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Site Seer: Ideas to update or renovate your home

November 7, 1996
Web posted at: 12:00 p.m. EST

From CNN Interactive Writer Kristin Lemmerman

(CNN) -- The home improvement business is booming, and you may feel like you should get involved -- whether you live in an older apartment or house, or have just finished building your dream home. The urge to tinker with your surroundings for many, is irresistible.

If moving the furniture or hanging a few pictures on the wall doesn't cure your malaise, a new home improvement project may be what you need to perk back up. While your local hardware store can often tell you how to do something, sources of inspiration are always helpful. This is where the Web steps in.

This old hometime: fixer-upper shows move to multimedia

Hometime page

The Hometime site features projects and information aired on the Hometime television show (on PBS). It previews upcoming shows, tells where you can buy tools featured on the program, and gives detailed instructions on projects ranging in difficulty from installing ceramic tile to contracting out a new house.

One of the things I really liked about this site is that it gives you a range of projects, from big to small, and gives detailed step by step instructions. The advantage: if you see a project you like, you can get a clear idea of whether or not you have the skills to complete it, or whether you should access the site's guide to hiring a contractor.

The site might be better if each project included more pictures, so that would-be do-it-yourselfers can see exactly how the job is done. If you have problems conceptualizing how each step is carried out, you can always place an order, online of course, for the videotape.

This Old House

This Old House page

The "This Old House" web site also includes a catalogue of do-it-yourself projects and an index of historic homes whose renovation the show has profiled (for Old House fans, the latest home featured is the Nantucket Victorian currently being shown on PBS).

The site also hosts tool tips, appliance advice and a solid library of landscaping ideas. It makes more use of pictures than the Hometime site does. Like the Hometime site, it breaks each article down into several pages, making your download time per page faster and making it practical to have very long, detailed articles with illustrations.

home improvement site

Although there was limited home repair information available on the Home Improvement USA site, it is nonetheless a worthwhile site because it allows you to listen to the radio show "Home Improvement USA" live each week using the RealAudio plug-in. You can also listen to selected past episodes, and learn about the home improvement qualifications of the show's hosts.

Home improvements can satisfy a number of goals

Good Cents page

If your primary objective in your home is to make it eat less energy, the Good Cents site may be a good starting point for you. Good Cents is a national program that promotes energy-efficient home building; its site's primary focus is to promote its magazine and encourage builders to get Good Cents training. However, there is also information published in the online version of the Good Cents magazine that would be valuable to people building their first home or upgrading their current residence.

If, on the other hand, you want a more beautiful, more valuable home, consider improving your landscape. A good landscape can make your house more appealing to you and to prospective home buyers years down the road, making it easier to sell. However, for many people, visualizing new a new setting for their home is daunting if not impossible.

Living Home page

The Living Home online magazine can help. It's grunge's answer to Martha Stewart -- hip layout combined with tips for acting like you've got your act together. The site will help you figure out what type of grass to plant in your landscaping jobs, and how much of it to buy, and suggests plants you can plant in the fall. Back inside, the site's Hot House section houses information on stenciling, English cottage gardens, and building a wall out of windows, among other topics.

The Houston Lighting & Power Company web site's focus is making homes more energy efficient through both landscaping and home design. It uses colorful graphics to illustrate its useful tips, and gives good tips on getting started for both landscape and insulation.

For more detailed information on landscaping, you may want to post specific questions on a garden web site like The Garden Gate or spring for a book or computer software to help you out. And, of course, hiring a contractor is always an option.

Choosing a contractor

Contractor Network page

Speaking from personal experience I can say with conviction that even if you know how to use nothing but a hammer and a screwdriver, you will be amazed at how many projects you can tackle yourself. However, if think you're biting off more than you can chew, hiring a reputable professional to get the job done is always an option.

The Contractor Network web site is a good place to start if this is your choice. The site serves as a referral service for the construction industry, but was designed so that home owners can find the information they need. Search by topic, or post your home improvement question if the answer isn't already in the site's archives, and Contractor Network will get you an answer.

When hiring a contractor for a job it helps to know the rules where you live. The Contractor Network lists contractors who are insured in their specialties (they pay to be listed) and gives you a checklist of questions to ask to help you in choosing a contractor. It also lists licensing statutes by state.

The site also sells a videotape entitled "How to Hire a Contractor." You can preview a small portion of the tape before you buy, by downloading the site's QuickTime movie. Online ordering is available.

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Related sites:

Home Central - Includes many, many more links to other types of home improvement sites.
Dan's Do-It-Yourself page - Includes links on renovating Craftsman bungalows and woodworking
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