If you are considering remodeling an older kitchen, it's wise to do some advance planning to know where best to spend your money. In some extreme remodeling situations, people have gone as far as to knock down walls to expand their kitchen area to the desired size and contemporary look. But most of the time, you can give your kitchen the facelift it needs with just a few basic alterations. Here are some suggestions:

1. Granite counter tops are the hot new feature for kitchens, and these days it's hard to find a new home built without granite. There are lots of reasons for granite's popularity, the most obvious being that it is available in a wide range of colors and always looks terrific. Another benefit of granite is that its surface is especially easy to keep clean. Granite is a stone that can be made shiny smooth, which means there won't be any grooves for germs to gather as they tend to do in other materials used for counter tops.

2. Your kitchen sink can be as fancy as you want it to be. Since the kitchen sink gets the most use of any sink in the house, you want to be sure yours will wear well and not chip. Another classic look for kitchen sinks is stainless steel, and you'll see these stainless sinks in many new homes, too. The most important thing is that the sink style you choose blends in well with your kitchen design.

3. Another very popular kitchen upgrade is the island. If your home has a big kitchen, look around at all the varieties of islands so that you can choose the most suitable design for your home. Some kitchen islands come complete with a sink and stove burners. Others are far simpler, and are most often used for extra counter space. Just make sure you have enough space in your kitchen before you start collecting information on islands.

4. Flat screen televisions are now available in many stores and at reasonable prices, and so can be an affordable addition to your kitchen. When you're searching for a kitchen TV, remember that in addition to the standard TVs that can be put anywhere in the house, there are models made specifically for the kitchen. Kitchen flat screen TVs are usually small and can be attached beneath the kitchen cabinets. This sort of TV is made to flip up or down, so that you can move it out of the way when you're not watching it. If you prefer a larger, standard style of TV, you'll probably have to mount it on one of the kitchen walls.