Angie's List: Best & worst home improvement projects

It's almost Spring, and many of us are making our "wish list" of projects around the house we'd like to do in 2014.

But you don't want to spend big money on a home improvement that you'll never get back at resale time.

So our partners at the consumer guide Angie's List have a list of the best and worst home improvements

Go For Kitchen or Bath

"If you are considering updating your house this year, consider remodeling the kitchen or the bathroom," said Angie's List founder, Angie Hicks. "Those two rooms get the best return on your investment - about 85 percent.

But the key here is not overdoing it, but keeping up with the Jones's. So if you're the only house in the neighborhood without granite countertops then it makes sense to add them. If most homes near you don't have granite kitchens, she says skip out on that extra.

If you're going to invest in projects designed to improve your home's value, it makes sense to know what remodeling projects will give you the most return for your money. Here are the top five:

  • Kitchens
  • Baths
  • Decks
  • Siding
  • Windows

On the other hand, Angie says the following projects will not recoup your investment at resale time in most cases, unless you are in a neighborhood where everyone else has pools and 3 car garages.

  • Pool
  • Home office
  • Sun room
  • Master suite
  • Adding a third bay to the garage

There are a number of routes you can go when remodeling your kitchen and bathroom – from simple items such as replacing a fixture or floors – to a complete remodel that includes expanding the size of the room.

Where you live, material selections, and the scope of the work are all factors that determine costs and can make a difference in your budget. Once those decisions are made, finding the right contractor can make or break a remodel.

Angie's List offers these tips on how to hire the right remodeling contractor:

  • Know what you want: Before you begin talking with contractors, read remodeling magazines, search the Internet for designs and materials and put your ideas on paper to give potential contractors a better sense of your expectations.
  • Get estimates: Get at least three written estimates to review. Make sure the estimates include the same things so you're comparing apples to apples. Never hire on price alone.
  • Do your research: Check out contractors in your area using Angie's List and talking to your neighbors. Ask for references from your potential contractors and call those customers. Try to get a customer who's been in the remodeled home for several months so you can see how the work has held up.
  • Require proof of proper license, certification and insurance – if your contractor can't show that, get another one no matter how nice he or she seems. If your home is older than 1978 your contractor must be certified in lead safe practices – ask for that documentation as well.
  • Working with a General Contractor (GC): Get everything in writing from the GC, including the names of the subcontractors and suppliers. Ask your GC to provide lien waivers that show subcontractors and suppliers have been paid.
  • Read the contract BEFORE you sign: Make sure the job details, warranty, payment terms and penalties for not completing work are spelled out in your contract. Documentation is often the best ammunition you have if things go wrong.
  • Paying for the project: Expect a minor kitchen remodel to cost about $20,000 and a minor bathroom remodel around $10,000. Never pay the full cost of a project up front. Your payment schedule should be clearly spelled out in your contract. Tie payment plans to the job's progress. Hold back the final payment until you're satisfied with the work.

For more information about Angie's List, click here.

As always don't waste your money.

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Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.

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