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Low-cost renovations that you’ll love in your kitchen

Your kitchen is the heart of your home, so it’s only natural to want to splurge on a remodel. But before you burn through your budget, we tapped Dan DiClerico, senior home editor of Consumer Reports, to find out which upgrades have the most bang for the buck.

In the magazine’s August issue, DiClerico reports that a kitchen redo should cost 5% to 15% of a home’s total value. And if you’re willing to do some of the work yourself, a budget between $5,000 to $15,000 can go a long way.

First up: flooring. Solid wood is a popular choice, but for half the cost, porcelain tile that resembles hardwood is one of the hottest new trends out there. “It’s incredibly durable. It was practically perfect in our tests, and it’s color-through so you don’t have to worry about chipping. I’m considering this for my home,” DiClerico told Yahoo Finance.

Next up: your sink. You might think this is an area where it might be smart to splurge,  maybe spending $600+ on a thicker metal stainless steel sink, but guess again. DiClerico and his team found that thinner stainless steel sinks priced at around $200 perform just as well at resisting stains, dents and scratches.

For some extra splash, backsplashes can really make a bold impact. For about $1,000, installing one made of mosaic tile can be a smart splurge that adds a touch of color and sophistication. But for a lot less, consider buying stamped metal sheets at Home Depot (HD) for $20 each or Smart Tiles, stick-on sheets that mimic tiled backsplashes for $40 per box. They can be an economical option for renters who don’t want to invest as much in their space as a homeowner might.

Last but not least, countertops. Rather than paying top dollar for stain-prone marble or granite countertops, try laminate surfaces for a fraction of the cost. At about $5 to $20 per square foot, laminate is extremely affordable, heat-resistant and less prone to stains. Formica and Wilsonart are two brands that Consumer Reports recommends for their high-definition patterns that resemble natural materials like wood and stone. Sought-after interior designers like Jonathan Adler have even jumped on the trend, coming out with fun and functional countertop designs that cost three times less than natural stone surfaces.

For more budget reno tips, check out the August issue of Consumer Reports, on newsstands now. With all that you’re able to save, you’ll have quite a bit more to spend on the meals you’ll be cooking up in your new kitchen.

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