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How to Refurbish your Kitchen without spending lots of money

There seems to be a craze these days for refurbishing kitchens.  Generally this means scrapping the old kitchen and buying a completely new layout.  It wasn't like this in my youth. 

In the old days people saw a kitchen merely as a room with cupboards, work surfaces, a sink, an oven and a fridge.  Not much else to say about it, unless you were rich, in which case you might also have had a dish washer. 

The kitchen was where your mother cooked your dinner.  You then all met up in the dining room, sat down around the table, someone said Grace, and then everyone tucked in.  Afterwards it was a just a case of deciding who was going back to the kitchen to wash the dishes and clean up.  The rest of the family progressed to the sitting room and watched what ever was on the TV (there only being one TV channel in those days).

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Today it has all changed.  Dining rooms are a lot less common and even sitting rooms are starting to disappear.  In new houses we now have kitchen/diner/sitting rooms, all combined as one large room.  Lots of people now also have a dish washer.  For most people, the kitchen/diner/sitting room has become the main communal area in the family home and a place to entertain guests. 

Every proud house owner wants their kitchen to look smart and in many households they decide to scrap the old kitchen and replace it with something completely new.  Over the years I have watched all my neighbours, one by one, succumb to this new craze.  One day I see a skip arrive and shortly afterwards a white van parks on their drive.  There is intense activity for a few days as various workmen come and go (and work ladies).  The skip is quickly filled up with lots of broken up sheets of white chipboard and a pile of cupboard doors.  Then after a few more days the skip is taken away and the project is all complete. 

Refurbishing your kitchen
Refurbishing your kitchen

Our kitchen was 25 years old and my wife decided we would need to refurbish.  This was a delicate situation!  I am not keen on scrapping lots of stuff that still has life in it.  I am very conscious that we should not be wasting the world's resources and creating more land fill.  In addition, I don't like giving away lots of money unnecessarily.  After a bit of careful negotiation, and a degree of good luck, my wife decided that I could give our kitchen a make over, to make it last a bit longer before we scrap it and buy a new one.

I should not really criticise people who do change their kitchens.  Some people have kitchens that were never well designed, not well built and after a few years things do deteriorate.  In some cases I do accept that it is best to replace the lot.

However, our kitchen was very well built in 1990.  The insides of all the cupboards are made of the usual white covered chip board but the panelled cupboard doors are all made of natural oak and are rock solid.  All the handles are still in place, none of them have ever broken off.  The floor is tiled and although it has a few small chips here and there, it still looks the same as when we first saw it back in 1990.  The work surfaces are also tiled.  I have seen kitchens where over time the grouting has started to come loose, tiles start to fall off, and everything looks a mess.  In our case the grouting has all stood the test of time and all the surfaces look fine.

Rewaxed kitchen cabinets
Rewaxed kitchen cabinets

No work was required on the floor or on the table top work surfaces.  The cupboard doors just needed to be rewaxed and the walls and ceiling needed a new coat of white paint.  So I bought a can of special limed wax (£10) and set to it.  I tackled one cupboard at a time, emptying out all the contents and giving it a good clean.  I then removed each oak door, took the handle off and then set to rewaxing the oak panels with wire wool and a few rags.  This was quite involved and took approx 20 minutes for each door before I could do a final buff to bring up a shiny clean surface.  After that I put the handles back on and then remounted each door.  All very labour intensive but good exercise.

Next job was to repaint the walls and the ceiling.  This was fairly easy.  I gave it all a good wash, then applied masking tape here and there.  After that, two coats of paint (£15) and it was all done. 

We now have a kitchen that looks brand new.  The total cost of refurbishment was £25.  My wife is now very happy and hopefully there won't be any talk in the next few years about renewing our kitchen.

Kitchen improvement on a budget
Kitchen improvement on a budget