Next, widen existing cracks. Grout is made of sand and cement, and the cracks must be wide enough for the granules of sand in the new grout to fit. Use an awl, a screwdriver, a chisel, or a sharpened piece of hardwood—1/8- to ¼-inch in depth is plenty. Remove all the loose grout. The more you remove, the better the chance that the new grout will adhere.

Once you have prepared the surface, mix the grout. An old trick is to omit about 20 percent of the water recommended by the grout manufacturer and re-place it with clear-drying white glue. The mucilage helps to bond the new grout to the old and is an excellent sealant as well.

You can use a grout trowel or a flat piece of hard rubber to force the grout mixture into the cracks. Remove excess grout with a slightly dampened paper towel. It is important to clean as much of the grout from the tile surfaces as possible while the grout is still wet. It becomes almost impossible to remove once it dries. To easily remove the light film that will be left on the tile when the job is completed and everything is dry, use a solution of 10 percent vinegar and 90 percent water.

After about a week (assuming that no white, powdery mineral salts have surfaced), you can apply a silicone sealer to further protect the grout. Making the grout more water-resistant will help keep it clean and reduce water infiltration.

In a home with a tendency to shift, the best permanent repair to the grout joint between the countertop and the backsplash is done with colored silicone caulk. Caulk is far more flexible than grout and will expand and contract under conditions where grout will crack.

Re-caulking the Sink

Since water can pass through almost invisible separations, it’s important to maintain the connection between the sink and countertop, whether the sink is a tile-recessed or self-rimming type. Water damage can occur to hidden cabinet parts if there is a break in this connection. Caulking this seam is inexpensive and takes less than 30 minutes once a year.

First, remove as much of the old silicone caulk as possible by scraping it off with a putty knife (being careful not to scratch the porcelain or tile) or a sharp wooden stick. Next, clean the area with a strong solution of bleach and water. Then use a hairdryer to dry the area thoroughly. Finally, brush away the last pieces of loose debris, and apply the new layer of caulk.


Repairing a Plastic Laminate Surface


To repair a delaminated plastic laminate surface, you apply heat. First, lay a towel on the damaged area to act as a buffer between the plastic laminate and the heat source. Then use a clothes iron, set on high, to bring the surface up to temperature. The heat of the iron will soften the laminate and the adhesive that binds the surface to the substrate. Once the laminate is hot to the touch, remove the iron and rub the towel with a hard downward pressure over the heated surface until it cools. The new bond will be stronger than the original connection. This process can be used on most plastic laminate surfaces, including cabinets.

Another way to repair a damaged laminate countertop is to cut out and replace the damaged portion. You can install a wood cutting board into a plastic laminate countertop in place of a badly damaged section of the surface. First, purchase a sink rim in a size that’s slightly larger than the damaged area (many sizes are available). Next, cut a 3 cutting board to fit the sink rim. Then cut the counter to accept the sink rim, and finally mount the cutting board and the sink rim into the counter-top with silicone and the retainer clips that come with the sink rim. The inlaid cutting board makes food preparation easier and solves the damage problem. This is a project to consider even if the countertop isn’t damaged.

Adding a Pass through Screen


If a sliding window is located between your kitchen and backyard, you can make the two areas more accessible to each other by adding a pass-through screen assembly. This project can improve logistics during garden parties and other backyard activities and will keep out flying pests while letting in the fresh air. This little-known option is available from many window companies. It is nothing more than an aluminum track, made to match the frame of an existing window, that holds a sliding screen (similar to a sliding patio door). Installation takes less than 15 minutes.

Refinishing Appliances



When done in conjunction with appliance replacement, appliance refinishing is cost-effective. Repainting all the appliances in a kitchen could be costly, especially if some of them are coming to an end of their useful life. For example, if you are going to replace two or three major appliances you can refinish the remaining few to match. This can help to maintain a good-looking kitchen while stretching the lives of the remaining appliances until you are ready to upgrade them.

Like plumbing-fixture refinishing, appliance painting is not for everyone. In some cases, the painting process can be almost as expensive as the appliance itself; for example, a range hood can usually be replaced for less than the cost of refinishing. This is not true for a late-model refrigerator or oven, however.

You can repaint appliances yourself at home, but for lasting quality, the proper paint materials and application process must be used. Appliance paints are made for use on metal, and the paint should be heat-cured (dried).

Adding, Moving, or Replacing Appliances


The biggest consideration when adding or replacing any electrical appliance is its power source. Taxing old electrical circuits with modern appliances, which may use more power, is dangerous. Even if a new appliance is more energy-efficient than the one it replaces, it may require an upgraded electrical circuit. When considering an appliance upgrade, it’s important to contact an electrical contractor for advice on circuit upgrades and costs. Do this before purchasing or installing any new electrical appliance anywhere in the home, especially the kitchen.

Electrical outlet receptacles for large appliances incorporate a plug face that’s designed for a specific combination of voltage and amperage. When replacing the old receptacle with a new one designed to fit the plug on a new appliance, keep in mind that the receptacle must match the size of the wire in the circuit as well as the size of the fuse. Hence, changing the receptacle may also require new wiring and fuses.

It is not uncommon to see built-in dishwashers plugged into the circuit originally dedicated to another appliance, as the garbage disposer, or vice versa. Either practice increases the danger of fire. The following electrical appliances require their own separate circuits: single ovens, double ovens, cooktops, built-in microwave ovens, built-in dishwashers, built-in trash compactors, instant hot-water dispensers, garbage disposers, some range roods, built-in food warmers, built-in food processors, and some ice-making machines.

Moving the Microwave Oven Off the Counter


Even in the largest kitchens, counter space is a precious commodity, and countertop microwave ovens take up a great deal of space. Although you can install a microwave oven hood in place of an existing range hood to free up counter space, this is wasteful if an existing countertop microwave oven will be discarded in the process. There is another alternative—a microwave shelf, which is designed to place a countertop microwave oven in the range hood cavity, thereby storing the oven in a more convenient and space-efficient way. The shelf also includes the features of a standard range hood—ventilation and lighting.

The main prerequisite for this project is two studs in the wall where the shelf is to be installed. Countertop microwave ovens are heavy, and the accessory shelf must have a sturdy attachment. Minor costs to re-fabricate the sheet-metal exhaust duct should also be considered when pricing this project. Consult an electrical contractor concerning electrical connections.

Bull-nosed edges, used instead of more costly trim, soften the lines of the arched pass-through, window, and French doors. Similar light fixtures are used in the kitchen and dining room. Because the custom cabinets were made of inexpensive wood and then painted, they cost no more than stock-stained wood cabinets.

Adding a Trash Compactor


To accomplish a cost-effective installation of a trash compactor, the cabinet where it’s to be installed must be approximately 24 inches deep. If it’s an island or a peninsula cabinet, make sure that the entire back of the cabinet is perpendicular to the floor, without the interruption of a toe-kick recess. (This recess will prevent proper installation.) In addition, review the information about electrical considerations noted above. Having to add a new electrical circuit could cost more than the compactor itself.

Compactors are available in three widths: 12, 15, and 18 inches. An opening that matches one of these widths probably already exists in most cabinets. A slightly larger opening can be used but will require trim strips at the sides.

Once you have selected a location, remove the cabinet door, cut out the base of the cabinet with a saw, and remove any drawer hardware and framing. Then slip the compactor into the hole and adjust the legs so that the unit aligns with the face and top of the opening in the cabinet.

Quieting the Dishwasher or the Garbage Disposer



The problem of a noisy dishwasher is easy and inexpensive to solve for a do-it-yourselfer capable of removing and replacing a built-in dishwasher.

First, disconnect the dishwasher and remove it from the cabinets. Next, lightly cover the housing of the dishwasher and the interior walls of the cabinet with spray adhesive (similar to contact cement). Apply a layer of 1-inch-thick duct insulation (also sprayed with an adhesive) to the dishwasher housing and the cavity in the cabinets. Then reinstall and reconnect the appliance. It is important not to place the insulation over the ventilation holes that serve to dissipate heat from the appliance.

Making the garbage disposer operate more quietly is just as simple. First, lightly coat the underside of the sink and one side of 1-inch-thick duct insulation with spray adhesive. Next, apply to the underside of the sink, covering it completely. Finally, wrap an old piece of carpet around the sides of the disposer housing (backside out), leaving the bottom of the disposer exposed to dissipate heat. Duct tape will hold the carpet in place.

Adding or Replacing a Garbage Disposer



Replacing a garbage disposer is an easy and inexpensive project (not counting the cost of the disposer) that can reduce drain clogging and the noise generated by a worn-out model. Keep in mind, however, that if you are planning to sell your home, purchasing an expensive disposer may not be cost-effective. Most home buyers are more concerned that a disposer exists, not that it has the lasting quality and quiet operation.

If you want a disposer that will last, select one with a grinding chamber made of stainless steel. (Most disposers have stainless steel cutting blades but are not all stainless construction.) Horsepower should be another consideration. The greater the horsepower, the more efficient the disposer. Many disposers are sold without a power cord (“pigtail”). Keep this in mind when you’re making price comparisons.

During installation, it’s important to knock out the plug at the dishwasher inlet if a dishwasher will be attached. This requirement is true for all disposers. Once you have removed the metal plug, extract its insulation from the inside of the disposer before running the disposer for the first time.

When installing a new dishwasher or disposer, consider replacing the air gap—the dishwasher air vent device that’s usually mounted to one side of the kitchen faucet. The dishwasher drains through the air gap, leaving soap scum and food buildup inside. As a result, old air gaps are usually partially clogged. Because air gaps are inexpensive, it’s wise to replace them when you re-place the appliance. Air gaps are available in plastic or copper. The latter is more expensive but a far better value.

Adding a Water Purifier



In many areas of the country, a water-purification device is a necessity rather than a luxury. Regardless of the area, however, such a device can make the water safer and more pleasant to drink.

Plumbing-supply stores have a variety of alternatives to under-the-sink and whole-house water purification systems. This do-it-yourself project can be performed for less than one-third of the cost of the major water purifiers sold by door-to-door salespeople.

Most small filter systems are used at the cold-water supply only since hot water is generally used for washing and cooking. Filtering only the cold water is the least expensive option, but filters are available that will treat both hot and cold water.

The larger the filter (size is in gallons per minute), the faster the water will flow. A filter that produces a flow of 3½-gallons of water per minute is sufficient for most plumbing fixtures. A smaller and possibly less expensive filter may generate a reduced flow that’s annoying to wait for.

Cartridge filters require periodic replacement. Spending 5 to 10 percent more on a unit that has easy-to-replace cartridges can prove to be far more cost-efficient in the long run. Some in-line filters can be a nightmare to replace. To calculate the usable life of the filter, divide the number of gallons used per day into the total number of gallons the filter is rated to clean.



Instant Hot-Water Dispenser

Adding an Instant Hot-Water Dispenser


Tea, instant coffee, instant soup, or any other beverage requiring almost boiling water (180° F) can be as close as the kitchen sink. For a busy family, this accessory could prove to be a real-time saver.

A hot-water dispenser can be installed into any sink (drilling may be required). Installation is simple: Mount the hot-water tank to the cabinet beneath the sink, connect it to the cold-water supply line, plug it into a 110-volt electrical circuit, and connect it to its own spout mounted alongside the existing kitchen faucet.


local_offerevent_note April 6, 2021

account_box umamaconstruction

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *