Design your dream home without ever leaving your houseWritten by Lori Golaszewski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Designing or remodeling one’s home can be a daunting task for the do-it-yourselfer. But there are many Web sites offering free design tools and applications that can help homeowners take the guesswork out of their project and get the job done right.
At www.bobvila.com/Design Tools, users can take advantage of various estimating and calculating tools for determining the materials and supplies needed for one’s home improvement project.
The Home Renovator application, for instance, enables users to plan drywall, paint, insulation, ceramic tile and acoustical panel projects. Users enter project details, such as room dimensions and paint choices, and receive a report that outlines the amount of material and tools needed, estimated costs, cutting instructions, and more.
Also available is The Deck Designer, which allows users to create a custom-designed deck plan, and The Paint Designer, a tool offering users the opportunity to pick the right paint hue from among thousands of color options.
For those planning exterior projects like roofing or siding, Owens Corning’s Exterior FX online tool helps users experiment with different home exterior looks. After choosing a design, users can send it to a local contractor or dealer, who can show them how their design will look on a photo of their home. Go to exteriorfx.owenscorning.com/exteriorfx.
For those designing their dream kitchen, cabinet manufacturer Merillat offers its 3D Kitchen Design Planner at www.merillat.com/space/planner/index.aspx. The web-based application helps consumers plan their kitchen and visualize it as 3-D computer rendering before visiting a showroom or builder.
Novice kitchen designers can create their ideal kitchen plan using a step-by-step design wizard or pre-configured, professionally designed templates. More experienced kitchen designers have the option of creating a kitchen plan from scratch.
“The kitchen is really the most complex piece of the home,” said Ray Pate, interactive services manager at Merillat. “There are a lot of parts and pieces that go into it, so this tool really helps you with getting all those pieces together and figuring out how they’re going to work so you have a good starting point.”
Users can play with different cabinet styles and finishes, along with appliance colors and surface materials, to create their desired kitchen aesthetic. Designs can be organized and saved in the user’s IdeaFolio and reviewed at a later date. When they’re ready to begin building their kitchen, users can print out the design and take it to the nearest Merillat dealer.
Pate suggests that before using the online kitchen planner, users pre-plan by pulling together accurate measurements and noting any obstructions. He also advises that people have fun and get creative while using the tool.
“Leverage the tool the way it’s built for, which is to space plan with your specific information,” Pate said. “Our whole objective is to create the ultimate experience on our Web site. A lot of people don’t understand what they’re engaging themselves into when they redo their kitchen.
“Our job is to educate you, provide you with knowledge, inspire you and help with design solutions.”
The popular search engine Google also has ventured into the world of design by offering Google SketchUp, “software that you can use to create 3-D models of anything you like.”
The site offers free online models, video tutorials and a Help Center to make the most of your project, whether it’s redecorating a room in your house or building a piece of furniture. Visit sketchup.google.com.
Consumers interested in comparing the cost of energy-efficient windows to that of standard residential windows can do so using the Pilkington Interactive Window Energy Calculator at www.pilkington.com/the+americas/usa/english/building+products/tools+and+calculators/energy+calculator.htm.
“[The calculator] was created to show consumers the advantages to having energy efficient windows,” said Rachel Hepner, Pilkington spokeswoman.
Users choose one of three climate zones in North America representing where they live, which will help in determining the appropriate type of glass for their climate.