How to Reface an Appliance


Tired of your old appliances? Don't toss them out'give them a face lift.
Tired of your old appliances? Don't toss them out'give them a face lift.

If you'd like to change the look of your kitchen, but the price tag is too high to contemplate, there may be a less expensive solution that will give you a few much needed updates and still let you keep your current appliances. This is a great solution if you're working on a tight budget, and it's a green alternative.

From a new paint job to an integrated overlay that will completely conceal your refrigerator or dishwasher, there are lots of ways to make your kitchen more aesthetically pleasing and still get the most value out of those appliances that are beginning to show their age.

Painting, replacement panels and peel-and-stick films are all ways to add a designer or personal touch to your appliances. Want a blackboard on the front of your refrigerator that your kids can use for their latest art projects? Maybe you'd prefer a corkboard finish that you can use to tack up notes without resorting to magnets? There's a way to get these and many more design features to update the hardest working appliances in your home.

A couple of things you'll need to remember, though. Appliances that get hot can be a problem because decorative panels can keep heat from dissipating properly and paint may not be able to tolerate the high heat. If your stove or microwave is looking worn and scratched, your options for rejuvenating them might be limited. If you're planning on doing some renovating though, a good solution might be to move them out of sight by positioning them so guests looking into the room won't see them. This isn't a cover-up, but rather a crafty alternative.

In the next pages, we'll take a look at a few ways you can change the appearance of your appliances to brighten your look or conceal an unsightly appliance. First up, manufacturer's inserts.

Appliance Panel Inserts and Kits

So you went for the shiny stainless steel refrigerator or dishwasher without knowing how much of a hassle it would be to keep it clean and fingerprint free. What now? Well, if you're determined to find an alternative, your appliance manufacturer may have an insert you can use to change the front and sides of the unit while keeping the working parts intact. This goes for that sun yellow fridge that doesn't fit with your new wallpaper or that plain white model you'd like to make a bit more stylish, too.

These days, many refrigerators and dishwashers are configured with trim pieces that hold decorative face panels. With a simple call or visit to the manufacturer's Web site, you can purchase replacement panels that are easy to install and will change the appearance of your appliance without much fuss.

When an easy panel switch isn't available for your appliance, you can always buy a third party kit that will let you update your look. This solution will take some additional installation and costs a bit more. Kits typically include a frame, panels and replacement hardware. Third party suppliers will need to know the make and model of your appliance, and it can take a number of weeks to get your order processed. If you have a really old appliance that you enjoy for its aesthetic value, third party appliance kit specialists can help you refurbish the appearance of retro and classic appliances, too.

Pricing for inserts and kits vary depending on the finish you select and the size of the appliance involved. Prices can range from close to $100 to more than $1,000 for slip-in panels [source: Garskof].

On the next page, we'll take a look at ways to fully integrate your kitchen appliances into your overall design. It sounds like magic, but it's really hide and seek.

Fully Integrated Appliance Design Solutions

If you have the budget, you can create a trim and elegant look in your kitchen by completely concealing your appliances. This is a bit like stowing the television in the entertainment center behind closed doors. The appliances are fronted with doors that look like the rest of your cabinetry and can be fitted with matching door pulls. It's true that this can be expensive, but it's a big design trend these days, and making the kitchen look more decorative and less utilitarian can have its advantages. Some more open concept home designs make the kitchen visible from other rooms in the house, and not everyone thinks their refrigerator is a worthy display piece.

This is usually a custom solution, but it doesn't necessarily have to be part of the original kitchen installation. You might be able to get a more integrated look by adding a custom panel to an insert-ready style refrigerator that can be modified to cover the trim pieces and look fully integrated. This is a way to get the look of an integrated appliance without spending as much money. It's a cheat, but built-in cabinets are one of the biggest expenses in your kitchen, and costs can start adding up fast.

The fully integrated look may be just what you're after, but as styles change, the customization you're paying for may limit you sooner than you expect. New technologies and innovations are constantly changing how we use our kitchens, and a built-in cabinet that's great for today's dishwasher may not work for the latest and greatest incarnation in kitchen design three to five years from now. Take a look at a few older model entertainment centers and imagine sticking a modern flat screen television in the small opening designed for the CRT TVs of a few years ago.

In the next section, we'll explore a quick an easy way to update appliances with peel-and-stick coverings.

Peel-and-Stick Film Coverings

If you don't want to take the time or invest the money in a replacement panel for your appliance, you can take a more do it yourself approach to the problem. There are a number of peel-and-stick options on the market that you can install in no time without tools for a custom color or metal look. If you'd like to imitate a stainless or copper look without paying the price, peel-and-stick may be a good choice. It usually comes in a roll and can be cut with scissors or a craft knife. After you've gotten tired of the look or want to go for the real thing, you can heat the finish slightly and pull it off. Clean your appliance with soap and water and the old finish will look . . . well, the way it did before it was covered.

Another plus for some peel and stick products is that they can be used to cover the sides of a stove or microwave because they can tolerate temperatures up to about 120 Degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius). You can also use this stuff to cover countertops and backsplashes. But it isn't completely indestructible so read the manufacturer's labels before you start covering everything in sight.

You can purchase enough material to cover a standard sized refrigerator for under $100. This is a quick way to make a design change in a few hours, but for the best results, you'll have to have a steady hand and some patience getting the finish smooth and bubble free. If you've ever applied peel-and-stick contact paper to your kitchen shelves or put decals on your windows, you'll understand what's involved.

Let's proceed to the next page and take a look at another low cost option: appliance painting.

Appliance Painting

If you want a red fridge, you're probably going to have to turn to paint to get it.
If you want a red fridge, you're probably going to have to turn to paint to get it.
SchnellesToasT/iStockphoto.com

Paint has come a long way in the last 20 years, and there are quite a few specialty paints available that can help you transform your appliances on the cheap. Specialty appliance paints, paints designed for plastic and heat-resistant paints can help you create a harmonious look in your kitchen at a low cost. This is a do-it-yourself project that calls for patience and can be labor intensive. An advantage to paint -- beyond its low price tag -- is the fact that you can create whatever design strikes your mood. If you want a pink dishwasher and a baby blue refrigerator, by all means, let pastels rule. If you want to use an unusual color, painting the appliances yourself will ensure that everything matches when you're done.

Appliance paints are available in both brush on and spray on varieties. Brush on painting is usually reserved for smaller jobs, like countertop appliances and large appliance touchups. You shouldn't ever use regular acrylic or enamel paint on appliances. It won't bond well, and you'll just end up making a mess.

Spraying your large appliance is a good way to create a smooth, even finish, but to avoid over spraying and getting paint on everything in the room, you'll have to cover adjacent areas or move the job outside. In kitchens where you're working in a small area, it's probably easier to just move the refrigerator, stove or dishwasher rather than try to work in cramped quarters.

If you plan on painting a stove, range hood or microwave (or anything that gets hot), you'll need to buy heat resistant paint. These high-heat paints have temperature limitations. Typically, they can be used on range hoods and on the sides and front panels of most ovens but are not rated for stovetops where the heat can get fierce. Read the manufacturer's instructions carefully before you buy.

When you're preparing to paint your appliances, make sure that you've sanded or treated any rust spots to stop future oxidation. Remove handles and mask logos, hardware, decals and trim pieces with painter's tape. Clean everything thoroughly with soap and water, and let it dry completely. When painting, the best way to do a good job is to get everything prepped well before you ever pick up a paintbrush.

As with other paint jobs, make sure that you work in a ventilated area and take your time. Avoid applying paint in a thick layer; thinner is better. Depending on the color and texture of the appliance, it may need a second coat. If so, wait until the first coat has dried thoroughly before applying the second. Although appliance paint is scratch and chip resistant, use caution when reinstalling hardware.

Proceed to the next page for lots more information about kitchen design and maintenance.

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