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Any remodel can turn into a tricky business. The National Kitchen and Bath Association estimates that most remodels go over budget by 14 percent, but even if you plan that extra cash into your budget, there is no guarantee that you won’t discover serious problems lurking underneath that countertop or behind those kitchen cabinets.

But there are some things you can be sure about, like the materials you choose and the initial scope of your project. Here’s how to make sure you are getting the right remodel for your house, your neighborhood and your bottom line.

Bigger is not necessarily better

The annual Cost vs. Value Report from Remodeling Magazine looks at the average cost of the most popular home improvement projects, the amount of return on investment, and how that amount goes up and down over the years. The 2011-2012 report found that a minor kitchen remodel, including a new countertop , kitchen cabinet refacing, new faucet and sink, resilient flooring, painting and replacing some appliances cost an average of $19,588. The minor kitchen remodel offered a nice return on investment of 72.1 percent when it came time to resell.

So going bigger could be even better, right? Not exactly. A major kitchen remodel, including all new semi-custom kitchen cabinets, a double-tub stainless steel sink, garbage disposal, custom lighting, all new appliances and new paint can run an average of $57,494. The return on investment was 65.7 percent, a significant drop from the cost-effectiveness of the minor remodel.

The return on investment gets even worse if you go upscale. The high-end kitchen remodel, including custom cherry kitchen cabinets, built-in shelving, stone countertops, ceramic or glass backsplash, built-in appliances, sinks with a water filtration system, custom lighting, cork flooring and cherry trim can cost $110,938. The return on investment might only be 57.4 percent.

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Focus on the house and the neighborhood

One of the most common mistakes homeowners make with their kitchen remodel is simply going overboard. In order to make your remodel count when it’s time to sell the house, make sure that the changes match the rest of the home. For example, an ultra-modern luxury kitchen in a 1950’s ranch house might not be the best design idea.

Also keep the neighborhood in mind. If your house is worth about $100,000, it doesn’t make sense to add another $100,000 in upgrades, especially if all the homes nearby are on a par with yours. It’s tough to sell a $200,000 home in a neighborhood where all the other houses are going for half that.

What if you want to indulge in that amazing kitchen remodel anyway? If you are planning to live in the house for many years to come, then by all means, go for it. Ultimately though, a kitchen remodel might add to the bottom line of your eventual selling price, you will be living in the house and using that kitchen until then. It should definitely be a space you can not only live with, but enjoy.

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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.