A lot of homeowners are in a rush to renovate the kitchen or the bathroom and don't think about what holds their house together and keeps it dry, safe and standing. With any house -- especially one that needs renovation -- you should plan your work in the following order or importance:

1) FOCUS ON SAFETY - Address any issues that might pose a risk to you, your family, or others who may come to your house. Look closely at steps, handrails and electrical (especially near sources of water). Get licensed contractors to help you identify problem areas and make long-term plans for electrical upgrading, if necessary.

2) DEAL WITH THE STRUCTURE - If you see any problems with your foundation shifting or sinking, don't ignore them. They're not going to get better on their own, and they're not going to get cheaper to repair. But they can get worse and they can cause a whole lot of other problems throughout your house if they're not addressed.

3) WORK FROM THE OUTSIDE IN - Make sure all exterior systems (roof, gutters, exterior sheathing and foundation) are in good working order to keep moisture from entering the building envelope. Excavating around your house to seal the foundation properly can cost a fair bit of money, but it's an investment that will dry out that basement once and for all and protect the interior of your home.

4) THINK ABOUT FUEL EFFICIENCY AND LONG-TERM COST SAVINGS - invest in sealing air leaks, windows, mechanicals and insulation. Don't throw your money away by keeping an inefficient furnace going year after year; invest in a high-efficiency model that will give you immediate results. Same goes for old windows that are letting in drafts. Think about a hot water on-demand system and get rid of your water heater. Air leaks are a major cause of high energy bills so insulate your walls where possible and properly seal your attic.

5) KITCHENS AND BATHROOMS, THE RIGHT WAY - Don't settle for cosmetic upgrades. When it's time to renovate a kitchen or bathroom, it's usually time to open up the walls and upgrade  plumbing and electrical too. It's more mess and more money than a facelift, but it's worth it for the quality in the end.

6) FINISHES: FLOORS, WALLS, CEILINGS, CABINETRY AND TRIM - If your home is dry, solid and efficient, you can turn your attention to those high-end finishes you've wanted: granite countertops, slate flooring, built-in shelving for the living room -- whatever's on your list.