Remodeling a kitchen can add enormous value to your life. It improves the every-day comfort and livability of a space that’s often the heart of your home, and will make it easier to sell the home, should ever need to do so. That being said, remodeling a kitchen is a big step and can be a complicated undertaking, for exactly the reasons above — the kitchen is the heartbeat of any home, and deserves all the attention and forethought you can give it, before you ever pick up a hammer or fire-up a saw.

Here are a few key considerations that will help you get ready to remodel your kitchen:

1. Demolition. You’d be surprised how many people often forget this critical step. There are the basics, of course — turning off the water, shutting off electricity, removing cabinetry and debris — but don’t forget about removing structural or load-bearing walls. Those last steps should be considered carefully and only with the advice of a building engineer or designer.

2. Which brings us to contractors and permitting. Designers, consultants, and friends/family can help you choose the right contractors for the job. Make sure the contractor you choose carries liability insurance and is in good standing with the Better Business Bureau. Get approval and obtain all necessary permits from your city’s planning department before beginning any remodeling project.

3. Neighbors — another critical and oft-forgotten step! Give proper notice where appropriate, and remember these jobs often involve debris removal, loud noises, and heavy trucks.

4. Garbage and debris. This stuff can sometimes carry toxic material, especially if built before 1975 when may of the asbestos laws went into place. Check your local landfill and garbage regulations to make sure you have a plan for where you’ll send debris and garbage, and how you’ll get it there.

5. Design and compatibility with your current home’s design. This is where a good designer can be essential. Make sure your vision matches your home’s current mood and flow — a goal that can be harder to accomplish than you might initially realize. You want to build something that both adds value to but also integrates with your current home.

6. Cost! Yes, doing it yourself can save you money — but it can also add significant costs, depending on your experience level and any mistakes you’re likely to make along the way. So be careful to only take on those activities that you’re confident you can accomplish on your own — otherwise the advice and work of professional designers and builders is critical!

There are tons of great resources out there, but be sure to check out these great articles on kitchen remodeling.