A kitchen isn't just a place to cook -- it also can be a decorative mix of various building materials

On average, Americans who are remodeling their kitchen spend about 16 percent of their budget on labor; the rest is spent on materials. And what awesome materials they are -- they're beautiful, practical, durable, and environmentally responsible.

Exciting advances at every budget level are available for today's kitchens, so the sooner you start learning about all of your kitchen remodeling options, the better.

We'll dissect all of the main kitchen remodeling materials in this article, including:

  • Kitchen CountertopsA kitchen countertop is another big-ticket item. As with cabinets, there are numerous types of kitchen countertops from which to choose. The primary options include laminate, ceramic tile, wood, marble, and granite. Each material has its advantages and disadvantages -- the trick is to figure out which kind of countertop works best with your particular kitchen. We'll help sort everything out in this section by examining the different kinds of kitchen countertops.
  • Kitchen LightingMost people who are remodeling their kitchen don't consider lighting to be a primary consideration. They should. Visibility is vitally important in an area where you're working with knives and other potentially dangerous cooking tools. In addition, the proper lighting can give your kitchen a warm and homey feeling. In this section, we'll examine the ins and outs of kitchen lighting, from halogen lights to incandescent bulbs. We'll also offer advice on choosing kitchen lighting fixtures.
  • Kitchen Wall TreatmentsThe first rule in choosing wall treatments is to coordinate them with your cabinets. Paint is a popular wall treatment because it's relatively inexpensive and easy to clean (which is always a prime consideration with a kitchen). If you want something a little less common, you can go with wallpaper or paneling. Whatever you decide, don't underestimate the importance of wall treatments. We'll tell you about all your options in this section.
  • Kitchen WindowsLet the sunshine in! The right kitchen window will do just that, providing a bright and cheery place for you to do your cooking. Your window choices range from double-hung to sliders -- we'll tell you about these options and others. The window treatments you pick are equally important. They add character to your windows, and to your kitchen as a whole. Cafe curtains are a popular choice, while matchstick or bamboo shades add a more novel element to your kitchen decor. In this section, we'll show you which wall treatments will work best for you.
  • Kitchen Doors and HardwareWhen it comes to kitchens, a door isn't just a door. It not only provides access to your kitchen, but it also offers an opportunity to add another decorative touch. Your options include glazed doors, swinging doors, and sliding doors -- all of which we'll discuss in this section. Kitchen hardware -- such as cabinet knobs and window cranks -- really offer an opportunity to spice up your kitchen. The right hardware can tie together all of the materials in your kitchen. In this section, we'll provide suggestions that will aid you in the tricky task of choosing kitchen hardware.