Remodeling a kitchen can be a major investment, but not all upgrades have to break the bank. In this homeowner’s guide, we’ll examine 10 of the most popular kitchen upgrades that can make a big impact without completely renovating the entire space.

From new countertops and flooring to improved lighting and new appliances, there are many ways to update the look and function of your kitchen. We’ll walk through the costs, benefits, and considerations for the top kitchen upgrades to help you determine which projects are worthwhile.

Replacing Countertops

Transforming the look of your kitchen, popular countertop options include:

Durable and affordable at $20 to $60 per foot installed. Prone to edge chipping over time. Laminate has hundreds of patterns available. Professional installation provides the best long-lasting results.

Impervious to heat and scratches, but grout needs sealing. $40 to $100 per square foot installed. The installation process typically takes one to three days.

This material is resilient and heatproof, with many colors and patterns available. $60 to $150 per square foot installed. Requires yearly sealing.

Quartz looks like granite but is nonporous. It costs $70 to $120 per square foot installed and is durable and low maintenance.

Updating Appliances

Replacing worn or outdated appliances is popular. Common upgrades include:

  • Dishwashers: Key features include quiet operation and improved racks. The cost starts around $300. Models with extra drying run $700 to $1,200 on average.
  • Microwaves: New features include sensor cooking, inverter technology, and convection capabilities. Costs range from $100 for basic models to $600 for large microwave/oven combos.
  • Refrigerators: New models offer improved organization and finishes. Prices range from $500 to $4,000+ typically.
  • Stoves/Ovens: Advancements in speed, safety, and accuracy are available. Prices start around $500 for basic electric stoves and up to $4,000+ for high-end gas ranges.
Today’s Homeowner Tips

When choosing new models, be sure to:

  • Compare prices among models with similar capacities
  • Measure your existing space and opt for standard sizes that will fit your kitchen
  • Prioritize essential features over nice extras

  • Installing a Range Hood

    Ventilation clears away smoke, grease, and odors. Ducting the range hood outside is most effective for optimal airflow in your kitchen. Consider:

    • CFM rating: Higher CFM moves more air. You need 400 CFM minimum for a 30” range.
    • Filters: Help trap grease and odors.
    • Size: The hood should equal or exceed the cooktop width.

    Range hood installation costs $200 to $1,200, depending on style, venting power, and ductwork.

    Painting Kitchen Walls and Cabinets

    Paint provides an easy update. Use wipeable satin, eggshell, or semi-gloss paints on kitchen walls. Prep surfaces by cleaning, filling holes, and sanding. For cabinets, use paint designed for slick surfaces with primer. Add extra coats for durability.

    Painting kitchen walls runs from $200 to $500 on average. Refinishing cabinets costs $600 to $2,500, depending on size and cabinet number.

    Installing a Tile Backsplash

    Backsplashes protect walls and add visual interest with color, texture, and patterns. Glass, metal, or stone tiles create an upscale look. Accent strips and mosaics provide appeal. Hiring a pro ensures a quality installation. Cost is $500 to $1,500 or $5 to $10 per square foot.

    brown tile backsplash in a kitchen

    Replacing Sink and Faucet

    Worn sinks and faulty faucets hurt functionality — replacing both renews the space. Durable sink materials include stainless steel, enameled cast iron, composite, and fireclay. Undermount sinks allow seamless countertop transitions. For faucets, look for high-arc spouts, pull-out/down sprayers, single-lever handles, and soap dispensers. 

    Expect to pay $200 to $600 for a sink and $100 to $600 for a faucet. Many homeowners hire plumbers for installation.

    Upgrading Cabinets

    While replacing cabinets cost tens of thousands, affordable upgrades include:

    • Glass door inserts: Add glass to doors for $100 to $300 per door
    • New hardware: Knobs and handles for $20 to $60 per cabinet
    • Refinishing/repainting: Strip, sand, stain, or paint for $300 to $500 total
    • Replace doors only: New doors cost $100+ each

    Improving Kitchen Lighting

    Proper lighting is essential for meal prep, cooking, and cleanup tasks. Here are common lighting upgrades.

    Pendants provide task and accent lighting. Mini-pendants work over sinks, while multiple larger pendants light islands. Cost is typically $100 to $300 each.

    Recessed cans give even ambient lighting when spaced four feet apart. LED recessed lights cost $75 to $150 each and save energy if dimmable.

    Under cabinet LED strip lights illuminate countertops and backsplashes. Hardwired or plug-in options cost about $10 to $20 per foot installed.

    Dedicated swing arm or pendant lights illuminate sink areas for cleanup tasks. Prices start around $50 on average.

    New Kitchen Flooring

    New floors tie the room together. Durable options include:

    • Engineered hardwood: Moisture resistant and similar look to hardwood. $8 to $15 per square foot installed.
    • Laminate: Affordable, easy to install. $3 to $8 per square foot.
    • Tile: Works well in kitchens. Costs $4 to $15 per square foot installed.
    • Vinyl: Budget-friendly and resilient. $2 to $7 per square foot installed.

    Add Moldings

    Moldings provide a big visual impact without major work. Popular choices include:

    • Chair rail: Creates classical horizontal division
    • Cove molding: Softens transitions between walls and ceiling
    • Crown molding: Adds elegance and draws the eye up

    Kitchen molding installation costs around $400 to $1,200 based on labor and linear footage.

    So, Are Kitchen Upgrades Worth It?

    Kitchen upgrades offer a great return on investment in terms of resale value. Midrange remodels recover about 75% of costs per remodeling reports. Even minor updates like countertops or cabinet refacing provide over 60% ROI on average.

    Upgraded kitchens make homes more enjoyable through improved aesthetics, organization, and functionality. Weighing costs against benefits helps determine worthwhile projects for your budget and needs. Focusing on durability, timeless design, and essential features adds the most value.

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    FAQs About Kitchen Upgrades

    What are the most cost-effective upgrades?

    Painting cabinets, adding new hardware, installing backsplashes, updating light fixtures, and refinishing floors provide simpler upgrades with solid returns on investment. You can complete minor upgrades for under $2,500 total in many cases.

    How much does a full remodel cost?

    According to Remodeling Magazine’s annual report, the average minor kitchen remodel costs $22,507, while an upscale major remodel averages $131,510. Total costs depend heavily on the size, existing layout, customized features, and materials used.

    Which upgrade adds the most value?

    Extra bathrooms, insulation, roofing, and HVAC systems generally bring the greatest resale value. New countertops offer excellent ROI for kitchen upgrades specifically.

    Remodel the kitchen or bath first?

    Bathrooms take priority since they are more essential to daily life. However, kitchen remodels provide greater resale returns, so tackle the kitchen first if the bath isn’t severely outdated.

    How do you budget for a renovation?

    Here are a few budgeting tips I recommend:

      • Add 20% for contingencies

      • Apply for home equity loans if needed

      • Consider financing costs

      • Get multiple project quotes

      • Prioritize must-have features over luxury finishes

    Editorial Contributors
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    Jonathon Jachura


    Jonathon Jachura is a two-time homeowner with hands-on experience with HVAC, gutters, plumbing, lawn care, pest control, and other aspects of owning a home. He is passionate about home maintenance and finding the best services. His main goal is to educate others with crisp, concise descriptions that any homeowner can use. Jon uses his strong technical background to create engaging, easy-to-read, and informative guides. He does most of his home and lawn projects himself but hires professional companies for the “big things.” He knows what goes into finding the best service providers and contractors. Jon studied mechanical engineering at Purdue University in Indiana and worked in the HVAC industry for 12 years. Between his various home improvement projects, he enjoys the outdoors, a good cup of coffee, and spending time with his family.

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    Jeff Zoldy

    Jeff is a writer, editor, and marketer based in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has been editing on the Home Solutions team for over a year and is passionate about getting homeowners the information they need when they need it most. When he’s not working, Jeff can be found at baseball games, golfing, going to the gym, reading, watching movies, and playing video games.

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