NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Spending on remodeling is expected to reach $316 billion this year alone and the number is still climbing, according to the Home Improvement Research Institute. So make sure you know exactly how big a renovation you can afford and whether it justifies the time you intend to spend in your revamped home.
The Nest, a home-improvement Web site, says before making any big changes to your home you should ask yourself these big questions:
How long do I plan to stay in my house after the renovations?
The longer you plan to live there, the more creative you can be. But if you're planning on selling the house in the next five years, keep potential buyers in mind with your choices. In the latter case, for instance, go with neutral colors in the kitchen and bathroom, and consider maple cabinets. Some people hate oak, others hate cherry, but the majority can live with maple.
Am I doing just cosmetic fixes or am I ready for an all-out overhaul?
It's OK to make small changes one at a time, but think long-term about the next step. For example, if you're buying a new sink, buy one with enough holes on the deck for the faucet, sprayer and soap dispenser you might want to add on later. (Cutting more holes into stainless steel or porcelain after the sink is installed is an onerous job you don't want to get stuck with.) And if you know you're going to buy new cabinets later, don't replace the countertop with expensive granite now. The chances of reusing it are very slim -- either it breaks when you try to remove it, or it doesn't match the footprint of the new cabinets.
Am I prepared for the home upheaval?
Be realistic about how long these changes might take. Renovations can go on for months, so you need to be prepared to make do without that bathroom, kitchen or bedroom. When checking references before you hire your contractor, be sure to ask if the company finished the work on time. You'd be surprised how quickly a week can turn into a month. And if you're bunking up with your in-laws during renovation, that month can seem like a year.
Are the renovations keeping with the style of my home?
Any big changes you make to a home inside should reflect what future buyers will expect from the outside. If you live in a Victorian house, don't make it too contemporary. People who see a historical exterior will expect a historical interior, so stay true to the details. The same goes for a contemporary or modern home, where future buyers may not expect old-fashioned details like antique crown molding.
Are my DIY choices reasonable?
You may consider yourself handy, but many do-it-yourself jobs demand your time more than anything else. If you have a full-time job, are you capable of taking on a second one? Some makeovers that are not technically difficult can take longer than you think. For that reason, if you start any job yourself, try to sample it before committing to the whole thing. For example, while refinishing cabinets with a new stain isn't rocket science, sanding down each one can take forever.
A final tip: if you do plan to follow through with a large-scale renovation, do the smallest room in the house from start to finish -- the insulating, rewiring, painting, refinishing, tiling -- so you gain a sense of accomplishment.
By Marshall Loeb