by Ellen Mallernee Barnes

Our homes are the biggest investment we’ll ever make, and for many of us, updating and improving them has become a real passion. We pin this and blog that, fill our weekends with Home Depot runs and DIY projects while saving diligently to outsource the bigger jobs to the pros.

Now that home values are back on the rise after so many years of decline, Americans are again allotting serious money to home improvements and remodeling. But with so many potential projects crying out for attention around the house, it can be hard to know where to start—the outdated kitchen? The bare backyard? The crummy master bathroom? It helps to determine not only which projects will make you the happiest but also which will add the most value when it comes time for you to sell. Here are 10 of our favorite ways to add major value to your home:

1) Replace siding. Siding, windows, and doors remain at the top of the list on Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report for 2011-2012, which does the math for you on which home improvements will bring you the biggest returns. HGTV reports: “It may not be glamorous, but replacing siding is our No. 1 pick for home improvements that add value to your home.”

2) Put a new roof over your head. Potential buyers will expect your roof to be in good shape, just the same as they’ll expect things like running water and electricity. So though a nice new roof may be taken for granted and probably won’t do much to fetch you a higher price, your home won’t sell quickly without one.

3) Make a master suite. Plenty of today’s homebuyers demand a master bed/bath combo, but because it can be one of the very most expensive revamps homeowners are warned to take certain considerations before going bananas creating a master suite. “Payback on a master suite addition depends more on how it compares with other houses on the block,” says HouseLogic.com. “If your neighborhood is filled with empty nesters with two-bedroom houses, you probably won’t recoup your investment in a luxury master suite. But if master suite additions are common in your area, you’ll recoup more.”

4) Get a new front door. There’s a lot of talk about a home’s curb appeal, and for good reason. Even more so than fresh landscaping, a new front door can do wonders to make a positive first impression on a homebuyer. If your budget allows, trade in your steel entry doors for wooden ones that complement that style of your home.

5) Create a home office. The number of Americans who work from home has surged by 41 percent in the past 10 years, meaning that home offices have greater appeal than ever. Home offices can be designated inexpensively with built-in bookshelves.

6) Build a sunroom or screened in porch. A sunroom or screened-in porch brings the outdoors in and adds living space (bright, sunny living space!) that’s accessible year round. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry estimates that a sunroom will repay nearly 49 percent of its investment cost when the home is resold.

7) Deck it out. Adding a deck to your home will give you just about the highest return on investment possible—bringing an average of 70 percent of your original investment. That’s because a deck is the least expensive way to increase a home’s living area.

8) Install new windows. By replacing old, leaky windows with energy-efficient vinyl windows, you’ll most certainly add resale value to your house. SmartMoney.com says, “Efficient windows and doors … may be pricey, but some 65 percent to 76 percent may be recovered at resale. When considering new windows, however, keep in mind that customizing windows with fancy shapes, bays and bows doesn’t necessarily add any resale value.”

9) Remodel your kitchen. Americans pump about $15 billion a year into kitchen renovations, not only because the kitchen is the heart and soul of most homes, but because by upgrading a kitchen’s appliances, countertops, cabinets, and flooring, as much as 80 percent of an investment can be recovered.

10) Paint without personality. Put a fresh coat of neutral-colored paint on your interior walls, and you’ll earn a 250 percent return on your investment, according to a HomeGain.com Prepare to Sell survey, which found that the average price to paint interior walls is $500 to $750, but that the investment increases a home’s price by an average of $1,500 to $2,000.