You can buy a lot of kitchen for under $15,000 as long as the space isn’t much more than 150 square feet and you’re willing to do a lot of the work yourself. For a budget kitchen remodel, we allocated $1,000 for labor, namely electrical and plumbing work, which is always best left to the pros.

Where to Start

Major home centers, including Home Depot, Ikea, and Lowe’s, provide free or affordable design assistance. If possible, work with a staffer certified by the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) or the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). Home centers employ in-house installers. Or you can find your own certified contractor through the directory of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, at nari.org.

What’s Trending

Our tests have turned up new products that look much pricier than they are and perform extremely well—perfect for this budget. For example, porcelain-tile planks that look remarkably like wood, right down to their textured grain. They’re waterproof and have color that goes all the way through, so chipping isn’t a big concern. Lumber Liquidators’ Avella Brazilian Cherry 10039367 topped our latest tests, and at $3.60 per square foot, it’s about half the cost of many solid hardwood products.



A Budget Kitchen Remodel for $5K to $15K

1. Delta Trinsic single-handle pull-out faucet in chrome (not rated), $295.
2. Frigidaire Gallery FGEF3035RF,
Score: 86, $870.
3. Capital Lighting Fixture Company mini pendant 4643BB-138 (not rated), $98.
4. Kenmore 69313
Score: 80, $800.



Appliances and Accents

You can get a top-rated refrigerator, range, and dishwasher all for about $2,500, even in unifying stainless steel. And our tests have found that faucets costing as little as $60 have top-notch valves and tough finishes with lifetime warranties. Many stainless steel sinks costing less than $200 proved to be as durable as models costing twice as much.

Lighting fixtures have come down in price, which is welcome news for budget remodelers. “Lighting can make a space feel incredibly good,” says Lauren Levant, a certified kitchen designer in Pittsburgh. “So it’s a great way to fool people into thinking you spent more on the kitchen than you actually did.”

Cabinet Decisions

Stock cabinets start about $70 per linear foot and come in limited sizes and basic finishes. Laminate units tend to be the least expensive, followed by stained and painted. The Shaker style, with its clean, simple lines, delivers elegance in a cost-effective cabinet. Avoid units made of particleboard and constructed with staples and flimsy hardware. Instead, look for cabinets with solid wood frames surrounding a solid wood or plywood panel.

Stretch the budget by incorporating open shelving, either mounted on brackets or with hidden anchors for a floating effect. “Besides saving on cabinet costs, open shelving can also make a small kitchen look larger and roomier,” says Patricia Davis Brown, a certified kitchen designer in Vero Beach, Fla.



5. Merillat Masterpiece Capri Square (not rated), $233 per linear foot.
6. Pergo Max Premier Heathered Oak 672976
(Lowe’s) laminate flooring, Score: 76, $2.50 per square foot.
7. KitchenAid KDTE104ESS
, Score: 75, $600.
8. Bella Dots Collection
12-cup coffee maker, Score: 65, $35.



Counters and Floors

For countertops, laminate is affordable and exceptionally resistant to heat and staining. High-definition laminate from brands like Formica and Wilsonart also do a better job at resembling natural materials, such as wood and stone. Formica’s retro patterns, including a collection from the celebrity designer Jonathan Adler, inject a bit of fun into a functional material. Vinyl flooring continues to improve as well; it’s now available in patterns that look convincingly like wood and natural stone. What’s more, many vinyl floors fended off wear, scratches, discoloration from sunlight, and stains in our tough tests.

Tips From the Pros

Entry-level products and materials always work best in a neutral color palette. “Consider going for the clean, livable look, with white cabinets and subway tile, and a countertop in gray or beige tones,” says Suzy Opalinski, a project specialist for Lowe’s in Orlando, Fla.

Budget Kitchen Remodel Budget: $5K to $15K

  • Labor: $1,000
  • Cabinets: $3,000
  • Appliances: $2,500
  • Countertops: $1,000
  • Floors: $1,000
  • Fixtures: (faucet, sink, lighting) $1,000
  • Other: (paint, accessories, etc.) $500

TOTAL: $10,000

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the August 2016 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.