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Splurge vs. save: Which home improvement projects are worth the expense?

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Posted: Thursday, March 1, 2012 7:00 pm

(ARA) - There's no place like home. It's this sense of pride that drives so many of us to embark on home improvement projects each year, some of which can be extensive and expensive.

Before investing in any project, there are several things you should ask yourself to help you evaluate how you'll live in the space. Think about how long you intend to live in the home, what the space will be used for now and in the future, how the size and dynamic of your family might change and what rooms you use the most. It's also important to get a handle on your budget from the get-go.

After considering some of these things, educate yourself on the actual remodeling process. As you'll quickly discover, there are countless online resources with ideas and tools to help plan out each step of the remodel. Merillat, known for its innovative and functional cabinetry and storage, offers some helpful resources to help you visualize and plan a new kitchen or bath space at www.merillat.com.

For most of us, budget constraints give us pause as we consider where to splurge and where to save. Here are a few things to think about as you determine which projects to begin and which you might consider delaying or scaling back on.

* What can you do yourself? There are some projects you can handle on your own, assuming you do the proper research and preparation. For example, painting is a relatively easy do-it-yourself project that can dramatically change a space. While many homeowners dread the tedious process and prep that goes into it, the decision to do it yourself could save you thousands of dollars.

* What can wait? Think of your home as ever-changing and always improving. For the average person who doesn't have an unlimited budget, it means having to bench some projects for a while. Sarah Reep, director of designer relations and education for Merillat, encourages homeowners to come up with a project priority list, starting with "must-haves" and ending with "nice-to-haves." For example, projects like landscaping, basement renovations and luxuries like an electric fireplace typically fall into the "nice-to-have" category and could be delayed or completed in phases.

* Where should you invest? Consider how you'll live in the space. Kitchens and bathrooms are investment worthy because they always serve the same purpose and are two of the most lived-in spaces of the home. Cabinetry, countertops and appliances designed to support the ways you'll use these spaces are a solid investment both for resell value and everyday enjoyment. For example, choose a countertop material such as DeNova's Natural Quartz surfacing that stands up to heat, resists chips and cracks better than other materials and is mold-, mildew- and stain-resistant -- all characteristics important in these areas of the home. In addition, invest in cabinetry "extras" like Merillat's storage and organizational solutions to make life in the kitchen easier and adaptable as your needs change.

No matter what the project, professional designers are a great resource. Consider engaging one early on in the process.

"One of the biggest advantages to working with a designer on a home project is that they really understand functionality, while accomplishing your desired style," says Reep. "Designers can also help you determine your priorities and offer advice on which projects should be a focus and where you might be able to cut costs."

For more home remodeling ideas and tips, visit www.merillat.com.

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