Give Your Kitchen a Facelift

Green kitchen with granite countertops.

If you thought you had to spend $20,000 and up on a brand new kitchen think again. We have a simple, three-step plan that will take ten years off your kitchen without breaking the bank. Whether you are planning to stay in your home or are trying to sell it, an inexpensive kitchen facelift is one of the best investments you can make in your home.

Three step kitchen facelift:

  1. Renew cabinets
  2. Upgrade countertops
  3. Replace faucet

As with any home improvement project, be sure to do your homework before beginning. Choosing the right colors, styles, and materials for your home and your lifestyle will help ensure successful results. Most of this project is do-it-yourself friendly and can probably accomplished fairly easily over a few weekends.

Renewing Kitchen Cabinets

There are two ways to get great looking cabinets without completely replacing them. One is simply ordering replacement doors, which can completely change the look of cabinets and still provide a tremendous savings. An even more affordable choice, however, would be to simply refinish the existing doors.

Painter painting kitchen cabinets.To refinish stained or natural wood cabinets, starting by cleaning them thoroughly to remove any grease. Next, lightly sanding down cabinet boxes, drawers, and doors. Use a similar color stain to touch up any defects in the existing stain. Finally, apply several coats of polyurethane or other clear finish. You will be amazed at the way your cabinet doors come back to life.

If you prefer a painted look or are starting with a painted surface, use a liquid deglosser to dull the existing finish, or sand the surface until it is smooth. Next, apply a coat of primer followed by two coats of high quality latex or oil based enamel paint. Again, you will surprise yourself at the ease with which your cabinets can be transformed.

If you do paint your cabinets, you also might want to try your hand at a process currently growing in popularity called glazing. It is very simple and involves taking a can of clear finish and having a tint added to it. The glaze is then applied sparingly to the newly painted cabinets to give a unique finish.

For a finishing touch, be sure to find some interesting new hardware for your doors and you are on your way to beautiful new looking kitchen.

Hint: Be sure to take your old hardware with you when you buy new hardware in order to match up the existing holes.

Danny Lipford in kitchen wiht granite countertops.

Upgrading Kitchen Countertops

Replacing you countertops is the next step to a kitchen facelift. There are many choices of countertop materials available today, and prices can vary widely from affordable to high end. Below are some descriptions of the options available:

  • Laminate Countertops

    Still the most common counter surface in homes today, plastic laminate countertops are durable, attractive, and an affordable choice for many homeowners. There are countless colors and patterns to choose from and almost any style of home can be complemented by an attractive new laminate countertop.

    Be sure to ask your laminate distributor for suggestions when it comes to finding a contractor to install the countertop, or better still, call your local Home Builders Association.

    Prices range from $15 – $25 per square foot installed.

  • Solid Surface Countertops

    Solid surface countertops are as durable as they are beautiful and allow you to create the look and design you’ve always wanted. Easy to maintain and repair countertops made from solid surfaces, such as Wilsonart’s Gibraltar and Earthstone, are available in a wide array of colors and patterns.

    Solid colors and smaller patterns are less expensive. Pricing depends on the design complexity, with more complex edges and backsplashes costing more.

    Prices range from $40 – $60 per square foot installed.

  • Engineered Stone

    Engineered stone is a fairly new choice in countertops offering a blend of 90% quartz and 10% resin. Silestone is one popular new type of engineered stone that offers the natural beauty of granite and is also almost completely resistant to staining.

    Engineered stone countertops are less likely to break than granite, as the material is more pliable and can be fabricated with thinner than granite.

    Prices range from $60 – $70 installed

  • Natural Stone

    There’s nothing you can put in your kitchen that quite looks, feels, or performs like granite. It is more resistant to heat and scratching than other materials and offers the beautiful, natural look of stone that is unparalleled. Granite is porous, however, so it needs to be sealed every year or so to prevent staining.

    While previously thought of as the “top of the line” and most expensive choice, granite has become more affordable due to improvements in fabricating technology. A beautiful granite countertop that will last a lifetime is just a click away.

    Prices range from $40 – $60 installed

  • Concrete

    One of the fastest growing trends in kitchen countertops today is concrete. Providing a warm, natural look; concrete fits well with the increased popularity of materials like wood, stone, and brick. The beauty of this material is also, to some extent it’s drawback. Over the life of a concrete surface it will evolve, building character as it ages.

    One benefit of concrete is its versatility in terms of shape and design. Features including integrated sinks and the ability to mix colors and ingredients make concrete the designer choice of more and more homeowners every year.

    Prices range from $50 – $80 installed.

Chrome kitchen sink faucet.

Replacing Kitchen Faucet

The last and easiest step in a kitchen upgrade is changing your kitchen faucet. Besides providing the finishing touch to your kitchen facelift, gleaming new taps with interesting features may even have your kids fighting to do the dishes.

Kitchen faucets come in a wide range of styles with features such as pull-down sprayers and motion activated sensors. There are also a wide range of finishes available, from chrome to nickel to bronze.

When choosing a new faucet for your kitchen, make sure you the style and finish go with your cabinet hardware and the overall design of your kitchen.

For tips on replacing a kitchen faucet, check out our video on How to Replace a Kitchen Faucet and our article about Installing a Kitchen Sink Faucet.


  1. HELP!!!!!

    My kitchen cabinets were not installed level and the doors are crooked so they don’t close properly due to the cabinets not being level. There basic in stock cabinets so when we tried to level the doors it just didn’t work due to the inside cabinet being particle board. Granite tops were installed on top of the unleveled cabinets. If we pull the cabinets out we will end up creacking the granite tops. we’ve lived with them for 5 years and I’m going CRAZYYYY looking at them everyday.

    Is there anything we can do to level the cabinets/doors without cracking the granite???

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you

    Unbalanced in Huntington Beach.

  2. Ouch..that’s a tough one, Lori. If the cabinets are crooked, it’s hard to remedy the situation, but here’s an old cabinetmaker’s trick I used to do. Take a chisel or a thick screwdriver, open one of the crooked doors and place the metal part of the chisel behind the hinge. Gently close the door, sandwiching the chisel blade. What you’re doing is slightly bending the hinge. Don’t overdo it, but it many cases, this will compensate for the crooked cabinets and force the door to appear straight! Of course, this only works if the hinges are not the European hidden style. Hope this helps!

  3. I’ve have just bought a most horrific 80’s unit with green laminex bench tops. can there be laminexed over or do you need to remove it first. Is this a job for the first time beginer?

  4. In the article, Give Your Kitchen a Facelift. Step 1 suggests revitalizing your old kitchen cabinets. How do you revitalize old FORMICA kitchen cabinets?

  5. I have to disagree a bit with that statement concerning laminate doors. I have painted formica countertops in a faux finish, one is still in my main bathroom and has been for two years..gets alot of use, alot of moisture, and is still holding up quite well. I sanded the gloss finish off the formica, a bit, then went for it. I had nothing to lose. i made sure to the spray an EXTERIOR clear high gloss sealer on the cured paint ( three coats) I don’t know if the same technique would work with cabinets. And I wouldnt want to ruin someones kitchen. But if you have to do something its worth a shot to do one door and see how it lasts before buying an entire kitchen? Perhaps theres other reasons I am not aware of as I am not an expert but am constantly redecorating my home and am a decorative painter. Sorry Danny I love your show and all of your ideas and don’t mean to step on any toes:)

  6. Hey Deb, I tried to paint some laminate cabinets in my laundry room with latex paint about 4 years ago. I was completely unsuccessful. Most of the paint just wiped off, and the rest I ended up cleaning off fairly easily with a cloth. That said, I didn’t do any sanding. I might have gotten decent results if I tried harder, but I only gave it a quick try.

  7. I painted my laminate cabinets. I first applied liquid sand to the cabinet, then applied a primer and then a coating of paint. They turned out very nice and are still holding up very well. (2 years later)

  8. I also painted my laminate cabinets and 5 years later they still look great! I sanded them, applied 2 coats of primer, and then 2 coast of semi-gloss paint. They look much better than they did.

  9. My cabinets were put in in 1987 new. I don’t know what type of finish they have and I need to refresh them. I was wondering if I could stain them or do I need to paint them? How do I find out what can be done to them and how?

  10. I have a 2 X 3 foot piece of silestone left over from my kitchen countertop installation. I would like to make a table top out of the 2 X 3 foot slab. The edges are rough and the stone needs to be polished. I want to do it myself. What steps do I take.


  11. You can paint laminate quite well. I use catalzyed paints (solvent base NO latex) and I use spray equipment. Wash thorough with soap and water, let dry, then wipe down with xylene (goof-off is fine). Sand 120 to scuff the surface. Prime and top coat, let cure 3 days for light use and 7-10 days for normal use.

    I have also used “melamine” paint which is just another type of catalzyed finish.

    I am a pro and use these materials all the time. You should ask the dealer you buy from how to properly use the products and safety precautions to follow.

    20 year old finish is probably shellac, varnish or lacquer. May have poly on top even added at a later date. Try wiping area with denatured alcohol, if it softens finish probably shellac. If not try acetone, if it softens and comes off it is a lacquer. Varnish and poly are harder to remove and may only just get soft after letting acetone sit for a while in a spot. (where gloves, NO open flame and open window for ventilation of vapors, these chemicals are flamable).

    You can strip, sand, refinish any of these finishes. Stain for color, clear seal coat, sand and clear top coat. You can also “refresh” existing finish with a modern wipe on poly that has color in it. Wash thoroughly and let dry overnight. Dry various wipe and/or brushing technique to get the look you like.

    A pro shop like mine will charge on average $50-$85 per door/drawer and double for oversize faces like a pantry to refinish to knew. Bodies are usually a couple grand more for the onsite work. Roughly $70-$100 per lineal foot each upper and lower. So if a 10×10 L kitchen that is 20 lineal feet on the bottom and 20 lineal feet on top for a total of 40 lineal feet.

    I also do private consultation for a fee if anyone is interested in contacting me through my website.

  12. We just bought a house that is 7 years old. The countertops in the kitchen and bathroom are a mess. They have goudges and scratches in them. Cash flow is slightly limited, so we would like to know if there is a way to give them a face-lift without replaceing them. They seem to be some sort of molded “plastic”. Any help would be appreciated.

    Diana E

  13. I have old kitchen countertops with the metal strip around the edge. It is like laminate, but more like a flooring material. It is flelxible enough to go from the countertops to make a aback splash. The cabinets sit on it, so it is going to be a big deal to replace with laminante. How about putting ceramic tile over the top of it? What would you need to do?

  14. I have formica countertops that are about 10 years old. An area next to the sink (I think because it’s gotten wet so often) is starting to fade miserably. What can I use to recondition the countertops?

  15. I painted the wooden doors and units of my kitchen cabinates a couple of years ago (big mistake, they are all chipped). I can’t afford to replace them. How can I make the best of what I have. I was thinking of stripping it off, applying a whitewash and then varnishing. Will this work? Any other suggestions?

  16. I have an older ountertop probally the same ne put n back in 1988 when house was built and it is a light blue in color deffinately outdated and funds are very limited and want to know how to give a face lift for cheap or what is my next step to making the counter top look new and updated more modern look. Cabinatesa are old too and light color stain how can they have a faace lift to make more modern as well. Walls are panted a medium brown. Any sugesstions are helpful…..Tanks!


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