Have you outgrown your house? Is it worn or out of date?

Another house may not be the answer, but remodeling may be. Often it is better to add rooms or overhaul what you have.

To decide which is best, you must define the problem you want to solve. Do you need more bedrooms? A larger kitchen? A game room or den?

Once you’ve defined your needs, develop a realistic budget. Read books and magazines for ideas and cost estimates. Talk with a remodeling contractor who can give you detailed written cost information.

If you are hit with sticker shock at first, remember that remodeling costs are an investment that should pay off when you sell the house. For most projects to be worthwhile, you need to live in your house at least another five years.

It isn’t wise to overbuild your neighborhood, so ask Realtors how much your home would sell for after remodeling. Check the county assessor’s office to compare valuation of neighborhood homes that are larger than yours to determine whether the extra space will make your home more valuable.

If remodeling turns out to be a worthwhile investment, don’t try to design the project yourself. That’s a job for professionals who know how to add space and value to your house without giving it that dreaded “added-on” look.

A designer or architect who specializes in home remodeling can best design your project. Some contractors retain their own designers and architects. If you choose an independent architect, it’s good to include input from your contractor during the design process. The design fee likely will be $1,000 to $3,000 for major projects.

You will want a contractor who has a record of building projects similar to yours. When you check the contractor’s references, ask homeowners if the job was completed for the contracted amount and on time. If a project is well-designed and planned, change orders shouldn’t exceed five percent of the project total.

Don’t rely only on the contractor’s references. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry screens members for financial stability and technical ability. Check with the contractor’s banker, suppliers and banks that have financed projects the contractor has completed for others.

Your problem is space, or the need for an update. The contractor’s job is to help you solve the problem, not to become one for you, so make certain you have a detailed written agreement, drawings and change orders included.