Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Renovation Solutions: Common oversights when remodeling

After: Dedicating part of the budget to landscaping will enhance the final project. That may include both hardscape (like patios, walks, etc.) and softscape (plants).

Editor's note: This is the third in a series about avoiding common remodeling mistakes. The first is "Avoiding common home remodeling mistakes" and the second is "5 tips to avoiding costly remodeling mistakes." Both are on in the Family section. Portions of this column were previously published.

This month, we are discussing common home remodeling mistakes. We find it a healthy exercise to talk about mistakes as a way to inform homeowners and to help them dodge a bullet or two. Here are a few more potential areas for problems during a renovation project and some advice on how to avoid them.

Consider the landscaping.

One of the most common oversights when remodeling is not having a budget for repairing or replacing landscaping once the project is complete.

It is fairly obvious that projects involving additions will impact your yard, but even interior-only projects can affect the exterior of a home. The driveway and possibly part of the yard will be used to stage supplies and equipment, and the main access to the project will probably not be the front door, so workers and equipment may traipse around the house and through the yard.

Homeowners usually don’t think about replacing or repairing the landscaping until they see how torn up the yard may be by the end of the project.

The second reason to focus on landscaping is that it goes out of style just as other design elements do. You don’t do yourself any favors by leaving the giant 30-year-old, spider-infested pfitzers in front of your newly updated home, even if they do survive the contractors.

Landscaping always pulls the short stick because by the time the homeowners have spent their last dime on remodeling the home, they don’t have the capital to create a new and beautiful yard to match the new and improved structure. They may not even have the funds to get the yard back to where it was before the remodel. The best time to refurbish the landscaping is right after a remodeling project, when the yard is at least partially demolished. It is smart to put aside some money for landscaping as part of the project, so you don’t have to pay to tear up the yard again next year.

Avoid inferior materials.

Last week we mentioned that remodeling is something you usually do only once or twice in a lifetime. This next piece of advice goes specifically to the brave do-it-yourself remodeler, but it also applies to anyone trying to save money on their remodel. We understand sticking to a budget.

Honestly, we are all about stretching the dollar and getting the most bang for your buck. However, there comes a point when penny-pinching goes too far.

Don’t sacrifice quality on basic, long-term materials and fixtures. The bottom line is you get what you pay for. If you can’t afford to do it right, you should probably wait until you can. A better way to lower the cost of the whole project without sacrificing quality is by shaving off square footage with smart design. Remember, a project is priced out by a cost per square foot. With the right design, you can actually save money on gross square footage, which can then be put toward quality materials.

Think about everyday design.

Remodeling is not cheap, so it doesn’t make sense to undertake a remodel that doesn’t benefit your everyday life. For example: the bonus room.

We feel bad when we see someone spend money on a bonus room that simply adds square footage to the house. Most days, it just sits there unused with no purpose other than being available if the family should need it occasionally. When a client comes to us and says they are thinking of adding a bonus room, we say, “Why do you want a bonus room? What activities or function will it serve?” Often it is a question that they cannot answer. Even with an extra room, families will have the same problems with the rest of their house that they have always had. This kind of remodel won’t solve anything.

A good remodel that reconfigures a home’s existing space or possibly adds a small addition can do wonders for a family’s everyday life if it addresses a critical need or situation. When you are thinking about a remodel or an addition, think about how the space you are adding will impact your life every day. Realtors and bankers love square footage above all else; architects don’t. If you don’t have a good reason for creating additional space, it is our opinion that you are wasting your money.
Choose to go green.

When you are cutting into the walls, floors or roof of your home, this is the time to beef up the insulation to make your home as energy-efficient as possible. Not choosing to go with green appliances, windows, equipment and materials is a mistake on several different levels. You will have to consider pay-back schedules and returns on investment as you make vital decisions. This is the same idea as not updating the electrical or plumbing when the wires or pipes are exposed.

If you open up the wall and see a problem, fix it. Sustainable designs and green options are a new classic worth investing in. Consider tankless water heaters and ductless HVAC systems.

The more-efficient systems will cost more money up front, but it will be worth it in the long run. It is smart to invest in the efficiency of your home.

Have a contingency fund.

You will have issues with your project if you design to use every last penny of your budget. It is not really that difficult to understand that every remodeling project has its own surprises. Because this is residential construction, the issues are not usually huge, but they almost always require extra money to solve. While a few hundred or even thousand dollars is not a lot in the big picture of things, it can seem insurmountable when thrown at you during the stress of a remodeling project. On the other hand, if you know you have that contingency fund, the mountain becomes a much more manageable molehill. We recommend that you set aside 5 to 10 percent of the total budget for your contingency fund.

We hope this discussion is helpful and not discouraging. Overall, we can’t stress enough the importance of planning ahead! Plan, plan, plan. The more details you figure out before construction begins, the better off you will be and the fewer mistakes you will make.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

3 proven tips to stage your home to sell

Staging a home for sale can pay off big for Realtors and homeowners.

On average, redecorating and remodeling a home can bring three times the return on investment at closing, according to Greg Williams, a new owner of Showhomes Houston.

“(Staging) helps homes sell faster and for more money,” Williams said.

Williams and his partner Steven Cook are the new owners of the local franchise of Showhomes, a Nashville, Tennessee-based company that provides home staging and managing services to help sell residential real estate.

Williams, an interior designer, and Cook, a senior vice president with Space City Credit Union, have more than five years of experience with Showhomes, managing and staging luxury homes for high-end Realtors and clients.

Staging is a science more than an art, and has become an integral part of selling homes, Williams said. Unlike interior design, staging is done not to suit the current homeowners’ tastes, but to make the home appealing to a wide range of prospective buyers.

“Our goal is to bring out the positive features of the property and improve its show quality,” Williams said. “We want to show the buyer the potential that the home has for them. Everything we do is geared toward getting more money at closing.”

Here are five tips to stage a home to sell, according to Williams.

1. Update carpets, wall paint and countertops.
Remodeling is costly, but replacing the carpets, putting a fresh coat of paint and upgrading the countertops can really make a difference in selling a home.

Williams recommends carpets that are low-profile, sleek and don’t take over the space; light, neutral paint colors; and light-colored quartzite or Carerra marble countertops that are more durable and dense than dark granite countertops.

“Buyers have certain expectations,” Williams said. “They don’t want fixer-uppers anymore. They want immediate gratification.”

2. Declutter. Less is more.
Williams recommends using a few focal point pieces — larger-scale art and furniture — to bring buyers’ eyes to the space, but not detract from it.

In particular, buyers pay close attention to the kitchen and master suite, which are often cluttered with knick knacks.

Williams recommends decluttering the kitchen and creating a spa-like atmosphere in the master bedroom and bathroom. That means: removing unused appliances from kitchen countertops, getting rid of decorative pillows from the bed and putting clean white towels in the bathroom, he said.

3. Homes need a lived-in look.
Vacant homes often take longer to sell because buyers think the homeowner is desperate to sell.
Getting a so-called “home manager” to live on the property to give it a lived-in look can help reduce the chance of getting low-ball offers, Williams said. Even when staging homes, the changes should feel organic, he added.

“Homes shouldn’t have that staged look,” Williams said. “They should look like someone lives there.”

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Renovation Solutions: 5 tips to avoiding costly remodeling mistakes

Editor's note: This is the second in a series about avoiding common remodeling mistakes. The first is "Avoiding common home remodeling mistakes" and is on in the Family section. Also, portions of this column were previously published

Last week, we started a discussion on common remodeling mistakes. This week we will continue by highlighting some additional common remodeling mistakes that impact a project’s budget and how much a home remodel actually costs.

Remodeling represents a substantial investment of time and energy, so no one wants it to cost more than it has to. Most people experience a major remodel only once or twice in their lifetime, so there isn’t much room for trial and error. Here are some of the more common costly mistakes to try to avoid.

1. Doing projects out of sequence
There is nothing more costly for a remodeling project than doing the same project twice due to poor planning and improper project sequencing. Don’t redo the landscaping and add a deck when you are planning an addition next year. Usually people do projects as they can afford them — maybe windows this year and new deck next year. There is nothing wrong with this idea as long as you have a master plan you are following.

It is frustrating when clients come to us wanting a home remodel only to find out they just replaced all their windows. Windows have a huge impact on the architectural design of a house. Working around the new windows is going to limit the design potential of the home. Often clients end up having to pay to remove and re-install or re-order some of the windows, and some end up having to buy all new windows again to match the style of their dream home.

2. Blowing the budget
The client who stays within a budget is the client who plans ahead. The more detailed the project plans are, the more accurate the bids and the more realistic the budget. Making all the selections of finishes and equipment prior to commencing construction will allow you to get the big picture and consider the complete cost of the project. In addition, we recommend reserving 5 to 10 percent of the proposed budget as a contingency for the unexpected challenges of a remodeling project. Architects and engineers do the best they can to anticipate potential issues, but it is only when you cut into the walls, floors and ceiling that you know the whole story.

3. Gutting too soon
We cringe when we see someone decide they want to remodel and start tearing down walls without a plan. First, the planning stage takes months. It will likely be three to six months from initial project inception before permits are secured and construction can begin. If you are overly excited about beginning the project, you may end up living in a construction zone far longer than you need to or be faced with rebuilding walls you could have saved when you took a sledgehammer to your house without a plan.

4. Overbuilding for the neighborhood
Overbuilding occurs when homeowners sink too much money into a house when either the market or the location (or both) cannot support the extent of the remodeling project. In an attempt to recapture their remodeling costs when selling, homeowners then price themselves out of their market.

While fewer people these days are remodeling for a quick resale, you still need to think about how your remodeling choices will affect the future resale potential of your property.

It is best to consult a real estate agent in the planning stage of your remodel to ask three questions:
• What realistic value would the Realtor place on your house "as is"?
• What is the price range of homes that are selling in your area?
• In the Realtor's opinion, what home improvements will most improve your home's resale value?
5. Not staying involved in the process

The homeowner is the most integral part of a remodeling team. It is important to stay involved throughout the project. If you aren’t living in the house during construction, we recommend visiting your project almost every day. Contractors’ questions need to be answered as quickly as possible, and errors can be nipped in the bud if you are paying attention. Sometimes, interesting design opportunities are revealed, especially during the framing phase. If you don’t feel comfortable managing this aspect of the project, keep your architect involved during the construction phase.

Good luck and remember, the more you plan and prepare for your remodel, the more likely you will be to avoid these costly mistakes.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Tips on what to expect during kitchen remodeling

Planning to remodel your kitchen? Those of us who have been there are happy to share advice. Most of these tips would apply to any remodeling project.

Take your time picking a builder, contractor or design-build firm. Interview more than one, ask many questions (and pay attention to not just the answers, but to how the answers are given), check references, listen to your gut. And then when you have a contract, read it line by line, word by word, and get all of your questions satisfactorily answered before you sign.

Expect upcharges, and build them into your budget. Some change orders will be beyond your or your builder's control (surprises discovered during demolition, requirements imposed by your municipality's architectural review board), and others you will initiate as new ideas come forth or you change your mind. (You will change your mind, most certainly more than once.)

Beware: These projects have a way of leading one to the next. As long as they were having their kitchen remodeled, Carol Moresco-Goniu and her husband, Richard Goniu, figured they might as well re-do the powder room, too. And then, the master bathroom suddenly looked ripe for a redo. Lisa Ziolkowski also replaced the front door and gave the front hallway, powder room and sun porch a facelift and had the living room and dining room repainted.

Try to stay ahead of the game. If you're told you won't have to empty your cabinets for another month, do it in two weeks.

Plan to spend lots of time online, where choices in everything from lighting fixtures to furniture and kitchen accessories are endless.

Pick what you love. Know what the trends are, but don't let them influence you unduly.
"It's important to have an idea of what you're after," said Moresco-Goniu, "but be open to suggestions."

"You've got to do a little bit of homework," advised Goniu.

Anticipate problems. You can't get discouraged. Referencing the problems they had with their cabinets, Goniu said, "Most people would get angry. I was disappointed, but we made the decision not to push (the builder) to get it done. We said, 'take your time and do it right.' If you get upset and angry, you'll have nothing but disappointment."

"Stay calm," advised Ziolkowski. "Your life is in disarray, but when it's done, it's so worth all the time and headaches."

10 decisions to consider before a kitchen remodel

Choices, choices. For some people, it's a fun opportunity; for others, a stressful chore. Given the cost of remodeling, whatever you choose — whether it's appliances, cabinet color, floor style or countertop — you'll have to live with it for a long time.

So it's best to have a pretty good idea of what you want (or at least, think you want) before you begin.
Here are 10 core decisions you should think through in advance when planning to remodel your kitchen:

1. Footprint. Will you work within your kitchen's current dimensions, or do you want the room to be bigger? In which direction would you expand, and what are the ramifications for the rest of the house?

2. Cabinets (looks). Custom or prefab? Wood species, stain and glaze color, door style — all these decisions and more will need to be made.

3. Cabinets (configuration). For lower cabinets, you could do doors and shelves (pullout or stationary), or you could go with deep drawers. You probably want some of each, but how many and where? Will you have any pantries? How many and what size? Any pullout cutting boards? And how do you want to handle those pesky corners?

4. Countertops. Granite, quartz, laminate, concrete, wood or a combination. They all have their pros and cons. If going with granite, you'll need to pick a pattern, then your specific slab(s), as well as weigh in as to how the slab will be cut for the various portions of countertop in the room. All of this takes time. Take as much as you need.

5. Floor. Hardwood is still popular, but durable luxury vinyl tile, ceramic tile and bamboo are other choices to consider.

6. Appliances (if buying new). Will you replace all of them, or only one or two? Will you match the color of existing appliances or go with what you eventually want them all to be? Do you want one oven or two? There are too many choices to list here, but keep in mind some of the newer options like a small beverage fridge and a microwave-convection oven combination.

7. Placement of appliances. It can be hard to picture yourself in a whole new space cooking dinner, but it's worth making the effort. Moving the stove or fridge over a few inches could make all the difference.

8. Lighting. Pay close attention to where the can lights are placed in the ceiling. We ended up adding one directly above the sink that wasn't in the original plan and are so glad we did. Also think through where you want light switches (every doorway is a good start). Do you want dimmers? What kind of under-cabinet lighting?

9. Colors. The good news is, wall colors can easily be swapped out. Not so with tile backsplashes, lighting fixtures or other colorful features you choose.

10. Miscellaneous: How hard could it be to pick out cabinet hardware? They're just knobs and handles, after all. Answer: harder than you think. Other decisions you'll need to be ready to make include the type of sink (material, one basin or two, built-in soap dispenser or not, etc.), type of faucet and color of outlets and switchplates.

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Monday, May 11, 2015

6 Eco-Friendly Tips For The Home


Carlisle Wide Plank Floors
By: Anne Reagan, Editor-In-Chief of
Earth Day celebrates its 45th anniversary this year, and looking back over the past 45 years and what we know now about climate change, sustainability, energy efficiency and how our actions impact our planet is alarming but also empowering. We now understand that what we choose to purchase or produce, or what we choose to use or waste, can have a direct impact to the health of our planet as well as the health of our bodies and surrounding environment.

Nowhere is this extraordinary potential seen more than in the decisions we make with our homes, and particularly with home improvement. Even a small DIY project like painting a wall gives us the opportunity to choose a product that doesn't negatively impact our health or our environment. And when it comes to major home remodeling or improvement projects, homeowners have a wide array of choices that can ultimately make a positive, rather than a negative, impact on the environment. As we celebrate Earth Day, let's take a look at some of the best ways to approach your next home improvement project that not only makes your home look beautiful, but adds value to your property, your health and the planet.

1. Get educated about sustainability
Before starting any remodeling or home improvement project, become educated about which materials and supplies are "green" and which ones you might want to do without. Reclaimed wood or cork seem like obvious flooring materials for your next green project, but did you know that linoleum has one of the lowest manufacturing emissions of any flooring product?

You may know that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are bad for your health, but did you know that VOCs are emitted by thousands of products you might already have in your home like paints, cleaning supplies, building materials, craft materials, and furnishings? Smart homeowners looking for earth-friendly home products will also want to consider which products might be negatively contributing to the overall health of their home, and also look at how products are manufactured and their overall impact to our environment. It may be an overwhelming process to become educated on this topic, but understanding your options will make you feel like you are truly adding value to your home, as well as your environment.

2. Tour green homes
Touring a green building or home is a fantastic way to see first-hand how other families have incorporated green building practices within a budget. Very often the builders are on-site to answer questions you might have about costs, practicality or longevity. Another great example of green building and how it works in real life is the Bullitt Center, a commercial structure recently built in Seattle, Washington. Not only did they incorporate the usual eco-conscious materials like solar panels, composting and energy efficient fixtures, they required that no materials used in building the structure (including paints, sealants, fasteners, and insulation) contain any "red list" hazardous materials like PVC, lead, mercury or hormone-mimicking substances, all of which are commonly found in building components. In a sense, they have built a building that is healthier for the environment, healthier for the builders who worked on the project and healthier for the employees who work there every day.

3. Work with eco-friendly brands
Some manufacturers and brands pride themselves not only on the quality of their materials, but on their commitment to sustainable business practices. Carlisle Wide Plank Floors, based in New Hampshire, sells reclaimed and antique wood flooring. After 45 years of working in the wood plank flooring business, Carlisle is the most-requested supplier of reclaimed wide plank flooring in North America. In fact, in 2014 their mill recycled 4.4 million pounds of sawdust, which was turned into wood pellets (called BioBricks), which can be effectively used for heating and is a clean burning choice for fireplaces and wood stoves. Their finishes have no measurable volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and there is no off-gassing on site. Their sourcing is also conscientious: their made-in-the-USA products use mostly local wood and will not deal with any suppliers who engage in clear-cutting. Taking the time to research your suppliers can be an excellent way to become educated about the products available to you, as well as make you feel better about where you are spending your money.

4. Shop at green stores
Shopping for green building supplies is easier than ever, even for the average homeowner on a tight budget. Suppliers and stores are getting better at labeling the "ingredients" of typical materials and some stores are implementing policies with regards to the types of materials they will stock. Much like a health food store, these green building supply companies want their customers to feel educated and empowered when it comes to comparing products. Stores like Treehouse, Green Depot, and Green Building Supply encourage homeowners to think carefully before buying home building supplies. Many of these stores supply a wide variety of typical project materials like paint, insulation, drywall, cabinets and countertops as well as tools and other housewares. Some stores even offer in-store classes or consultations to make your learning curve go faster.

5. Hire green contractors and builders
If your project requires a contractor or builder, you can narrow down your search by hiring a pro that is trained in green building practices. Organizations like the Building Performance Institute certify professionals, like contractors, in the field of energy efficiency for the home. This means that they lend expert advice and solutions for homeowners wanting to ensure important home safety functions like mold prevention, carbon monoxide, solar solutions, geothermal or other types of energy upgrades.

The National Green Building Standard (NGBS) is another organization that helps homeowners understand the value of using green methods when remodeling or building a new home. An NGBS certified home goes beyond energy efficiency. It measures remodeling or new building construction in site design, resource efficiency, water efficiency, energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality and building operation and maintenance. It's a holistic approach to home remodeling or new home construction and helps homeowners understand the cost benefit analysis of choosing green construction over standard practices. You can read more about the NGBS certification process here.

6. Recycle, Reuse, Repurpose
The three original "R's" of Earth Day still ring true today. One of the simplest ways to reduce your waste is to recycle what you already have, reuse it in another way or repurpose it. Many local organizations accept donations of unwanted building materials like cabinetry, countertops, stone or other materials. Better yet, many of these places sell those pieces at a discount, perfect for homeowners looking for a creative DIY project or a vintage piece that lends character to their home. When removing or tearing down an existing structure or room, work with your contractor to save or recycle what you can. Even if you can't reuse these materials, chances are another organization or homeowner can. If you choose to purchase older materials for your home, make sure that they are free from lead, asbestos or other known hazardous materials.

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Monday, May 4, 2015

Should you DIY or hire a pro?
By Jeanette Pavini

Should you tackle that home improvement or maintenance project yourself, or should you hire a professional?

It’s time for spring cleaning and home maintenance after a long hard winter, and time to get ready for summer. For some of us, it doesn’t matter whether it’s changing the fixtures or remodeling the bathroom. We call in the professionals. For others, home improvement and maintenance is a hobby or a necessity. Deciding whether to hire a professional or to do it yourself depends on the project and the most important question: what’s it going to cost?, a local services home improvement marketplace, released its 2015 True Cost Guide Report, which gives some insights into cost comparisons and trend data surrounding home projects. The survey found that when homeowners hire out, they spend an average of $3,100 on home improvement project. At an average of $500, home maintenance projects come cost less, but more homeowners hiring out for this type of project.

The report also took a look at why people research projects costs. One-third do so to find out if they received a reasonable bid, a quarter search to help with budgeting, and 20% are researching to help them decide if they should do the project themselves.

They also found that millennials are more inclined to tackle a DIY project. Sixty-four-percent (more than any other age group) will attempt to complete the project themselves if they think hiring a professional is too expensive. Another reason people decide to DIY? Because price information isn’t available. Almost half of all homeowners will attempt a home improvement project on their own when they can’t find reliable cost information.

But cost isn’t the only factor that should determine whether you hire a pro or do it yourself. It’s important to realistically assess your abilities before tackling a project yourself. A fumbled attempt can cause costs to skyrocket if you have to hire a pro to come in to undo and redo your work.
The Internet can make DIY project looks a lot easier than they are. Start small. Instead of painting your entire house, start with one room and see if the time investment, skill required and results are worth it to you. Look for projects that you can reasonably complete in one day and with tools you already have on hand. Think very carefully before taking on a project that requires permits or messing with plumbing, electrical or the structure of your house.

If you do decide to hire a professional, the Federal Trade Commission suggests that you get several written estimates. Don’t automatically go with the lowest estimate. Ask for the reason behind the price difference. Find out how many projects similar to yours they have completed. Get a list of references, preferably from similar projects. Check their qualifications like licensing and insurance they carry. Find out if your project will require permits. Ask if they will be using subcontractors and if so you will want to check on the subs licensing and insurance coverage. Be sure to find out if they use subcontractors is there a fee that they tack on as the contractor. Many times you can save money if you get the estimate locked in as opposed to going with Time & Material rates.

From doing it yourself or hiring a contractor to avoiding home improvement scams, check out the tips and advice at the FTC website.

Save money but get the job done right. Do your research before you DIY.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Websites, apps make home improvements easier

Glenn Haege

You have heard me say that it is important to visit showrooms to see products and get ideas for your home remodeling projects. But today, the showroom may actually be online or on an app. Here are some websites and apps that can help you plan and visualize your home improvement projects:


DIY Network ( HGTV’s sister network has a website loaded with home remodeling and decorating ideas, along with tips on how to actual do the projects yourself.

HGTV ( The cable network that provides plenty of home remodeling inspiration also has a good website that supplies lots of decorating tips and allows you to browse decorating and remodeling ideas and photos room by room based on styles and color schemes to help you with your home remodeling projects. You also can check out designs by your favorite HGTV hosts and other top designers. HGTV also has a Folio app for iPad designed to provide additional home decor ideas.

Houzz ( Houzz was started as a side project by a couple when they were remodeling their home but has become a community of more than 25 million homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals. The site provides a place to find photos of various home projects for every room in the house and even enables users to buy products for a project. Houzz also has an app to make it easy to use on a smartphone or tablet. ( One of the most popular home remodeling projects is re-doing the kitchen. So this website dedicated to that room provides lots of design ideas, articles, blogs, photos and a product guide section to help you plan a kitchen remodeling project.

Pinterest ( Sometimes the best inspiration for a home project are other people’s finished renovations. Pinterest, a content sharing service that allows members to "pin" images to their pinboard, features a Home Decor section that is filled with photos of decorating ideas and projects from experts or plain old do-it-yourselfers. You can also download the Pinterest Apple or Android app.

Zillow ( Many people go to Zillow to check on the price of homes in their area, but the website also offers a Home Design section with home decorating photos and ideas from professionals and home stores. You can look at ideas for various rooms in the home based on style, color and cost, and you can also click on various products in the photos of rooms to learn more about the products. Zillow also has a Zillow Digs app available for iPhone and iPad to let you access home design ideas on the go.


Color Snap (Sherwin Williams), Color Capture (Benjamin Moore) and Color Smart (Behr) apps from these major paint manufacturers can help you match up color combinations to your project without having to bring home paint samples. The apps are available for both Apple and Android-based devices.

Home Design 3D: This Apple and Android app allows users to import any architectural or hand-drawn design plan and then change every element of the house (walls, objects, furniture)

Homestyler Interior Design: With this app you can use your iPhone or iPad to snap a photo of the room you want to transform and then use its 3D features to see how furniture and decor products will look in the space before you buy them.

Home Depot, Lowe’s and Menards: All of these stores has its own app that allows you to do everything from search the store's inventory, scan UPC symbols and watch how-to videos. The apps are available for both Apple and Android-based devices.

Of course, when you are looking for valuable online information for your home projects, don’t forget my website at With all the prior planning you can do from the comfort of your kitchen table or favorite coffee shop using your laptop, tablet or smartphone, it is easier than ever to move to the front of the home improvement class.

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