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This article is the archived version of a report that appeared in August 2009 Consumer Reports magazine.
Four in ten Americans say they intend to spruce up their homes rather than tackle a full remodel. Here's what $1,000 will buy in a kitchen or bathroom that has a solid structure but a dated design. Costs don't include the contractor's overheads and profit margins, which can account for up to half of a remodeling budget.
Revive grubby but structurally sound cabinets with a fresh coat of paint for as little as $50 per door, less if you do the work yourself. Another option is to remove the doors of some upper cabinets and paint the interior a contrasting color for added pizzazz.
Install pull-out shelves and retractable trash bins to improve cabinet storage for another couple of hundred dollars.
A new laminate countertop can cost as little as $550 in an average-sized kitchen. Crave stone? Put it in a focal point such as an island, peninsula, or breakfast bar. Save more by purchasing remnants from a stone yard instead of a single slab.
Complement the counter with a ceramic tile backsplash, starting around $10 per square foot, installed.
Update your flooring. Several top-rated vinyl and plastic laminate products from our Ratings (available to subscribers) look sharp and cost around $8 per square foot, installed.
Replace your vanity with a pedestal sink or with a new wood model that has a stone counter. Add a new mirror and faucet. Or keep your current vanity but replace your toilet and faucet and add a new vinyl floor.
Improve lighting and ventilation with a new combination light and exhaust fan. One with a heat setting might cost a bit more but will keep you from getting chilled when you get out of the shower.
Add a set of sconces on either side of the mirror or medicine cabinet.
Update towel bars, hooks, toothbrush and toilet paper holders, and cabinet hardware. Add matching toiletry and towel shelves.
Switch your standard showerhead to one with multiple settings, including a pulsating or massage setting. See the showerhead report (available to subscribers), for models that produced the most oohs and ahhs in our tests, including one that helps save water.
Keep your towels toasty with a heated towel bar; some cost $100 or less.