Reader Question | Inexpensive Kitchen Upgrades (Stainless Steel Contact Paper & Granite Overlays)

Reader Q&AToday’s reader question comes from M in New Jersey. She’s wondering about frugal home repairs.

My husband and I just bought our first home, in West Orange, NJ. We’re very excited about it and look forward to years of home projects.

The house is 65 years old, and while some things have been updated they haven’t been done with quality materials, or in a way that really suits our style.

For example, the appliances in the kitchen are new, but they’re stark white and don’t really look as stylish as we’d like. The counters were recently redone in formica, which presents kashrut and maintenance (and, again, style), issues. We’re thinking about ways to improve the look of the kitchen without a real overhaul.

One idea is to get stone/granite overlays for the counters rather than replacing them, and swapping the ceramic (?) sink with a stainless steel one, which will go a long way to kashering the kitchen and also improving the looks.

Another idea was to use stainless steel contact paper for covering the appliances. I wondered if you – or any of your other readers – had experience with these types of projects. I’ve been reading up on the stainless steel contact paper in particular and it gets really mixed reviews, depending on where I look.


Here’s how I responded to M.

Is money an object?

I ask because honestly, if it was me, I’d live with the white appliances, especially since they are brand new. In my experience, although cosmetic changes can seem urgent when you first move into a house, you may feel differently after living with it for a few months.

I know that was our experience in our home.

As for the formica, I’d consult with your LOR about kashering it. Per the CRC, it can be kashered.

Of course, I understand wanting granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, but unless money is truly not an object, I’d save your resources (home ownership is expensive!) and give yourselves a few months to “settle in”.

Can you help this new homeowner out? Do you have any experience with making small cosmetic changes to your home, especially your kitchen?

Has anyone ever used contact paper on appliances?

What do you think about my advice to wait on making cosmetic changes and rather living in a place for a while before diving in?

Let’s talk kitchen upgrades in the comments section!

Do you have a question about budgeting, couponing, menu planning or anything else? Please send me an email – I love hearing from my readers!


  1. My friend on fb just last wk posted a picof her fridge that she painted her fridge w/ magnet & chalkboard paint. That might help for your fridge. One less appliance to worry about.

  2. I would suggest waiting as well. Stainless steel is a recent trend, it too may become passe as the next big “must have” comes out. I think that when it comes to cosmetic changes, paint goes the furthest for the least amount of money. Maybe try to paint the kitchen to enhance the look of the white appliances and formica (whatever color that is). If the appliances are new, do not worry about them. Save your money for other things around the house/life. After living in it for a few months, you never know what unforeseen project may show up! If at that point it still bothers you, then revisit the ideas.

  3. Mom in NJ says

    I think you should wait. First , you may adjust to the white appliances, and second, you should save your money and make the upgrades you want when you can do it right.

  4. Rochel R says

    When my husband and I purchased our home almost 4 years ago it was a foreclosure that needed a lot of work and we definitely were on a budget. What we did was much more of a rehab then a remodel but I certainly learned a lot. (The rehab was actually part of our mortgage so there was no option of going over the budget – if the escrow was gone, we were done) Personally, If it is more of a cosmetic issue I would wait to see. The more you are settled in the house your priorities will be come clearer. Now I really wished we spent a little bit more money on improving the lighting in the kitchen then some of the cosmetic upgrades. The kitchen in its pre-rehab state had plywood counters with contact paper on top, very old plumbing and even carpet in the kitchen. (the previous owner had a very sick cat that destroyed all the floors in the first floor – having to refinish all the hardwood floors was a health issue; not cosmetic) Due to budget we had to go with some options that are not considered the must haves for a kitchen but after being in the house for a while I am happy with those choices. For example, we didn’t put in tile on the floor but instead a vinyl – I actually find it easier on my feet and back after a long day of cooking and when items get dropped, which happens all the time in my house, it rarely breaks. I have friends who constantly tell me that any glass or dishes dropped on their kitchen floor shatter.

    We added a lot of touches with paint – a different color really can change the whole feel of a room. And if you are able to do it yourself – its relatively cheap and easy to paint. Plus, if you end up hating the color its not the biggest deal to change it. I did a section of wall in the kitchen with chalkboard paint. My kids love to color on it and it is a great place to write down notes and messages. I am no longer searching for a piece a paper to write down a phone number or reminder. To answer the question about contact paper. I have used it on cabinets before when we were in an apartment and after a few years, when we were moving it came off with out a problem. Also, I did recently find chalkboard contact paper and I put it on one side of my fridge. It works pretty well but does take a little patience to get it on smooth.

    Another reason to hold off on cosmetic changes right away is that surprises can come up in a house that you were not expecting. Especially in a house that is a little older. We ended up having to do a lot more plumbing then we originally planned. Plumbing is a very boring thing to fix but it had to be done.

    I hope this helps. Good luck in your new house!

  5. Hi,
    it response to your kitchen question, I have painted cabinets in my kitchen and they came out great and changed the whole look of the kitchen. Painted cabinets are stylish now anyway, and you can have fun by doing a two color scheme. uppers and lowers different colors. New knobs will also add alot. you may not even notice the ugly counters. also, lowe’s sells paint designed to cover formica counters which is supposed to work quite will. although not as cool as new granite. you should definitely go for stainless steel sinks, for kashrus and also easy to kosher for pesach, they are not so expensive anyway. also I believe i have seen cans of spray paint that give the look of stainless steel. I havent done it but you could try that

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