Budgeting a Kitchen Upgrade

Kitchen upgrades can increase the asking price of a house when selling. However, these upgrades can cause homeowners to spend a huge chunk of money, especially if they don’t have a plan. Creating and staying within a budget can be difficult, but it is possible with a few steps.

Homeowners should set a budget based on the increase in value they believe they can get when they sell. Spending a ridiculous amount on an upscale kitchen in a middle-class neighborhood probably won’t reap a positive return.

From there, the costs should be broken down into percentages. Labor usually makes up between 20 to 35 percent of the budget costs. Then break up the costs based on the priorities. For example, the appliances may be in decent shape, but new cupboards and countertops may be in desperate need of an upgrade. It is also recommended to set aside about 20 percent of the budget for unexpected costs such as water damage.

Homeowners should also have a plan for how they are going to go about paying for the upgrade. Many people need to borrow money to finance a kitchen upgrade and they have multiple options for doing so. They can take out a home equity loan, a personal loan, refinance, or borrow against a retirement plan. It depends on the state of their finances and what will work best for them.

One detail that can get overlooked when doing a kitchen upgrade is the cost of not having a kitchen for a period of time. Homeowners will have to eat out or rely on take-out while the kitchen is being worked on, depending on what projects they are doing. This should be worked into the main budget as well.

Don’t just set a budget and then forget about it. Keep checking purchases and quotes against it. The easiest way to do this is to put it in a spreadsheet. This will help homeowners stay on track.


New Year, New Kitchen

Organizing the home can be a fairly common New Year’s resolution, and is often needed after the holidays. If the kitchen is in a state of despair try some of these ideas to whip it back into shape.

Stash the Pots and Pans: Stacking them on top of each other means pulling out five different items when only the one on the bottom of the pile is needed. Trying installing a pot rack in an area where it could be out of the way, such as above an island. Or perhaps a pegboard on an open kitchen wall. Turning a cabinet into a pullout cabinet can be a great alternative as well. The dividers separate the pots and pans, making it convenient to get them in and out.

Tackle that Tupperware: Those plastic containers can quickly get out of control, causing an avalanche when the cabinet door opens. Separate and organize lids and containers by size and shape so they are much easier to stack. If a container is missing a lid or has become warped or badly stained, take the plunge and throw it out. Use containers to store the lids so they aren’t thrown about haphazardly and hard to find.

Spruce up the Spices: Throw away old spices and combine duplicate bottles to make more room. Organize it so the spices used less often are toward the back while the ones used more frequently are in the front.

Clear the Countertop: Appliances can take up an unnecessary amount of counter space, while hardly getting used. How often does that quesadilla press get used? What about that mini cupcake maker? If appliances do get used a decent amount, but not enough to be sitting out constantly, a nearby cupboard might be a better location. If they rarely get used, consider moving them to a basement or pantry area or even donating them. They’re just taking up valuable counter space.

Show off the China: Display pretty china or glassware on shelves or in cupboards with a glass front. This can simultaneously make the kitchen feel more open and display decorative pieces that have been hidden away. Displaying them on shelving can also make more room in the cupboards for appliances and other dishes.

Organizing the kitchen may seem like an impossible task, but once done it can bring a lot of stress relief into the home. Start the New Year with an organized and clutter free kitchen.

Save Energy in the Kitchen

The kitchen can be a major cause of the energy bill skyrocketing. There are ways to save energy, even when using the most common kitchen appliances.

To make refrigerator usage as efficient as possible, set the temperature to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, make sure there is ample space between it and other surfaces, especially the stove and oven. Keeping the freezer packed full, but leaving more space in the fridge better allows for cold air circulation.

When using the stove top, try to schedule cooking during off-peak hours. Cooking with pots that are the correct size for the burners also helps to not use excess energy.

Don’t let oven heat go to waste when baking. During the last few minutes, turn the oven off and allow the food to cook in the residual heat. Take advantage of the oven light, and check on the food through the window instead of opening the door. This will cut down drastically on energy loss. When you’re finished baking, leave the oven door open a bit to let the warm air help heat the kitchen especially during the cooler days of fall and winter. The best time to let the oven self-clean is right after cooking so the oven won’t have to reheat itself just for cleaning.

Did you know the dishwasher uses 33 percent less hot water than washing dishes by hand? Also, only running the dishwasher when it is at capacity will significantly lower the energy bill. During the cycle, turn it off before the drying cycle begins and open the door, allowing the dishes to air dry for even further energy conservation.

Organizing the Kitchen

When smaller kitchens lack a pantry, it can be a pain trying to fit cooking utensils and food into the limited amount of cupboard space available. Organizing a small space like this is crucial to getting the most out of it.

To start the process, clear everything out of the cupboards. Any pot, pan, baking dish or container that hasn’t been used in the last month or longer should be put on a top shelf or somewhere not as easily accessible. Because they don’t get used as often, having them readily available is unnecessary.

Spices can sit unused and forgotten in the cupboard for years. If the last recipe that called for a certain spice was used more than a couple years ago, it’s probably safe to throw it out. Unused spices can make it a huge mess trying to dig through the cupboard and find the right one. Spice racks can help open up cupboard space as well if there is counter space to spare.

Consolidate grains, flours and sugars if there happen to be multiple bags of each sitting around. Some of these could be put into plastic or decorative containers. This makes them easier to stack in the cupboard or display as a decoration on the counter.

Coffee cups seem to accumulate and multiply more than any other dish. If they’ve taken over more than one shelf, it might be time to cut down on the collection. Hang some of the most-used favorites on hooks as a decorative element and also an easy access point.

Plastic to-go containers are often thrown into a cupboard without care. This can make it difficult to find the right lids when you need them. Match up the containers with their lids. If a lid or container is missing from a set, get rid of it.   Then stack them by size before putting them back into the cupboard.

Decide where to put everything in relation to how it will get used. Separate items into different zones of the kitchen. In the food preparation zone, put knives, cutting boards, mixers, blenders, etc. This should be next to an open counter space, where all of the mixing and chopping will occur. Keep pots and pans in the cooking zone, next to the oven. In the dish/dishwashing zone, everyday dishes and utensils should be stored. Everything used for eating meals on a regular basis like napkins, salt and pepper shakers, serving bowls should be stored in the eating zone closest to the kitchen table.

The main idea of organizing kitchen cabinets is to bring what is most used to the forefront for accessibility. Reorganizing the whole kitchen can seem like a daunting task, but taking it step by step and having a plan of attack can help.

Kitchen Trends


Kitchens are becoming more of an artistic viewpoint. Functionality is being combined with creativity and design to create a kitchen worth marveling at. Check out these new kitchen trends and how you can incorporate them into your home.

Fewer upper cabinets creates wall space for decorative lighting such as sconces. Most sconces have adjustable arms so you can move the light directly where needed. They also come in a variety of finishes to match or make a statement in the kitchen.

Large backsplashes are another option with the upper cabinets gone. They can bring natural materials into the kitchen and become a focal point. Refinish First has a wide range of Stone Accents that can convert your backsplash and countertop from plain to eye catching.

Warmer metals are starting to replace chrome, nickel and stainless steel in the kitchen. Shades of iron and graphite are becoming more popular and can go well with that new Stone Accents backsplash.

Natural materials are coming into play this season as well. Brick, concrete and wood create an industrial, yet warm feeling. Creating open shelving with reclaimed wood can be a fun DIY project to add some rustic charm to your kitchen.

Need some ideas to get you started? Contact Refinish First. We would love to help you update your kitchen!

How to Make Stainless Steel Appliances Look Great

You have brand new refinished counters and you have decided to get the Stainless Steel appliances you have coveted for years. If they have been installed for a few weeks or months, you might be wondering about tricks to keep them looking like new. No problem. You have options.

This first suggestion is going to sound ridiculous and it sort of is, but try to use the actual handles as much as possible. All oils from hands show up on stainless, so by using the handles, you’ll save the larger spaces from getting too smudgy. However, this isn’t very practical with kids, dogs, visitors, sleep walkers and neighbors. Nothing quite like a hand covered with potato chip residue looking for something to wash down the salt and heading towards the stainless steel refrigerator. A smudge is coming.

Martha Stewart would Windex—probably the person and the appliance. This helps enhance the natural attractiveness of the stainless steel. She recommends LOTS of paper towels to remove all streaks. However, there is something wrong with having to work extra hard to remove streaks.

Unfortunately, lots of commercially produced cleaners leave stainless with a film, streaked or otherwise duller than how they appeared on the show room floor. Which might lead you to consider natural options.

Many people want to use some of their tried and true natural alternative cleaners like lemon, vinegar and baking soda. While these might work, it is important to remember that you just want to remove smudges and not the actual stainless material. Baking soda works when diluted, but can be abrasive on the finish if too concentrated. Vinegar and lemon also remove grime, but are strong acids that have corrosive properties, and need to be used with caution. While all of these are viable cleaners, they need to be used thoughtfully to reduce harm, which often means additional cleaning will be needed to ensure they are properly removed. Unfortunately, cleaning off the natural cleaner, can leave a residue.

Olive and baby oils work too. Use whatever type you prefer. Start by wiping down your appliance with a wet cloth to remove the smudges and grime, which will get you down to a workable surface. Once there, pour about one tablespoon of oil onto a dry cloth and start rubbing. The oil buffs out many scratches and leaves a nice luster. This is an easy and affordable technique that works.



This is the best time in history to buy a dishwasher. There are more options, higher efficiency, they are far quieter than previous versions and come in a wide variety of shapes, colors and finishes. Product development departments certainly have been burning the midnight oil.

Most of the time when purchasing a large appliance, the decision is influenced by price, color/finish and when and if it can be delivered. Now, you need to consider features, functionality, efficiency and form.

The number of features included in any given dishwasher comes on a list as long as what you find on a new car. This emphasizes the importance of doing your homework to compare these long lists against each other. Along with the lists that compare features, it is worth reading real human reviews that can tell you about their day to day experience. This certainly makes it easier to steer clear of the duds. Of course, make sure you base your decision on more than one review.

When it comes to areas of functionality, for anyone with sound sensitivities, most dishwashers are between 40-50 dBA. Since this has improved so much over the years, it probably will not be a huge factor when making a decision, but if this is important to you, it is nice to have a specific number which is usually provided.

If you want specific types of cycles or just like to have options, each model has its own appeal. There is no reason to buy a dishwasher with two cycles if you want 9. Likewise, if you prefer 3 racks to 2, knock yourself out.

Once you know how a unit will sound and what basic functions it performs, you can drill down to the finer details of the machine. Does it have a cancel setting? Fortunately most do. Does it do small loads? Most, but not all, so pay attention if this is important. Do you want adjustability so that you can fold everything down to clean certain large items? Or is this unimportant in the face of price or color? Some of the newer offerings include child locks, hard food processors, and variable spray pressure. Nice options.

Appliance efficiency has improved drastically over the last ten years largely because of Green Building which places an emphasis on minimizing energy use and lowering water consumption. Builders want appliances that reflect the same values as the rest of the house and don’t want appliances that hurt the building efficiency. With this in mind, low water usage and energy efficient dishwashers are everywhere. When browsing any dishwasher aisle, you will notice stickers with the estimated annual operating cost, energy usage, whether it is energy star qualified and how much water is used per cycle. The efficiency of a dishwasher is likely to play a part in your decision.

Lastly, is the appearance of the dishwasher. Not to say the other aspects are any less valuable, but at some point it becomes important to think about how the appearance of the dishwasher is going to work with all the other elements in the kitchen. Do you want it to have the same finish as the refrigerator and or oven? Or is matching not important? Do you want to try to make it as innocuous as possible or do you want it to be a focal point?

Enjoy picking out a new dishwasher.