Fitted kitchens first became popular during the post World War Two housing boom in the 1950s. Prior to the 1950s, kitchens didn’t have matching built-in counter and wall cabinets, but instead had individual pieces of furniture designed to provide counter and storage space. These days, depending on the area you live in, it could be hard to find a kitchen that isn’t fitted.

Retouch or redo?

If you are looking to upgrade your kitchen, the first question you have to ask yourself is whether you need to completely remodel it, or just do some cosmetic work.

If you already have a nicely designed fully fitted kitchen that suits your needs and the only problem is that it’s beginning to look a little rough around the edges, you probably don’t need to completely redo it. There are some minor changes you can make to spruce it up without breaking the bank.

Start by getting your cabinets stripped and either repainted or re-stained. If your kitchen is on the small side, you may want to go with a lighter color, or you could even replace the wood doors of the cabinets with glass and wood doors to create the illusion of more space. A good general handyman can strip and repaint or re-stain your cabinets. They generally charge from $100 to $300 per day, depending on your area. If you do replace the door of your cabinets, glass and wood doors start from about $20.

Replacing the cabinet fixtures with updated knobs and handles can also change the look of your kitchen more than you think, and for a very reasonable price. Durable elegant fixtures start from about three dollars each at the large chain retailers.

After you re-finish your cabinets, you need to take a good look at your counters. If they need to be redone, ceramic tile generally starts at around $20 per square foot, including installation. Tile can crack though, and the grout can become stained. Laminates start at only $10 per square foot installed, but they can get nicks and scratches, which are almost impossible to repair.

If you’re willing to move up a price bracket, you get a lot more choice. Engineered stone, made from a composite of quartz particles, starts at around $40 per square foot installed, and is stain, acid, and scratch resistant. Soapstone starts at about $50 per square foot installed, but while it has a lovely luxurious look, it requires more maintenance than engineered stone, and is prone to scratches and chips. Granite also starts at around $50 per square foot installed, and while it also requires maintenance, it is more durable than soapstone. It is also heat resistant. Wood starts at $50 per square foot installed also, and is easy to clean and can be re-sanded and re-sealed. However, it’s fairly easy to damage with water, and wood also stains very easily. Stainless steel counters can look quite elegant and futuristic, but they start at around $75 per square foot installed and scratch easily. They are acid, heat, stain, and oil resistant however. Marble is sometimes used as a countertop accent, but because of its price, it’s not generally used as a countertop surface.

Once you fix up your cabinets and redo your countertop, sprucing up your kitchen is just a matter of painting the walls, picking any new appliances you might need, and deciding whether or not you need to redo your floors.

If you have to start from scratch…

If you’re gutting your kitchen and redoing it as a cheap fitted kitchen, the first question you have to answer is whether you want custom cabinets or not. If you hire a carpenter to build your cabinets, you do get complete control of design and materials, but you’ll pay handsomely for it. Prebuilt cabinets can be installed in your kitchen and made to look like they were custom built for it.

Prebuilt counter and wall cabinets start at about $4000 for a 10′ x 12′ kitchen. Custom cabinets cost almost four times as much. There is a middle ground, semi-custom cabinets, which are built after you choose from specific predetermined options. They cost about $8000 for a 10′ x 12′ kitchen. Prices don’t include installation or countertops.

Once you determine what kind of cabinets you want, you can use the above guide to choose your countertop. Finishing your kitchen will still involve paint, flooring, appliances, and cabinet and light fixtures.

Modern fitted kitchens lend any home a sense of elegant organization while also offering optimal use of storage and counter space.

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