Remodeling a kitchen is the No. 1 way to add value to your home, according to home-building industry experts.

Building experts estimate that a modestly extensive remodeling project is likely to give a 75 percent to 100 percent return on your initial investment if your home is sold within five years of the project. Even if you sell your home after that time period, there's a good chance you'll recover about 70 percent.However, to control costs, it is vital that you learn as much as you can about designing a kitchen before beginning a remodeling project.

"You don't need to be a professional to remodel your kitchen," says Ellen Vonderheide, interior designer for Indiana-based Aristokraft. "There are dozens of self-help books and magazines that can walk you through the process step by step." One such primer is the Aristokraft Kitchen Planning Kit, complete with helpful questionnaires, work sheets and instructions on how to tackle your own design project.

To start, estimate the project's price, Vonderheide says. "Be sure to include the cost of all materials, such as appliances, cabinets, countertops, flooring, wiring, plumbing, wallpaper and paint." Research has shown that most homeowners underestimate the expense of remodeling their kitchens by 20 percent. Adding this buffer to your final estimate will help ensure against unplanned expenses.

Other tips found in the Aristokraft Kitchen Planning kit:

- Understand the way a kitchen works. There are always three elements in the room: the food storage station, the preparation/

cooking station and the cleanup station. Some kitchens include a fourth station - a planning area. A kitchen should be designed with these different areas in mind but tailored to special needs and tastes.

For instance, a gourmet cook will want to put more emphasis on the preparation/cooking section by adding extra counter space and convenient roll-out accessories. And if two people like to cook at the same time, you may want to consider an additional sink.

Run through a typical week in your kitchen. How is the traffic flow? Where are the problems? Will the new design prevent these problems? Your new kitchen should be as functional as it is beautiful. Remember the saying, "Form follows function."

- Accessories can add convenience and save space. Options include: lazy Susans and swing-out pantries; roll-out baskets under the sink; vegetable bins in cabinets; a cutting board and cutlery center; spice racks or drawer inserts; microwave shelves; a pot rack to hang pots and pans and roll-out trays to store infrequently used appliances.

- Details can make the difference in tailoring your kitchen to fit your needs. For instance, there are several faucet options available: adjustable-height, pull-out spray, single or double handles and even those that have temperature memory.

- Consider an island to keep work areas traffic-free as well as to double working space and add valuable counter and storage areas. The island can either be mounted to the floor or be mobile. Or if you enjoy grilled foods, you might want to consider installing an island grill.

- If you have someone in the household who is elderly or physically challenged, here are some ideas to consider:

1. Recessed countertops eliminate reaching.

2. Single-level faucets are easier to operate than two.

3. Elevated dishwashers can mean less bending for everyone.

4. Table-height countertops make it easy to prepare foods while sitting down.

5. To accommodate wheelchairs or walkers, doorways and aisles should be at least 34 to 36 inches wide.

Vonderheide suggests that before making final decision, take time to look through magazines, talk to friends and visit showrooms.

"The most important thing to remember when taking on a kitchen remodeling project is not to feel overwhelmed," Vonderheide said. "You can always complete the project in stages."

To receive the new kit, send $7.95 payable to Aristokraft Inc., Kitchen Planning Kit, P.O. Box 420, Jasper, IN 47547-0420. For faucet information, contact Moen at 1-800-553-6636.