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When it comes to home improvement projects, remodeling a kitchen remains one of the biggest values for dollars spent. The real estate mantra that kitchens sell a home remains true. Still, the cost to remodel a kitchen might cause sticker shock if you don't choose your updates wisely. Here's how to make large and small changes on a budget to create a beautiful and functional heart of your home.

Consider Cost-to-Value

You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that less can be more when it comes to the cost to remodel a kitchen. The 2017 national average cost-to-value figures from Remodeling Magazine show that for a minimum kitchen remodel costing $20,830, 80.2 percent of the value (or $16,699) was retained at resale. For a major kitchen remodel of $62,158, only 65.3 percent ($40,560) was retained. If you're interested in a substantial kitchen remodeling project, look into financing options that can allow you to increase the value of your home while building credit.

Give Cabinets New Life

Replacing kitchen cabinets can eat up a big chunk of your remodeling budget. If your cabinets are in good shape and you like the door style, keep them. Painting and changing the hardware on your old cabinets can make them like new.

Varnishing and painting kits make it inexpensive and easy to transform cabinets yourself. A lighter color makes the room appear larger and brighter, a bonus if there's not much natural light. If you aren't ready to go the DIY route, you can hire a professional to paint the cabinets. Hiring a pro may cost several hundred dollars, but it's still less expensive than new cabinets.

Another option is cabinet refacing, wherein a laminate or wood veneer is applied to existing cabinets. There are tutorials online, but cabinet refacing isn't for the casual DIYer. A professional cabinet refacing for a typical 10-by-12 kitchen is likely to cost between $1,000 and $3,000 for laminate, and $2,500 to $6,000 for wood veneer, according to HouseLogic.

Make Smart Backsplash Choices

A backsplash is an area of water-resistant material added behind a stove or sink. Its main purpose is to prevent liquid from damaging the walls, but it also offers an opportunity to add color to a kitchen.

White "subway" tiles remain a popular backsplash material. Priced per tile, factory-made subway tiles are the economical choice. Expect to pay much more for subway tiles that are hand cut, crackled or beveled.

If a more modern design appeals to you, peel-and-stick metal tiles are an easy choice for a budget-conscious DIY backsplash. For a more classic look, pick tin ceiling tiles. These create a durable, attractive backsplash and come in a variety of painted colors.

Save on Countertops

Professionally installed granite countertops start at around $30 a square foot. Quartz, the latest craze, often costs double. Check with wholesalers and discount retailers. You can often find heavily discounted stone slabs left over from other projects. If your countertop dimensions fit, it could mean substantial savings.

Buy Appliances Right

Energy-efficient appliances may cost more, but they will save you money on utility costs. September, October and January are the best months to purchase appliances, as manufacturers introduce new models and retailers slash prices on old inventory, according to HouseLogic. (The exception is refrigerators, whose new models hit stores in spring.) To save even more, purchase a floor model. With minor scratches or dents, floor models usually have a lower price but the same warranty as a brand new appliance out of the box.

With a budget in hand, some elbow grease and smart buying decisions, the cost to remodel a kitchen won't get you in financial hot water. Remodeling your kitchen can be a sound investment that increases the value of your home and makes it a comfier place to live.

This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

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