a kitchen with marble island and wooden cabinets from mykitchencabinets

Budget-Friendly Updates for Outdated Kitchen Cabinets

Budget-Friendly Updates for Outdated Kitchen Cabinets


In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore budget-friendly updates for outdated kitchen cabinets. Whether you’re looking to refresh your kitchen’s look or enhance its functionality, there are several cost-effective ways to breathe new life into your dated cabinets. We’ll address the top 10 questions people commonly have about this topic to help you make informed decisions and transform your kitchen on a budget.


1. How can I repaint my kitchen cabinets on a budget?

Repainting your kitchen cabinets is an excellent budget-friendly option to revamp their appearance. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started:

  1. Prepare the Cabinets: Remove cabinet doors and hardware, clean the surfaces, and sand them to create a smooth canvas for painting.
  2. Choose the Right Paint: Opt for high-quality, durable paint that can withstand kitchen wear and tear. Consider water-based paints for easy cleanup.
  3. Prime the Cabinets: Apply a primer to ensure the paint adheres well and provides a consistent finish.
  4. Paint with Care: Use a brush or roller to apply the paint in thin, even coats. Multiple thin coats are better than one thick coat.
  5. Let Them Dry: Allow the cabinets to dry completely between coats. Patience ensures a professional-looking finish.
  6. Reassemble and Enjoy: Once the paint is dry, reattach the cabinet doors and hardware, and your refreshed cabinets are ready to shine.

2. What are some affordable hardware updates for kitchen cabinets?

Updating cabinet hardware can make a significant difference in your kitchen’s look. Here are some budget-friendly options:

  • Spray Paint Existing Hardware: If your hardware is in good condition but the wrong color, consider spray painting it to match your new color scheme.
  • Shop Sales and Clearance: Look for discounted cabinet knobs, pulls, and handles at hardware stores or online during sales events.
  • Reposition Hardware: Sometimes, simply changing the placement of hardware can give cabinets a fresh look. Experiment with different positions before drilling new holes.
  • DIY Hardware: Get creative and make your own cabinet hardware using materials like rope, leather strips, or wooden dowels. Pinterest is a great source of inspiration for unique designs.
  • Upcycle Vintage Finds: Scour thrift stores and flea markets for vintage knobs and pulls that can add character to your cabinets at a fraction of the cost of new hardware.
  • Consider Open Shelving: Remove cabinet doors altogether and convert cabinets to open shelving, eliminating the need for hardware and creating an open, airy feel.

3. How can I update my cabinet doors without replacing them?

Updating cabinet doors is an excellent way to give your kitchen a fresh look without the expense of completely replacing them. Here are some cost-effective options:

  • Add Decorative Molding: Apply molding strips to cabinet doors to create a stylish, raised-panel effect. Paint the doors for a polished finish.
  • Replace Inserts: If your cabinet doors have inserts like glass or metal grilles, consider replacing them with decorative materials like patterned fabric or beadboard.
  • Refacing: Apply wood veneer or laminate to the cabinet fronts to change their appearance without replacing the entire door.
  • Remove Center Panels: For a modern twist, remove the center panel from cabinet doors and replace it with glass or a decorative mesh for an open, airy look.
  • Recolor with Gel Stain: Use gel stain to give your cabinet doors a wood-like finish. This can be a cost-effective way to achieve a different style.
  • Add Trim and Paint: Apply trim around the edges of the cabinet doors to create a custom look. Paint the doors in a fresh color to complete the transformation.
  • Rejuvenate with Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper: Cover cabinet doors with peel-and-stick wallpaper for a quick and affordable update that adds texture and pattern.

4. What are some affordable options for open shelving in the kitchen?

Open shelving can provide an updated and open feel to your kitchen while being budget-friendly. Here are some options to consider:

  • Remove Cabinet Doors: The simplest way to create open shelving is to remove the doors from existing cabinets. This instantly opens up your kitchen and allows you to showcase your dishes and décor.
  • Floating Shelves: Install floating shelves on empty wall space. You can buy pre-made shelves or make your own from reclaimed wood for a rustic touch.
  • Repurpose Old Furniture: Convert an old bookcase, ladder, or hutch into open shelving units. A fresh coat of paint can make them fit seamlessly into your kitchen.
  • Use Brackets and Boards: Purchase decorative brackets and wooden boards from a hardware store. Mount the brackets on the wall and place the boards on top to create custom open shelving.
  • DIY Pipe Shelving: Industrial-style pipe shelving is trendy and cost-effective. You can assemble the pipes and boards yourself, customizing the size and layout.
  • Open Cabinets with Curtains: Instead of doors, hang curtains on a tension rod in front of your cabinets. Choose fabric that complements your kitchen’s style.
  • Floating Cabinets: Create the illusion of floating cabinets by mounting cabinets slightly above the countertop. This gives a contemporary look and adds storage.

5. How can I enhance the storage in my kitchen cabinets?

Improving cabinet storage can make your kitchen more functional without a major renovation. Here are some budget-friendly ideas:

  • Add Pull-Out Shelves: Install pull-out shelves in lower cabinets. These make it easier to access items in the back and utilize the full depth of the cabinet.
  • Use Drawer Organizers: Invest in drawer organizers for utensils, cutlery, and kitchen tools. This keeps everything neatly separated and easily accessible.
  • Install Door-Mounted Racks: Utilize the inside of cabinet doors with door-mounted racks for spices, cutting boards, or cleaning supplies.
  • Stackable Bins and Trays: Use stackable bins or trays inside cabinets to create layers of storage, making the most of vertical space.
  • Rolling Carts: Incorporate rolling carts with shelves or drawers for additional storage and mobility. These can be tucked away when not in use.
  • Pegboard Inserts: Install pegboard inserts in drawers for customizable organization of pots, pans, and lids.
  • Tension Rod Dividers: Use tension rods vertically in cabinets to create adjustable dividers for baking sheets, cutting boards, and platters.
  • Lazy Susans: Place lazy Susans in corner cabinets to access items without digging into the depths of the cabinet.

6. What are some eco-friendly options for cabinet updates?

If you’re looking to update your kitchen cabinets while being environmentally conscious, there are several eco-friendly options to consider:

  • Refinishing Instead of Replacing: Instead of disposing of old cabinets, consider refinishing them with non-toxic, low-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints and finishes.
  • Reclaimed Wood: Use reclaimed or salvaged wood for cabinet doors or open shelving. This not only reduces waste but also adds character to your kitchen.
  • Bamboo Cabinets: Bamboo is a sustainable and fast-growing material. Look for bamboo cabinet options for an eco-friendly choice.
  • Recycled Glass Inserts: Consider cabinet doors with recycled glass inserts. This adds a unique touch and repurposes materials.
  • Energy-Efficient Lighting: When updating cabinet lighting, opt for LED fixtures. LEDs are energy-efficient and have a longer lifespan than traditional bulbs.
  • Upcycled Hardware: Instead of buying new cabinet hardware, repurpose old items or shop for vintage pieces, reducing the demand for new materials.
  • Low-Impact Countertops: Choose countertops made from sustainable materials like bamboo, recycled glass, or concrete for an eco-friendly kitchen update.

7. Can I update my kitchen cabinets without sanding?

Yes, you can update your kitchen cabinets without sanding, but it requires the right approach. Here are some alternatives to sanding:

  • Degrease and Clean: Start by thoroughly cleaning your cabinets to remove grease and grime. Use a degreaser and a scrubbing pad.
  • Liquid Sander Deglosser: A liquid sander deglosser can help paint adhere to the cabinets without traditional sanding. Follow the product instructions carefully.
  • Choose the Right Primer: Use a high-quality bonding primer designed for your cabinet material. This enhances adhesion and eliminates the need for sanding.
  • Apply Chalk Paint: Chalk paint is known for its ability to adhere to various surfaces without sanding. It creates a matte, distressed finish that’s popular in farmhouse-style kitchens.
  • Consider Cabinet Wraps: Cabinet wraps are adhesive vinyl coverings that can be applied directly to the cabinet surfaces. They come in various colors and patterns.
  • Professional Cabinet Refinishing: If you’re not comfortable with DIY methods, consider hiring a professional cabinet refinishing service that specializes in sanding-free techniques.

8. How can I make my kitchen cabinets look more modern on a budget?

Giving your kitchen cabinets a modern look doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are some budget-friendly ideas:

  • Two-Tone Cabinets: Paint the upper and lower cabinets in different colors to create a trendy two-tone effect. This adds visual interest and depth to your kitchen.
  • Minimalistic Hardware: Opt for sleek, minimalistic hardware in a matte black or brushed nickel finish. These small changes can make a big impact.
  • Open Shelving: As mentioned earlier, open shelving is a modern and budget-friendly choice. Remove a few upper cabinet doors to incorporate this style.
  • Replace Cabinet Fronts: If you can’t afford to replace all your cabinets, consider replacing just the cabinet fronts with modern, flat-panel doors or even glass inserts.
  • Upgrade Lighting: Modernize your kitchen with contemporary light fixtures. Pendant lights over the island or under-cabinet LED lighting can give your space a fresh look.
  • Add a Backsplash: Installing a stylish backsplash can instantly update the look of your kitchen. Subway tiles or peel-and-stick backsplash options are budget-friendly choices.
  • Matte Finishes: Consider matte finishes for cabinet paint. They have a sleek, contemporary appearance and are less likely to show smudges and fingerprints.
  • Remove Excess Decor: Modern kitchens often have clean lines and minimal clutter. Remove excess décor items and keep your kitchen surfaces sleek and clutter-free.
  • Handleless Cabinets: If you’re replacing cabinet doors, consider handleless designs or cabinets with integrated handles for a modern, seamless look.
  • Modernize Appliances: While not strictly a cabinet update, upgrading your appliances to sleek, stainless steel models can enhance the overall modern feel of your kitchen.

9. How can I update my cabinets with limited DIY skills?

Even with limited DIY skills, you can still update your cabinets. Here are some beginner-friendly ideas:

  • Painting: As discussed earlier, painting cabinets is a relatively simple DIY project that can make a big impact. Just follow the steps carefully.
  • Stick-On Backsplash: Choose peel-and-stick backsplash tiles for an easy and affordable way to add a pop of color and pattern to your kitchen.
  • Replace Cabinet Hardware: Swapping out cabinet knobs and pulls requires minimal skill and tools. It’s a quick and effective update.
  • Decals and Stickers: You can find cabinet decals and stickers that mimic the look of wood grain, marble, or other finishes. Simply apply them to your cabinet fronts for an instant makeover.
  • Contact Paper: Use adhesive contact paper to cover cabinet interiors or the back of glass-fronted cabinets for a fresh look.
  • Open Shelving: If you can handle a drill, installing floating shelves or brackets for open shelving is a straightforward project.
  • Organizational Inserts: Purchase organizational inserts and accessories to maximize storage efficiency within your cabinets without major DIY work.

10. Are there cost-effective ways to make kitchen cabinets more functional?

Absolutely! Enhancing the functionality of your kitchen cabinets doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are some cost-effective ideas:

  • Roll-Out Trays: Install roll-out trays or shelves inside cabinets to easily access items stored in the back.
  • Drawer Dividers: Use drawer dividers to keep utensils, cutlery, and kitchen tools neatly organized.
  • Pull-Out Spice Racks: Incorporate pull-out spice racks inside cabinets or near the stove for quick access to spices and seasonings.
  • Lazy Susans: As mentioned earlier, lazy Susans in corner cabinets provide easy access to items that would otherwise be hard to reach.
  • Pegboard Inserts: Install pegboard inserts inside drawers for customizable storage of pots, pans, and lids.
  • Under-Cabinet Lighting: Add under-cabinet LED lighting to brighten workspaces and make it easier to find items in your cabinets.
  • Magnetic Strips: Mount magnetic strips on the inside of cabinet doors to store knives, utensils, or spice containers.
  • Tension Rod Dividers: Use tension rods vertically in cabinets to create adjustable dividers for bakeware, cutting boards, and platters.
  • Trash and Recycling Center: Dedicate a cabinet for a pull-out trash and recycling center to keep your kitchen tidy and efficient.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ve covered various budget-friendly ways to update and enhance your outdated kitchen cabinets. Whether you’re looking to refresh the appearance, improve storage, or increase functionality, there’s an option that suits your needs and DIY skills. With these ideas, you can transform your kitchen without breaking the bank, creating a space that’s both stylish and functional.


In this extensive guide, we’ve delved into the world of budget-friendly updates for outdated kitchen cabinets. Kitchens are the heart of the home, and giving your cabinets a fresh look or improving their functionality doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor. We’ve addressed the top 10 questions people commonly have on this topic, providing you with a wealth of ideas and insights.

From repainting cabinets to upgrading hardware, enhancing storage, and making eco-conscious choices, there are numerous ways to breathe new life into your kitchen without draining your wallet. We’ve explored options for achieving a modern look, even if you’re not a DIY pro, and discussed practical solutions for increasing the functionality of your cabinets.

Remember, your kitchen should not only be a functional space but also a reflection of your style and personality. With the tips and techniques outlined in this guide, you can embark on your cabinet update project with confidence. Whether you choose to tackle it all at once or gradually make changes, the result will be a kitchen that feels fresh, inviting, and tailored to your needs, all while staying within your budget. Happy renovating!

Read: How to Give Your Kitchen Cabinets a New Look for Less

Read: Refresh Your Kitchen Cabinets on a Tight Budget

Shopping Cart