3 cheap ways to make your old kitchen feel new

By Josh Garskof

(Money Magazine) -- Shelved plans for that $50,000 kitchen remodeling until the economic recovery actually starts to feel like a recovery?

Make the waiting less painful by breaking out your toolbox. A few cheap fixes -- painting cabinets, swapping out old knobs and pulls, and replacing your ceiling lights -- can make a huge difference.

Consider tackling the following three projects too. They're just a bit more difficult but bring big benefits to the look and feel of your kitchen -- and cost less than $1,000 each.

Update your backsplash

It's a quick way to dress up an old kitchen, not to mention protect your walls from stains and even fires. If you're not eager to mess with mastic and grout, consider Aspect Tile's new peel-and-stick metal tiles.

Available in copper and stainless steel, they'll give the room a clean, updated feel. And though the metal finish can look fairly modern, these tiles come in a traditional three-by-six-inch subway-tile format, which fits in with a variety of décors.

How to Do It: The tiles, available at Lowe's or aspectideas.com, go up as easily as address labels but stick tenaciously to the existing backsplash. Bonus: Your contractor can reuse them (with some added glue) when the kitchen gets redone later.

Cost: $500 to $600, typically

Time: One day

Dress up old appliances

Buying new appliances may not make sense at this stage because you don't know what your eventual remodeling will require. But a fresh coat of white, black, or silver paint on old refrigerators and dishwashers (not ranges, which get too hot) will give them -- and your kitchen -- a cleaner, newer look.

How to Do It: Lightly sand the surfaces so the paint will adhere. Cover handles and hinges with masking tape. Then spray on two coats of Krylon's Epoxy Appliance Paint or Stainless Steel Paint (available at Home Depot or thepaintstore.com).

Cost: $20 to $30 for three to four cans (enough to cover the fridge)

Time: One to two days

Make your own concrete countertops

Worn-out Formica, tile, or butcher block make your kitchen look dilapidated. But spending $6,000 or more for granite or even $2,500 for new laminate makes no sense if you'll be reconfiguring the kitchen in a few years.

A solution: polished, colored concrete. It has all the burn and scuff resistance -- and visual appeal -- of granite but is pricey if it's professionally installed.

How to Do It: Buy a DIY kit at concreteexchange.com. You'll get everything you need to cast, polish, and install your own counters, including a customizable mold and detailed instructions.

Still none too sure you can pull it off? Attend one of the how-to seminars the company runs around the country.

Cost: $750 to $1,000

Time: Two weekends  To top of page

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