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The images on this page show examples of council homes before and after improvement work. A quarter of British homeowners looking to improve their homes this summer are choosing to renovate their kitchen and seeing a 51% return on investment as a result. Is this something you’re thinking about? If so, check out our guide to planning your kitchen remodel and these practical kitchen renovation tips from award-winning home improvement blogger, Kimberly Duran.

A: The good news is that after years of sluggish performance, in many places the housing market has started picking up steam again. But that doesn’t mean you can expect every home improvement project to increase your home value when it comes time to sell. Remodeling magazine’s latest Cost vs. Value report shows that, on average, home improvements paid back 62% of their costs at resale in 2014. That’s up from a low of 58% in 2011, but still well below the 87% paybacks of 2005.

Finishing all the big projects hasn’t meant giving up on home improvement, however. I haven’t touched my reciprocating saw since the turn of the millennium, but in recent years I’ve become a practitioner of what I now think of as microrenovation: Approaching “finished” rooms with dispassionate objectivity and finding small ways to make them better. Humans have an extraordinary ability to become inured to minor annoyances, especially if the annoyances accumulate gradually. That’s not necessarily a bad thing—it’s the basis of successful marriages—but it can cause people to ignore inconveniences they could easily correct.

When you are satisfied with your overall concept to completion strategy and the costings you have received, you are ready to set timeframes for each stage. Implementation often begins with repairs and maintenance or low cost improvements. More substantial additions are often deferred for up to several years to respond to needs if or when they arise. The staged strategy you have developed is a critical reference tool to guide your early improvements and avoid wasteful duplication (see Repairs and maintenance; Renovations and additions).

Make the primary focus of your overall design the position of the home’s ‘living core’. This core centres on the kitchen and influences the positioning of living spaces — both internal and external. Good flow between indoor and outdoor spaces is essential. Carefully position the living core to receive winter sun and cross ventilation. This positioning often influences the location and function of any additional rooms you might build.