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remodel_new_front_doorInvesting in home improvement projects can have a huge return—whether to create a more enjoyable living space or to put the home on the market.

Members of the Remodelers Council of the Greater Houston Builders Association say that while homeowners often have big visions for renovation projects, a look at the big picture followed by practical steps to achieve those goals can make all the difference.

Remodeler’s Council President Tom Pellegrin, president of Third Coast Builders, suggests that the big picture view will help homeowners do things in a logical order. “For example, don’t paint and replace the floors and then tear out the kitchen,” he says.

Larry Abbott, owner of Abbott Contracting, agrees, adding that it’s best to check the home’s exterior—roof and siding—before remodeling an interior space. “We’ve seen people do the inside first, and if the exterior is in terrible shape a storm can come through and ruin everything,” he says. “If planning something elaborate—especially if it’s a sizable project—getting an architect or designer on board is vital.”

For the highest return on investment, Pellegrin recommends replacing the front door. “A really nice front door completely dresses up a home. And when you figure what it costs to do a project versus what you gain in value, adding a new front door actually comes out at the top.”

New countertops and fresh paint make a big difference in both kitchen and bath spaces, Pellegrin says, and suggests updating the bath with an upscale shower and replacing worn, dated fixtures to give the area a modern look and feel, considered a plus by homebuyers. These rooms also need attention from homeowners who plan to age in the home, Abbott says. “Make sure the doorways are wide enough and check counter heights in case a wheelchair is ever needed.”

Replacing a home’s windows with new energy-efficient designs benefit not only homeowners who plan to stay in the house, but become a selling point to interested buyers, Pellegrin says.

The builders agree that homeowners can make the most of a remodel by hiring a qualified contractor and spending time upfront communicating exactly what is wanted—before any work gets started.

“You’ve got to find a contractor you will trust to be in your home and do the work,” Abbott says, “And do your homework, making sure references are recent.”

Pellegrin suggests finding a contractor who will spend the time to assess the project. “Some people want to keep up their homes for resale, and some just want to enjoy the space,” he says. “I try to get a feel for what the priorities are. If you’re going to stay for a while, the home needs to function for your family.”

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