Invest a little time and money in helpful software for great gains
Home Designer Suite 2012, $98
The download version of this highly rated software lets you use advanced design tools to visualize what your home improvement project will look like with 3D models and virtual tours. Home Designer Suite 2012 can help you plan and estimate the costs before you begin. Create a new room, bath, kitchen or other space. Myriad cabinet combinations, countertops, appliances and fixtures as well as custom colors, materials and more are a keystroke away.
Available at Amazon.com
Home & Landscape Design Premium NexGen3, $99.99
This packaged software includes planning and tools for home improvements as well as landscape and backyard beautification. Apply paint, carpet or other materials to a surface, room or your entire house with a mouse click. Choose default materials and colors for doors, windows and more before you start designing. Being able to measure distances within your drawing enables quick reference or planning of furniture placement. Accurate imaging allows you to make real-world design decisions. User-controlled sun angles and shadows add detailing as with a photograph. You can opt to print a design as a two- or three-dimensional picture.
Instant Architect 12, $69.95
Labeled as perfect for home remodelers and do-it-yourselfers, this packaged software is geared to both the ground-up design of a home as well as kitchen remodeling. It doesn’t feature some of the imaging capabilities of other software but is instead considered a no-frills design package. This software does not allow you to build upon existing floor plans or import your own.
HGTV Home Design & Remodeling Suite, $49
This packed software has wizards to design bathrooms, kitchens or a home itself. A useful feature is that you can edit the templates that you design through the wizards after they are implemented into the design. This beginner’s software would be great for home use to aid in remodeling or building projects. It’s great for creating a new living space, adding a fireplace, making your home energy-efficient with new appliances, replacing countertops, cabinetry and fixtures and enhancing any room in your house with a brand-new look.
Big Hammer Deck Designer, free (requires Internet Explorer)
This Internet application features more than 70 deck templates that allow you to customize them to your needs, or you can draw your own free-form deck design. Then, the choice of decking materials is yours to make by classification, lumber size and grade. When you’re happy with your design, Big Hammer provides a list of materials down to the last screw.
OneNote 2010, $79.95 after trial
While not specific to home improvement, this download may make the difference between ease and difficulty. Homeowners rely on stacks of paper, mountains of emails, lists of bookmarked websites, piles of catalogs and numerous notebooks to store the fine points of their projects. Folks who’ve gone through this know how quickly vital information gets lost. OneNote can help you organize your projects, from research and budget to calendar and contractors. A 60-day trial version is free.
Energy Star Home Advisor, free
What can be done to hold the line on your energy costs? How can you manage these costs this summer and be prepared for winter?
There’s a website where electric co-op members can go for such advice. The Energy Star Home Advisor offers tips for homeowners. It’s simple, free and anonymous. The site provides a summary of estimated savings in total energy, electricity, fuel use and carbon emissions associated with custom-recommended measures based on the typical energy use of homes in the user’s area.
Typical recommendations include sealing air leaks, adding insulation, replacing old heating and cooling equipment, installing a high-efficiency water heater, installing a programmable thermostat and replacing lights and appliances with Energy Star-rated models.