Forget the living room – these days, the kitchen is being considered more and more as the house’s main hub. In addition to preparing meals, everybody does something in the kitchen, be it the kids doing homework or mom and dad relaxing and catching one of their favorite TV shows.
This rapid expansion of the kitchen’s functions means that more work will have to go into it – especially now that a new year is practically upon us. From organizing to replacing fixtures, here are 8 quick ways to spruce up your kitchen for the New Year.
Get a new kitchen sink
The kitchen sink is usually the most commonly used fixture in your kitchen, so you need one that can handle whatever you and your family throw at it.
Number of basins:
With a large, one-basin sink you can easily soak and wash big pots and pans or prepare large quantities of food, while a two-basin sink lets you perform separate tasks with ease. You can choose different sizes for each basin in a two-basin sink or go for a 50/50 split. There are also three-basin sinks where the third, smaller basin is used for garbage disposal. Three-basic sinks, however, require more space than the other two.
- Stainless steel – Very durable, easy to clean, and can fit into practically any kitchen design whether traditional or modern.
- Porcelain – Available in a very wide variety of colors and adds a touch of vintage class to any kitchen, but can become chipped and scuffed.
- Granite composite – Highly resistant to chipping and scratching but may require special maintenance.
- Natural stone – Very durable and lets you match your sink exactly to you countertop but can be costly and may require special maintenance.
Once you’ve chosen a sink, there’s a wealth of accessories that you can add to further extend its functionality. You can add everything from cutting boards and knife blocks to prep bowls and colanders that fit on top of the sink to centralize all of your prep work.
Replace your kitchen faucet
Its function may be very basic – dispense water for washing – but your choice of kitchen faucet can define the overall style of your kitchen. Note that your choice of sink can have a big effect on what faucet you can use with it.
- Sink-mounted faucets require your sink to have as many mounting holes as the faucet needs. For sinks that have more holes than are required, look for faucets with escutcheon plates to cover the excess holes.
- Wall-mounted faucets make countertop cleanup a breeze, but you’ll have to make sure that the distance that the spout projects will let it work together with your sink.
- Deck-mounted faucets are installed directly on your countertop for a seamless look. The space between the faucet and the wall may accumulate with water, dust, and grime, however.
- Single-handled faucets require only one hole and often come in shapes that can easily accommodate large pots and pans. Temperature control is not as precise, however.
- Double-handled faucets usually require a minimum of three mounting holes but give you precise control over water temperature. Adjusting two separate knobs may be inconvenient when your hands are full.
- Hands-free faucets are the most cutting edge, letting you turn them on without using a knob by detecting either motion or light contact. They also come with an automatic shut-off system. You’ll still have to use a knob to adjust temperature and flow rate, though, and the sensor has batteries that need changing every once in a while.
Kitchen faucets come in a wide variety of finishes. Chrome, nickel, and stainless steel are among the most common. Try to choose hand spray and soap dispensers from the same collection to ensure that each component matches with the others.
Material-wise, faucets made of stainless steel or solid brass are highly recommended. They may cost more, but they’ll last far longer and will prove cheaper in the long run compared to inexpensive faucets with plastic parts that break easily. Also, if you decide to replace your kitchen faucet yourself, be sure to do your research!
Replace your cabinets’ knobs and pulls
This may sound easy, but the sheer variety of knobs and pulls available in the market can become overwhelming. Here’s what you need to remember.
- Try to match your cabinet knobs and pulls with your faucet’s finish and style, but don’t forget to consider ease of use as well.
- Knobs are usually cheaper than pulls, but they can be more inconvenient for elderly people since they rely on finger strength and can’t be gripped as firmly as pulls or handles.
- The smaller the knob, the harder you’ll have to grasp it to open a large, heavy drawer. Use bigger knobs for bigger drawers.
- You can get a much firmer grip with pulls, but be wary of designs with end extensions that can catch on clothing.
- For a wide drawer, consider installing two knobs or pulls. One wide bar pull will also work nicely.
- Specialty showrooms may have higher prices, but you get expert help and a wider assortment to choose from in exchange.
Clean and organize everything
- Day 1: Appliances. Don’t just clear out old stuff from your fridge, spend time cleaning everything from the grease on your stovetop to the space between your fridge’s coils and the wall behind it.
- Day 2: Kitchen drawers and rta kitchen cabinets. Get rid of broken items or things that you never use. Remember to be honest with yourself here! Put the things you most often use in prime locations (knives near your food prep area, etc.).
- Day 3: Pantry. Throw away expired items and set aside those that you know will not be used. Sort everything else according to when you use them (breakfast items in one shelf, etc).
- Day 4: Sink, drain, and garbage and recycling cans. You can clean the drain by pouring white vinegar down the drain, letting it sit for 10 minutes, then rinsing with boiling water.
- Day 5: Counters and open shelves. Organize and clean them the same way you did the drawers and cabinets. Pay special attention to corners.
- Day 6: Windows, walls, ceiling, and floors. Almost done! Start cleaning from the ceiling, to the walls, and then finally the floor. Get window treatments and any rugs laundered or, at the very least, vacuumed.
- Day 7: Finish up and plan for the next cleaning session. Get rid of any clutter left and note which areas gave you the most trouble over the past week.
Clean tile grout
This is one of the trickiest kitchen cleaning jobs ever. Unsealed grout is porous, so any liquids spilled on them tends to be soaked right up, leading to unseemly stains and a gross-looking kitchen. Use these tips to make the job easier.
- If the grout isn’t too dirty, warm water and a stiff-bristled brush will suffice. Just spray warm water on the grout lines, scrub them in a circular motion, and let the grout dry.
- For tougher dirt and mild stains, vinegar is your best friend. Use a half-and-half solution of warm water and vinegar instead of plain water.
- Covering the grout with a paste of baking soda and water before you spray on the vinegar solution will deal with even harder-to-clean stains. Wait until the mixture stops foaming then scrub with a brush and rinse with plain water.
- For actual cleaning products, hydrogen peroxide, oxygen bleach, and chlorine bleach will handle tougher and tougher stains. Chlorine bleach should be used only in extreme cases, though, as it can actually damage grout. Steam cleaners will also do the job and are eco-friendly to boot.
- Once you’re done cleaning, remember to spray the grout with vinegar and wipe it down once a week to keep it stain-free.
Get new utensils and cookware
If we listed every item you could buy for your kitchen, this blog post would end up as long as the Twilight trilogy. So instead, we’re just listing the absolute essentials that every kitchen must have.
- Chef’s knife
- Cutting board
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Mixing bowls
- Kitchen scale
- Colander, strainer, and sieve
- Salt and pepper mills
- Cast-iron skillet
- Slow cooker
- Roasting pan
- All-purpose pot
- Oven- and microwave-safe containers
You may also want to keep Pantone’s Color of the Year, Marsala, in mind when choosing new utensils and cookware.
Install a new backsplash
- Tile spacers to keep tiles straight and even on the wall
- Adhesive (use white adhesive for glass and thinset for everything else)
- Notched trowel and small-margin trowel for applying adhesive
- Grout (a premixed sealed grout will be easier to keep clean), grout sponge, and grout trowel
- Silicone caulk
- Scoring knife for cutting tile. Get a professional to cut larger tiles that require a wet saw.
- Tape measure and speed square
Before buying tile, measure the square footage of your backsplash and add 20 percent to it. That’s how much tile you’ll need, accounting for mistakes and breakage. Decide what kind of pattern, color, and tile you want, too.
When you have everything you need, follow these steps:
- Prep your kitchen. Turn off the circuit breaker, remove electrical wall plates, and pull switches and outlets out of the wall. Don’t disconnect any of the wires, though!
- Pick a starting point. The center of the sink is a great place to start; since you’re starting at the center, it’s easier to make sure that the whole pattern ends up being symmetrical.
- Apply adhesive in an outwards direction from the center starting point. Make sure you check how much time it takes for the adhesive to set. You don’t want to apply too much that just ends up drying before you actually install the tiles!
- Install the tiles. Beginning from your center line, press the tile up firmly against the wall and hold it in place until the adhesive is fully cured. Plan ahead for any cuts that need to be done. It’s always best to cover the cut edge of a tile and leave the factory edge exposed. Remember to use the tile spacers to keep everything even and in place.
- Remove any remaining adhesive in the grout lines. Leave the tiles in place for 16 to 24 hours before applying grout.
- Remove the spacers and give the tiles a quick and thorough cleaning to get rid of any dried adhesive on the tile face. Work the grout in at an angle and clean off any excess grout with a sponge.
- Apply silicone caulk to the bottom edge of the tile to keep water from getting behind the backsplash. Let everything dry for 24 hours before you reinstall all your electrical outlets and switches.
Use your backsplash for storage
A backsplash isn’t just there to make your kitchen look pretty – it’s also prime storage real estate. Open shelving, a hanging bar, or even a magnetic strip can free up your workspace, let you access commonly-used items faster, and clear up more space on your counter and in your cabinets.
Here are a few ideas on how to add storage solutions to your kitchen backsplash.
- Your storage accessories can be mounted on pretty much any backsplash material, from drywall, plaster, and wood to sheet metal, stone, and tile. Note, however, that you’ll need a specialized drill bit for wood, metal, and tile.
- Don’t drill on tempered glass. It’s specially made so that it breaks into tiny pieces. If you have a glass backsplash, check for a manufacturer’s mark in the corner to see if it’s tempered glass. If you really want to add a few storage solutions to a tempered glass backsplash, you’ll have to get the holes drilled into the glass before it’s tempered.
- If you want to avoid drilling into your backsplash as much as possible, there storage solutions that can be glued to the wall. The adhesives used in these accessories are pretty strong, so make sure you install them in the spot that you want.
- When installing hanging bars and magnets, make sure that you don’t end up obstructing any electrical outlets when you hang whatever you want on them. Install them a few inches under your overhead cabinets for efficient use of space.
- Open shelving is easy to install, but they work best when installed on a backsplash wall with no overhead cabinets. Make sure to anchor them securely to the wall; using a stud finder to find spots for better anchoring is highly recommended.
Other storage options for a backsplash wall include wine racks, recessed shelving, and magnetic knife holders. With a bit of creativity and ingenuity, the possibilities are practically endless.