32 Easy Kitchen Upgrades
This collection of step-by-step guides will help transform your kitchen into tip-top shape
If you're going for homey and cozy in your kitchen, skip the built-in cabinet-base island and opt for a butcher-block counter instead. These thick wood-slab tops resist warping and nicks better than laminate and almost as well as stone. They're perfect for toning down the coldness of stone counters and metal appliances in modern cook spaces. Plus, you can construct a 19th-century worktable-style prep island from easy-to-buy materials.
See a step-by-step on How to Build a Butcher-Block Island.
Back in the Victorian era, the cook's room was a faraway place with exposed pipes. One way to evoke that look—sans steam heat—is to put your pipes on display with a copper pot rack. A custom-sized rack is ready in just a few hours with everyday plumbing parts. Push-together tees and elbows take away the need for messy soldering, and brass polish make the copper shine like a new penny.
Get the instructions in How to Make a Pot Rack from Copper Pipe.
Think installing a traditional tile backsplash feels a little out of your DIY league? Putting up one made from a single sheet of inexpensive solid surface material—available in a range of colors and patterns—may just be your saving grace.
Find out how to do it in How to Install a Solid-Surface Backsplash.
A kitchen makeover doesn't necessarily mean replacing those gloomy boxes with all-new cabinets. As long as the frames and doors are structurally sound, you can clean them up with some strong cleaner and brush on some new paint‚ and within a weekend take that kitchen from dreary to sunny. This transformation will brighten up your kitchen without significantly lightening your wallet.
Get all the tips and tricks in How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets.
A shiny new sink, along with a new faucet and countertop, will jazz up a kitchen as much as new flooring and appliances, and for considerably less money. These days, it isn't that difficult to install a new sink and faucet, thanks to fittings that simply screw or glue together‚ often without solder or torches.
Get pro instruction at How to Install a Kitchen Sink.
Because of their strength and enduring style, many vintage iron window guards still adorn homes and beautify city streetscapes today. But for those that have found their way to salvage yards as a result of a remodel or demolition, there are myriad other ways to use them inside the house. Read on to learn how to boost storage in your cook space with a guard-turned-pot rack.
Get the plan at How to Make a Pot Rack From a Vintage Window Guard.
A stiff-necked kitchen faucet with a little swivel head monopolizes the back of your sink. But, a single sleek arm protruding from the sink is in style and requires one hand to perform all functions. Like most faucets, pull-downs are a snap to install. Simply twist a few fittings to bring your kitchen one step closer to the modern world.
See the step-by-step in How to Install a Pull-Down Faucet.
Instead of spending, say, $5,000 on new cabinets, save some serious cash and reface the ones you have for under $1,000. It's amazing what a little veneer and some new doors can do to brighten an aging space. Both are available through woodworking companies, and some manufactures offer peel-and-stick veneer to make the task simpler.
See how it's done at How to Reface Kitchen Cabinets.
Here's a clever way to add crown to cabinets: Mount the molding on a frame and install it as a single unit. A lot of upper kitchen cabinets these days don't have enough material above the doors on which to mount crown molding. To get around that shortcoming, you can build a hardwood frame that sits on top of the cabinets and use it as a base for fastening the crown.
See a step-by-step for How to Install Kitchen Cabinet Crown Molding
The age of your dishwasher is starting to show, especially in your electric and water bills. Time to switch it out for a new Energy Star-qualified dishwasher, which can save you more than $30 a year on power and almost 500 gallons of water. Watch even less of your hard-earned money go down the drain by installing one yourself in an afternoon. No plumber, no electrician—and no worries that you're squandering your retirement money on a load of clean dishes.
See the step-by-step process at How to Install a Dishwasher.
Make the most of your kitchen's existing storage space by installing a pull-out shelf in one—or all—of the base cabinets. The shelf resembles a shallow drawer that glides out for easy access to items stored in the back of the cabinet. If you've never attempted a woodworking project as seemingly complex as this one, don't worry. This project is a simplified, straightforward design that can be easily constructed with ordinary tools.
Watch how TOH master carpenter Norm Abram installs one at How to Install a Pull-Out Kitchen Shelf.
Soapstone doesn't have an all-too-often lofty price tag for the average renovation budget like granite or engineered stone. The traditional kitchen topper is a great, inexpensive DIY project—it starts at less than $25 per square foot—with room to also save big on labor. It's soft enough to machine with tools you already have and installation takes just an afternoon or two.
See step-by-step How to Install a Soapstone Countertop.
Besides its obvious utility in a bathroom, a vintage medicine cabinet can double as a kitchen spice rack or a curio cabinet. But you can also use one to hold keys and letters, or daily reminders to the babysitter. Chalkboard paint, cork, and hooks turn this little cabinet into the perfect one-stop family communication base.
Follow detailed instructions at How to Turn a Medicine Cabinet Into a Message Center.
An easy update to your existing cabinet doors are adjustable, disguised hinges. Concealed hinges can go in face-frame or frameless cabinets and on any door type—including full overlay, partial overlay, or inset—as long as the doors are at least ½ inch thick. The hinges shown here are for frameless cabinets with inset doors. To find the hinge that will work with your door type, consult the hinge company's online brochures and customer service line.
See a step-by-step for How to Install Concealed Euro-Style Cabinet Hinges
A stubborn drip-drip-drip can easily go ignored, that is, until a do-it-yourselfer cranks the handle so hard that they risk tearing a rubber washer or cracking something and making the leak worse. But, a homeowner with a little wherewithal should be able to finish simple repairs in half an hour. Read on to help keep your sink pristine, and spare yourself the Chinese water torture.
Find out how best to make this fix at How to Repair a Dripping Single-Handled Faucet.
There's a missing element in most American kitchens, good lighting. And a well-lit kitchen begins with undercabinet task lighting. These hidden fixtures, which are fairly easy to retrofit beneath upper wall cabinets, bathe the countertop in bright white light—a boon for everything from dicing veggies to reading recipes. Installation is simple and shock-free, as long as you follow the steps, and cut the juice at the breaker box first.
See the best way to put in lights at How to Install Undercabinet Lighting.
Most people will try to ignore droplets from a two-handled laundry-room faucet out of fear. But that's a tide that can easily be stemmed with the correct tools, know-how and half an hour.
Get detailed instruction at How to Repair a Dripping Two-Handled Stem Faucet.
Greasy splatters and messy spills present no challenge to a backsplash made of tile, one of the easiest-to-clean materials for the stain-prone spot behind a range or sink. And the subtle color variations of translucent glass mosaic tile offer a rich look that makes this area a real eye-catcher in your kitchen. Tiles are simple to install and will fit around cabinets and counters with few cuts. Even better, grouting the tile with a new urethane-based, nonporous product means you won't need to apply sealant to keep your backsplash looking spiffy.
Follow the step-by-step process at How to Install a Glass Mosaic Tile Backsplash.
Bottled water is one sure way to calm your concerns over the purity or taste of tap water. However, installing an under-sink water-filtration system is a less-expensive solution. If you're new to plumbing, don't worry. The system's two components, a plastic filter and compact gooseneck faucet, are easy to install for novices.
Find guidance from TOH plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey at How to Install a Water Filter.
The goal in hanging cabinets is to take a collection of boxes and bring them together to make a beautiful piece of built-in furniture. The basic installation sequence is straightforward: You want to get everything straight, plumb, and level. But more often than not, the room itself lacks those attributes. Read on for steps to help guarantee straightforward installation.
Find out the best way to install cabinets, according to TOH general contractor Tom Silva, at How to Hang Kitchen Cabinets.
Enter any attractive, well-designed kitchen and your attention—not surprisingly—will likely be drawn to the finely crafted wood cabinetry or gleaming appliances. You'll probably not even notice the kitchen's backsplash area, that innocuous sliver of wall running between the countertop and upper wall cabinets. A glazed ceramic tile backsplash adds visual interest and is an easy-to-clean surface that greatly enhances the overall look and functionality of the kitchen.
See step-by-step instructions at How to Install a Tile Backsplash.
Tending to spills right away and always using coasters is much easier than mixing up a poultice to wick stains from kitchen countertops later. But, Fred M. Hueston, director of the National Training Center for Stone and Masonry Trades, in Longwood, Florida, has a recipe for that. Concoctions vary by type of stain and countertop stone, so read on to soak up a little bit of Hueston's magic at How to Remove Spots from Kitchen Countertops.
Dramatically boost the charm and functionality of your kitchen with the addition of an open plate rack. It mounts to the wall, leaving counters uncluttered, and gets your dishes out in the open—easy to grab and hard not to admire.
See a step-by-step for How to Build a Plate Rack
Kitchens are where everyone gathers, mingles, and lingers during parties. But to achieve that kind of appeal outside means expanding your outdoor living space. To draw a crowd—and keep them entertained—requires a bit more than plopping down a table and a few plastic chairs. A basic island is an efficient design that leaves out the complexity of curves and angles. Guests can relax on one side while you're cooking on the other, so you feel as though you're part of the gathering.
Find out how to take the kitchen outside in How to Build an Outdoor Kitchen.
Call it a Kitchen addition on Wheels. If you're hankering for a bit more elbow room to prepare meals, this rolling island lets you make the most of the floor plan you already have. Generous sections of butcher-block countertop give you plenty of easy-to-clean culinary workspace up top and lots of storage space—including room for hanging pots—down below. The sturdy frame, made of sections of gas pipe, gives it an industrial flair, and the casters make it easy to move.
See a step-by-step for How to Build a Butcher-Block Island
Cozy things up with a rich-looking butcher block. Not only are its well-oiled tones welcoming, it's easy to install. Just order it to size, and then fasten it down. In hours you can turn a chilly steel-and-stone room into a charming cook's corner.
Get tips and tricks for a perfect installation at How to Install a Butcher-Block Countertop.
By swapping a recessed can for a pendant, you can elegantly bring task lighting down from ceiling height to where it's needed. In this case, just above a kitchen sink.
See step-by-step instructions at How to Hang a Pendant Light.
Resilient yet durable, stylish yet earthy, a natural cork floor can turn any cool room into a cozy haven. Cork is also a lot easier to install than traditional wood flooring. Floating-floor systems sit well over plywood, concrete, or even existing flooring. In one afternoon you can turn a kitchen or playroom floor into a comfortable mat where your toes can roam free without fear of the big chill.
Find out how in How to Lay a Cork Floor.
If you like the textured look of herringbone, see what a paint comb can do. Drawing a comb through wet colored glaze gave this plain laminate table an almost three-dimensional look. Once you get handy with the technique, you can experiment with waves, zigzags, and crosshatches and on other surfaces, from walls to flower pots.
Find easy-to-follow instructions at How to Create a Herringbone-Pattern Tabletop.
Dishware, serving pieces, table linens—a sideboard packs a whole lot of storage space into a relatively small footprint, making it a handy addition to any household. A sturdy, high-quality one can leave a thousand-dollar dent in your finances, but you can enhance a few stock kitchen base cabinets with molding, furniture feet, and knobs to produce a handcrafted piece for a fraction of the cost of buying one ready-made.
Get detailed plans and instruction at How to Build a Sideboard from Stock Cabinets.
This classic cabinet became popular in the mid-1800s, when heartland homesteaders, far from town centers, needed a handy spot to stockpile preserves. Sometimes you'll see more ornate, antique versions in oak or cherry, but most are painted pine, like this handsome example. If you want to build one, we recommend working with edge-glued panels. They give you enough width to get the face frame and door out of a single piece, and, unlike plywood, the cut edges are smooth and feel finished when painted.
See a step-by-step for How to Build a Jelly Cupboard
When the guests start arriving, fold down the cabinet door to create a neat and sturdy work surface. Made of naturally rot-resistant cedar, it also happens to be safe for food handling. You'll need to use a router and a doweling jig to build the door, with its inset slats, but don't sweat.
See a step-by-step for How to Build a Fold-Down Murphy Bar