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Home Renovation Guide For People That Just Moved In Or Just Moved Out

The first step in renovating your home is creating an elaborate plan of what you want to do with your house. This document will help you to get accurate estimates from contractors, and will also become a base for application process, should you require various permits from government. It is a good idea to start by considering the design and architecture of your particular neighborhood.   Find houses that have been recently renovated and see how changes that were made affected the overall feel of the neighborhood. Everyone will appreciate it if the changes you make to the exterior of your house will compliment the architecture of your city block.

Look at your own house. Try to respect the main features of its original design. You don't want your work to contradict it too much. Make sure to check your renovation design against the Building Code and requirements set up by your local government. Some types of changes generally do not require any special permits. They are:

•  Replacing interior doors
•  Replace existing plumbing fixtures with similar item
•  Replace cabinets or countertops without repairing or replacing drywall, or relocating rough utility lines
•  Floor coverings
•  Replace existing light fixture, switch or outlet with similar item
•  Glass replacement for windows and skylights
•  New sod or lawns
•  Exterior paint
•  Interior paint
•  Wallpaper

Using Contractors

If you use a contractor for your project, make sure to go through this very important checklist:

Can the work that contractor has done in the past be verified? Ask for references and make sure to call or even visit homeowners who used the contactor's help. Ask them if the final price was within the quote originally given. Did the workers show up on time? Were the renovations completed on schedule? All these are important questions that need to be asked in order to establish contractors' reliability and integrity. Keep in mind that millions of people have been victims to scams in the area of building/renovation. By investing your time in finding out all the facts about your contractor before the project, you can avert a potential disaster later on.

TIP 1: Be aware of contactors who claim to be specialists in ALL areas of construction/renovation. This is rarely the case. Majority of companies out there usually have a particular field of expertise that they concentrate on. Bragging about being able to do it all may be a sign of a scammer trying to hold on to your project in its entirety.

TIP 2: Avoid contractors demanding money upfront, before any work is done. When you made your choice, have your contractor pull a permit. Once it's done your contactor becomes responsible for compliance with the Building Code. In exchange for your permit fee, you obtain an inspection to verify that the work was done properly. Having a permit also easies all financial transactions related to your project.

If you are a DIY (Do IT Yourself) kind of person, here is a list of tips for all kinds of renovation work. Let's start with interior renovations, which usually begin with drywall work.

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In addition to being found in the Egyptian pyramids, gypsum rock is referred to in the ancient cuneiform scripts of the Assyrians. The Greeks, whose influence certainly remains in the name by which the rock is known, probably developed its use. They called it Gypsos, the source of our word "gypsum." The biggest part of the gypsum rock used in this country goes into wallboard for homes. Gypsum "boards" (drywall) are formed by sandwiching a core of wet plaster between two sheets of heavy paper. When the core sets and is dried, the sandwich becomes a strong, rigid, fire-resistant building material. It is fire-resistant because in its natural state, gypsum contains water, and when exposed to heat or flame, this water is released as steam, retarding heat transfer.

Gypsum is used widely in modern industry, starting with production of toothpaste for most of which gypsum is the basis.   Most of the bathrooms fixtures are made of clay formed in a mold of gypsum plaster, and chances are that in most homes there is a gypsum board behind the wall tile.

Doctors and dentists use gypsum for a variety of treatments. Benjamin Franklin used ground raw gypsum, called land plaster, at his farm. Today, thousands of tons of land plaster are used in the U.S. and Canada each year.

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Hanging Drywall

Before starting there are few things you must consider.

Drywall comes in a wide variety of types and thickness. If you are redoing a whole room or wall 1/2" regular should be fine. For anything else such as areas that will be wet, exposed to the outdoors, requiring extensive fire protection and so on, you will need a specialized wallboard.

Your next consideration is weather to hang vertically or horizontally. Horizontal applications are often preferred because they minimize joints. The general rule of thumb is to use the longest length panel available and offset all end joints in adjacent rows. A horizontal application using 12' long panels is a safe bet for most walls. If you have ceilings that are 8' or less, you might consider standing upright 8' boards. This is nice as it eliminates "butt" joints the edge of the wallboard.

Use the drywall calculator to figure the amount of board you need. Plan the layout of your project to use full sheets whenever possible and make the cuts so that the joints fall in the center of a joist or stud. Hang ceilings first. Measure and mark your panels with the light colored face paper towards you. Line up your straight edge with the marks and press firmly against the panel.

Score through the paper and lightly into the core with your knife. Now break the panel core by grasping the panel edges near the score line and break the board by pushing the ends away from you in the direction of the uncut side. You can also just push one end away from you while holding the other end firmly in place. Now use your knife to cut through the back paper for the length of the cut. After cutting the panel, place your knee on the board over the cut and with a quick snap pull the two ends towards you, the board will snap clean. Smooth the cut edge with sandpaper.

Keep the edges as square as possible. For openings such as an electrical outlet, measure the near, far, top and bottom sides of the box to the nearest edges of the wallboard and trace the outline at the appropriate position on the wallboard. Then cut the opening with a saber saw or keyhole saw or plunge-type router.

TIP 1: You can use a special "circle cutting" tool but if you don't want to invest in something you will probably never use again, simply take a bowl or can, anything round that is the same size as the circle you need, trace the pattern onto the board and use your utility knife to score the board around the line. Cut thru with your utility knife or use a keyhole saw.

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Attaching Drywall

Prior to drywall attachment inspect framing to ensure that it is straight and free of nails or other projections. Warped or crooked framing should be repaired or replaced. For best results, remember to always stagger the end joints like brick is laid with offset end seams. This will help avoid cracking. You should hang your ceilings first so the walls can help support the ceiling sheets. Mark the joist locations along the wall top plates so they are easy to find once covered. Use screws for best results. They provide more holding power than drywall nails. Usually it is best to run the panels perpendicular to the joists. Also applying construction adhesive to the joist will help provide a better hold. Hold your panel tight against framing and screw the center of the panel first and the perimeter last. If you are nailing instead of using screws, it's wise to invest in a specially designed drywall hammer. The head is shaped so that it creates a perfect dimple while setting the nail. You may want to get a couple strong helpers to maneuver the panels overhead or use T-braces.

Make sure the screw or nail heads are driven to create a small dimple but without breaking or tearing the paper face. If you drive a nail crooked or bend it over don't try to pull it out. Drive a second nail about 2" away then make sure that first nail is driven in below the panel surface. Space nails a maximum of 7" apart on ceilings and 8" apart on walls. Space screws a maximum of 12" apart on ceilings and 16" apart on walls.

Next you can hang the walls. Hang the drywall horizontally and remember to stagger the butt joints. Install that top row first. Position it tight against the ceiling panel and fasten it to the studs in the same way as was described for ceilings. Again, using construction adhesive will be helpful. Then install the lower panels so that the tapered edge meets with the tapered edge of the upper panels. Do any necessary trimming on the edge nearest the floor only.

Avoid vertical joints directly above or below door or window openings whenever possible. Apply corner bead, available in either plastic or metal, to all outside corners of walls and window returns. Hold the bead firmly against the corner and try to maintain the 90-degree angle. Nail it through the existing holes located every 9" on each flange. Be sure that the nails hit studs. Plastic bead can be fastened with staples. Drive all nails to below the nose of the bead being careful not to dent the metal.

TIP 2: Overall, screws are generally the preferred fasteners because they hold into the framing better. The job will also go faster if you have the right kind of screw gun. You want an adjustable gun that will almost automatically sink the screw a little below the surface when properly adjusted. You can use a regular hand drill or screw gun but you must control the depth yourself. Sears sells a nifty bit for use with a regular drill that countersinks the screw perfectly.

Drywall nails are often easier for a person who is not comfortable with a screw gun. The job will be a bit slower and you will need to use more nails (closer together) because they are not as strong as screws. Remember prying out a bent nail may cause more damage than nailing it in so that it is below the surface and then mudding over it later.

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Start with the butt joints (where two boards meet end to end), then move on to the inside and outside corners, and always only do one side at a time. Then move on to the tapered joints (those edges along the long side of the board that are tapered at the factory), and last of all do the fastener areas, use these for filling in while you are waiting for other areas to dry.

The seams require a total of three coats of "mud". The first application will imbed the tape in a thin layer of mud and bond it to the board; this is known as the "Tape Coat". Using your 5 or 6" knife, apply a 1/8"-1/4" thick coat over the center of the seam, approximately 4"-5" wide. Once applied lightly drag your knife the entire length to even out the thickness. Now, tear off a length of tape about the length of the seam and starting at one end, lay it over the center of the joint. Press it lightly with you hand, just to make it stick for now.

Now go back and using your knife flatten the tape into the mud, use pretty firm pressure with this stroke, and work from the center of the length of tape out to the ends. You are trying to remove the excess mud, and just leave a thin layer under the tape. Allow this to dry and then apply a coat of mud over the top of your tape. This is to hide the tape and requires, about a 1/4" - 1/2" layer of mud applied evenly over the top; this time to simply remove most of it. Smooth it out with a stroke down each side, then one down the middle. For the sidestrokes, put more pressure on the outside of the knife and let it ride a little high in the center. For the center stroke keep even pressure on the knife, trying to create a little crown, higher in the center of the tape and tapering out to nothing on the sides.

With factory-tapered edges, (they are slightly beveled on the edges) this coat should extend about two inches wider than the tape on each side. Butt joints, having no taper on the edge, will require you to feather them even farther than with the factory joints. After this coat is done you should not be able to see the joint tape itself as it is completely covered with a layer of mud.   Allow this to dry and then using your 5" knife like a scraper, run it along all the tape joints removing any ridges or globs of mud. You should do this in between each application.

Next you will apply your third coat to the seams, known as the "skim" coat. For this coat follow the same procedure but now you will be using wider knife, an 8" to 12". As before, apply pressure when you "pull" the sides and go very light when you pull thru the center. This completes the taping of the seams. Look them over and check them by holding a straight edge across the seam onto the wallboard, if you see a big indent or crown you will have to add more mud and taper the joint out farther.

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Corners and Fasteners

The inside and outside corners have to be finished one side at a time. You need to apply the mud with a 3" knife for inside corners and a 5 or 6" knife for outside corners. Notice that the outside edge of the corner bead is higher than the surface of the wallboard. The idea is to taper from that edge to the board over a span of 5" or so making it very gradual. This normally takes at least three applications. On the first application shoot for corner to board width of about 2-3", second pass 3-4", and finally a full 5" finishing width. Remember to use your knife to scrape off any globs or ridges prior to applying each coat.

With inside corners you will need to imbed a piece of tape. Apply a thin coat of mud to both sides of the corner, 2"-3" out. Take a length of paper tape starting at one end pinch the ends together and pull it thru your free hand "creasing it" so that it forms a right angle. Lightly place it into the inside corner top to bottom and using your 3-5" knife, from the center towards the top and bottom, firmly press it onto the board.

Wipe off any excess mud and allow drying before applying additional coats. When applying the second coat, pull only one side at a time, allow drying and then applying another. If you try and mud both sides at the same time you will keep messing up either one side or the other so do one side, allow drying, and then mudding the second side. When the second coat is dry if you can still see the tape, apply a third and final coat. You can work on the corners while you are waiting for the tape joints to dry. Your nail and/or screws need three applications of mud to cover them well. Simply apply one coat, allow drying, scraping off ridges and excess mud. Apply next coat and continue in this fashion. When you have finished your taping and finishing you are ready to prepare the new drywall for paint or wallpaper.

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It really pays to buy a good brush! A decent 100% black nylon 3" brush can be had for about $15-$20 and will save you a lot of grief. Wash it well when finished, wrap it and it will last forever.   Polyester roller covers pack down and do not hold paint; you will be reloading your roller forever. Buy a good quality blend or better yet, a lambskin cover. Lambskin covers hold more paint and are less likely to leave "roller track marks".

The thickness of the cover should match your job, 1/4" for fine enamel work all the way up to 1 3/4" thick for very rough surfaces. Widths vary too; you can get a 2" wide roller for smaller jobs all the way up to 18" wide for floors, driveways etc. Normally a 9" wide is suitable for most paint projects. Ask the store clerk for a "roller grid" which is a good alternative to a roller pan.

Paint and Coatings
It is important to use quality coatings, as they provide a much better hiding power, which means your paint job will have a longer life. In this case it really makes sense to invest in a good quality product.   You don't want to have to repaint in 5 months. When choosing paint, stick with the medium and top of the line grades. Remember that buying a big name brand does not guarantee a quality product. If you don't know much about paints, you should explain your needs to the store clerk. People working in hardware stores usually know which paint will be a best choice for a particular job.

In short, enamels are considered best choice for interior painting. They come in wide range of finishes such as high gloss, semi-gloss or eggshell. Enamels are ideal for areas that are used and washed most often, such as kitchens and baths. You may consider using flat wall finishes for bedrooms and living and dining areas. Acrylic formulations are very durable and touch up well.

Exterior coatings have been mostly done in oil-based paints in a past; however, the recent advances in manufacturing resulted in production of acrylic replacements, which in some cases outperform oils. Modern water-based exterior paints offer all the advantages of oils, but do so with a convenience of easy cleanup and low odor. These paints are also way less harmful for the environment.

If you are painting stucco or other cement based areas you can use "elastomeric" coatings, which look just like regular paint but apply a thicker forming that will expand to eliminate any cracks. An average life cycle of "elastomeric" coating is from 8 to 10 years.

Preparation for painting
One of the key ingredients to a lasting paint job is proper preparation of the surface. A clean well-prepared surface allows for easier paint application and a longer lasting, problem free paint job.

Interior surfaces should be washed with a mild soapy solution. Use a mild bleach solution to kill mold and mildew growing on the surface or inside the closets. A mixture of 25% chlorine beach to 75% water should do the job.   Make sure you protect your eyes, skin and wear old clothing.

Remove any furniture or obstructions from the area if possible. Anything that remains in the area should be covered with plastic, drop cloths or a painter's canvas. Remove hardware such as doorknobs, electrical switch and outlet covers.   Cover thermostats with masking tape.

Scrape off flaking paint and sand edges with medium grit sand paper. Patch holes and cracks with Spackle. Re-caulk cracks in corners, baseboards and moldings if needed. Fill in and sand nail holes. Fill holes and dents in a trim with wood filler. Spot prime all patched areas.

Exterior surfaces may require scrubbing with a soft bristle brush or a power wash. Power washers are available at most paint stores and rental centers for a small rental fee. Use with caution as the high pressures can do a lot of damage to both you and your home. Make sure you understand the safety instructions and operations of the machine before beginning. Remove gutters, downspouts, window shutters, light fixtures, window screens and storm doors. If you plan to repaint these items you'll produce better results if you paint them before re-installing.

Exposed nail heads should be countersunk. Rusty nails should be replaced and primed with rust inhibiting primer. When dry, all patched areas should be lightly sanded and spot primed to seal them off. Scrape away flaking and peeling paint. Replace all rotted wood or repair with exterior wood filler.

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Wall Preparation
Previously painted drywall and raw unpainted drywall must be sealed with an oil-based painter designed specifically for this purpose. Seal plaster walls with Sizing, a powder made from wheat or animal bone and mixed with water. Speed up removing old wallpaper by using water with enzyme additives. This will help to break down old wallpaper paste. When scoring the surface of the wallpaper with a razor knife, make lines on a 45-degree angle, 4-5" apart both left to right and right to left. The resulting diamond pattern will allow the water to get under the surface coating on the paper. You can also ask your local hardware store for special tools designed for tearing down wallpaper. Patch holes and dents with Spackle and sand. Remove all switch plates and power outlet covers.

Cutting the paper
Read the manufacturer's manual. Save product information in case you will need to buy more wallpaper. Before hanging, check the pattern and run or dye lot numbers on each bolt to make sure they are all the same. Check each bolt for printing and shading defects.  

Creating a Plumb Line
Start with the least noticeable wall. Measure out from the corner and mark the wall the width of the paper minus 1/2 inch. Place a level at the mark and draw a straight, vertical line (plumb line). This will be a guide for where your first two strips will meet. The success of your job depends on having the first strip straight. Follow this procedure every time you reach a corner or start a new wall.    Go around the room and mark where each strip will end to keep track of the number of strips needed. This will also help avoid ending with a narrow strip that would be difficult and wasteful to hang.    Catching this in advance will allow you to adjust your starting point.

Measuring & Cutting The First Strip
Unroll part way and hold the first roll of wallpaper against the wall to determine where you want the pattern to fall at the ceiling line. Mark the spot with a pencil on the back of the roll (try beginning with a full design at the ceiling). Cut the first strip with a straight edge. Leave about 4 extra inches at the top and bottom for trimming.

Hanging the wallpaper
Place the strip pattern up side down on a large table or on the floor. Lightly coat the back of the strip with the paste recommended by the manufacturer with a paint roller. Use a roller with a short nap 3/8" roller cover.

TIP 1: Allow the wall covering time to expand on the table and it won't try to expand on the wall. Fold and book the wall covering by folding the top half towards the middle, about 1/3rd of the length of the sheet, paste to paste, and the bottom up to the edge of the first fold. Fold pasted side to pasted side, keeping the edges aligned. Unhook the top half of the strip placing the marked spot at the top of the wall, letting the excess paper overlap the ceiling and adjacent wall.   Slide the paper into position to align it with the plumb line. Using a brush, softly press the strip against the wall. Be careful not to rip the wallpaper while positioning. Unhook the bottom half and smooth into place. Keep your hands wet.

Gently tap the strip into the corners, against the ceiling and along the baseboard. Snip a diagonal cut into the corners at the ceiling and baseboard, and smooth the extra 1/2-inch onto the adjacent wall. Smooth the entire strip, working from the top down and from the center outward, forcing out air bubbles. If air bubbles still exist, or if the paper doesn't appear straight, gently pull back the sheet and re-smooth. If a bubble appears that won't smooth, poke it with a pin before it dries and gently work the air out through the pinhole. Wash off the excess paste with a wet sponge or soft cloth immediately.

Trim the excess paper along the ceiling and baseboard with a sharp razor knife. If the paper begins to tear, wait a few minutes then retry. Wash paste off ceiling and baseboards with a wet sponge. Make sure to change the water frequently. Using the same procedure cut and apply the second strip, matching the pattern to the first strip. Butt the edges tightly together, but don't overlap the strips. After hanging 2-3 strips, check for pattern and color inconsistencies. Wait about 15 minutes and go over the seams with a seam roller. Make sure you don't stretch the seams.

To hang around doors and wood framed windows, hang the entire strip of paper and smooth into place to the edge of the window or doorframe. Make diagonal cuts in the wallpaper at the door or window frame corners and allow the paper to separate and lay smoothly against the wall. Smooth the paper around the frame as you go along. Trim the excess paper around the frame with the knife and scraper edge.

Cutting around light switches and outlets:

Turn the electrical power off before you start! With a razor knife, cut and trim an area slightly smaller than the switch or outlet cover. Replace outlet covers and switch plates when finished.

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Installation: A quality installation is critical to the performance of your carpet and will protect your indoor air quality.   Therefore it is not recommended to attempt carpet installation without professional help. Installing a carpet properly requires a whole set of specific skills, each one of which is crucial to the installation process. No matter how talented and ambitious you are, this is the area where you will only lose if you don't ask for help. You've been warned!

Hardwood Floor
Preparation: Determine the size of the room in which the floor will go. Make some exact choices on the size and kind of hardwood flooring you want to use. Consider plank width, whether it will be pre-finished or unfinished to be sanded and finished in place, among other details. Find a dealer in your area to help you pick a style and color that will suit your taste and budget - the dealer can also help you order the proper amount of material. Consider renting a power floor nail gun - laying the floor can be made a great deal easier and quicker by using this tool. Clear the room of all furniture, baseboard trim, door trim and thresholds. Old linoleum and hardwood floors can be resurfaced with new hardwood, but old tile and carpet must be removed. Concrete must have a plywood type surface laid over it.  

Start by checking for loose nails and sweeping the surface clean. Mark location of joists on perimeter walls so that starting runs and finishing runs, which require face nailing, can be nailed into joists. Cover sub floor with a good grade of 15-lb. asphalt felt/building paper, lapped 2 to 4 inches along the edge seams. This helps keep out dust, retards moisture movement from below and helps prevent squeaks in dry seasons. (There are some new vapor barrier/sound deadening/insulating products on the market, but builder's felt works almost as well in most cases at a fraction of the cost.)  

Dry Fitting for Layout
Run the new flooring at right angles to floor joists. There needs to be a 3/4-inch space left open along all edges of the room. A straight alignment of the first course is important. Place a mark 3/4 inch plus the width of the flooring (3 inches for 2 1/4-inch flooring, 4 3/4 inch for 4-inch flooring and so on) on the end wall near the corner of the starting wall. Place similar mark at opposite corner, and snap a chalk line between the two marks.

Lay the first strip tongue edge out from the wall. Nail the first strip 1 inch from the grooved edge (6d or 8d galvanized or screw-shank flooring nails work best). Drive nails straight into the top surface of strips and countersink with nail set (face nailing). Position nails over supporting joists and near ends of strips. (Pre-drilling nail holes will prevent splits.)   Keep the starter strip aligned with the chalk line.  

Blind nail starting strip through the tongue as well. The first two or three runs of flooring strips will have to be blind nailed (nails go into the tongue edge at about a 40-degree angle and must be countersunk with a nail set) - from there on nailing can be done with the power floor nailer. Lay out seven or eight rows of flooring end to end in a staggered pattern with end joints at least 6 inches apart. Find or cut pieces to fit within 1/2 inch of the end wall. Watch your pattern for even distribution of long and short pieces and to avoid clusters of short boards. Dry fit those first to make sure you are happy with the layout.  

Laying the Floor

Make sure that each tongue-and-groove joint is tightly seated together before nailing. Continue installing across the room, ending up on the far wall with the same 3/4-inch expansion space as on the beginning wall. Make sure all joints are tight. Ripping (sawing lengthwise) one row of flooring strips may be necessary to get a proper fit. Avoid nailing into a sub floor joint. Position flooring strips so that they do not meet over sub floor joints. This adds to the overall strength and will reduce the chance of squeaky floors.  

Blind nail by hand where the nailing machine cannot be used. Face nail the last runs when unable to blind nail by hand. With a 2 1/4-inch strip, face nailing is required the last two or three runs and in a ripped piece of a strip if one has been used. Use a pry bar or lever device to tighten these last face-nailed runs all at once before face nailing (be sure to protect the wall from the pry bar).   The floor is now ready to be sanded and finished to your personal taste.

TIP 1: Getting started on a straight line is vitally important factor so take your time in the initial layout phase.
TIP 2: A power floor nailer is a tool that fits tight over the leading edge of each piece of flooring being laid and blind nails it using air pressure to drive the nails. A hardwood-flooring dealer or tool rental center should carry this very job-specific tool. The cost of rental is very small if you consider the amount of time and effort it will save. Get a demonstration of the floor nailer before you take it home and make sure you have plenty of nails for it.   Any nails that aren't used can usually be returned for a refund.  
TIP 3: Call a friend for help! Time to return a favor...  
TIP 4: Use kneepads!

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Exterior renovation

Exterior renovations can greatly enhance your home!
If you live in an older house, chances are that you will want to update or replace cladding, doors and windows at some point. Exterior renovations can give new life to a "tired" home and significantly reduce maintenance. At the same time, you can improve the energy efficiency, security and general comfort of your home. When you are ready to begin planning, talk with a professional renovator to get ideas and a sense of cost. Make sure it's someone who is experienced in exterior renovations and can offer you both sound technical advice and design assistance.

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Changing the look
Maybe you simply want to update the appearance of your home, or maybe you want to transform it with a different look - now is the time to explore the possibilities. To begin with, there is a great selection of quality exterior cladding products - bricks, stucco and siding in many different materials, colors, sizes and styles. Renovators sometimes mix and match materials to create attractive, custom-tailored exteriors.

Replacing your doors and windows can make a big difference to the overall appearance and brightness of your home. With the huge selection of windows and doors on the market, your best bet is to consult with your renovator: Which style, materials, sizes and types would work best? Can you add more windows? Should you increase the number of windows that open and close for a better airflow? Can you add a sidelight to your main doorway for a more welcoming entrance to your home?

The possibilities for upgrading or adding a porch, a deck, overhangs and decorative finishing touches are almost endless. Looking at other people's homes and browsing through magazines is a good first step. Also, ask your renovator for suggestions. Experienced renovators can often see possibilities that you might overlook.

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Saving energy
Replacing your siding presents the perfect opportunity to upgrade the insulation from the outside. Based on the existing structure, your renovator can suggest a number of different approaches, such as adding a layer of rigid or semi-rigid insulation or installing an air barrier to reduce leakage. An experienced renovator will also know what to avoid - for instance, trapping moisture between two vapor barriers.

Your renovator can give you advice on the right new energy-efficient windows to help capture the sun's heat on the north side, block out sunlight and excess heat gain on the south side and to cut glare. Also check the Office of Energy Efficiency at Natural Resources Canada for helpful information on making your home more energy-efficient.

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With today's new products, it's easier to secure your home. Exterior doors can be fitted with dead bolts and strong locks, and windows can be installed with solid locking mechanisms. Consult with your renovator about other measures you can take, such as bars on basement windows. If you have been thinking about a security system, this may be the most cost-effective time to install one. Good lighting is also important to safety. Install lights wherever visibility is an issue - over entrances, along walkways and next to sheds or garages.

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Materials that let you be free
One of the great benefits of today's exterior building products and materials is low maintenance - no more summers spent scraping, sanding and painting siding, trim and windows. As you select the products and materials for your renovation, consult with your renovator to make sure you understand the maintenance requirements.

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Touch-ups and details
An exterior renovation is also your chance to add the touches that make life just a little easier - moving exterior taps to the right location, replacing taps with frost-free hose-bits and installing or relocating outside plugs. Take advantage of your renovator's experience - ask for more suggestions.

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The most common types of roofing materials for residential structures are asphalt shingles, wood shingles and shakes, metal roofs, tile, slate and composite coverings.

Asphalt is the most commonly used and least expensive roof covering material. Asphalt roofing materials consist of either a rag fiber or a fiberglass mat impregnated with asphalt and covered with colored mineral granules. A wide variety of designs, weights, colors and sizes are available.

Asphalt roofs show their age when the mineral granules wear off, reveal the black asphalt and the corners and edges of the shingles begin to curl and crack. This is an indication that the asphalt composition has begun to dry out and lose its weatherproof seal. When only a few shingles show the above type of wear, the simple and less costly replacement of worn out shingles may be all that is needed. If one out of every five to ten shingles shows this wear and aging, it may be the time to re-roof.

Wood shingles and shakes: Shingles made of cedar, cypress or red wood are highly rot-resistant and May last 30 to 35 years if properly installed and maintained. The best wood roofing materials are pressure-treated with wood preservatives. When considering home safety, it is wise to note that wood shingles and shakes are more highly combustible than the other roofing materials available. If a wood shingle is your choice, look for one treated with fire-retardant chemicals.

As wood shingles and shakes age they may shrink and form gaps between each shingle. They may also become brittle and offer less protection from the elements. As is the case with asphalt shingles, if only a few wooden shingles show wear and tear, replace the individual shingles.

Metal roofs: Metal roofs are highly resistant to damage from the elements and frequently last 40 years or more. They are highly fire resistant and require little maintenance. Small damaged areas can be repaired with patches of similar metal. The materials used in a metal roof may include copper, tin, steel, aluminum, lead or an alloy combination of one or more of these metals.

Tile, slate and composites: Roofs made of slate or tiles composed of either clay or concrete are perhaps the longest lasting available. They frequently survive more than 50 years, and normally require little or no maintenance. In addition these materials are extremely fire resistant. When one of these roofs does need replacement, however, the cost can be very high. Tiles offer comparable benefits to slate but come in a more decorative and cosmetically-pleasing variety of colors, textures, shapes and sizes. Tiles can be glazed or unglazed. Slate typically comes in only black, grey or dark red.

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Roof Coatings
Roof coating has become an effective and popular method of extending the life of a roof. It can add protection against weather and fire and increase energy efficiency. It can also be used to change the color of the roof. But is no substitute for repairs to a defective or worn out roof. Roof coatings should be applied before any serious roof deterioration occurs. Maintenance roof coatings or cold process roof coatings are ready-to-use protective coatings for roofs and other areas exposed to the elements. They come in a liquid or semi-liquid state and are applied by brush, roller or spray. Roof coating professionals generally use coating materials that can be grouped into the following five categories:

Asphalt-base coatings: Asphalt-Base Coatings come in three different types: emulsion, solvent or aluminum pigmented.

•  Emulsion Type Coating is adaptable over asphalt built-up roofs, metal roofs and those similarly composed, provided there is adequate drainage. When applied in the proper thickness, it chalks slowly and doesn't blister. It can be applied over a damp surface and will not flow under heat. It does require temperature and humidity conditions that permit thorough water evaporation before the coating can be subjected to rainfall, freezing, or standing water. Emulsion coating requires a clean and a primed surface for good adhesion.

•  Solvent Type Coating can be applied over asphalt, composition, asbestos-cement, metal and masonry roof surfaces. It can be applied on a clean, dry surface over a wide temperature range and is relatively free of wash-off problems after a short drying period. It has good water resistance and may not require a primed surface for good adhesion. Solvent coating may flow under extreme heat and is combustible. It is susceptible to blistering if applied over a damp surface or any material containing moisture.

•  Aluminum Pigmented Coating consists of flake aluminum particles dispersed in solvent type asphalt coatings. It can be applied over asphalt, composition or metal roofs having adequate drainage and provides a reflective or decorative surface. The coatings reflectivity helps improve buildings energy efficiency by deflecting ultraviolet rays and reducing the roof's temperature. The cost of this coating is higher than most and its applications over low melt asphalt roofs can result in discoloration and scaling. It is susceptible to blistering if applied over a damp surface or any material containing moisture.

Alkyd-base coatings: Alkyd-base coatings can be applied over metal, composition or masonry roofs that have adequate drainage. They perform the same functions as aluminum pigmented coating. Although alkyd-base coatings cost more, they are often selected because of their decorative versatility. They will not flow under heat and are susceptible to blistering if applied over any damp material. Alkyd-base coatings tend to discolor and/or split when applied over low melting point asphalt and are combustible.

Acrylic Latex Coating: Acrylic latex coating comes in liquid form and is available in various colors; white being the most common. White and other light colors reflect the sunlight, keeping the interior of a building cooler and conserving energy during warmer months.

Flexible Ceramic Coating: Flexible Ceramic Coating is a relatively new addition to the roof coating business. The primary attraction of a ceramic coating is its insulation properties that allow for energy efficiency. As a result of its flexible nature, ceramic coatings help seal cracks and hide surface flaws. It has proven particularly popular in warmer climates.

Refined Coal Tar Coating: Refined coal tar coating is used for re-coating tar and gravel roofs. In preparation, the gravel must be removed and roof surface broom cleaned. Proper protection requires approximately seven gallons per 100 square feet, and gravel should be re-applied over the coating. It is self-heating at warm temperatures, is very water resistant and can be used where the roof is subject to standing water. Refined coal tar tends to be brittle in cold weather, and its use is restricted to relatively flat roofs. Some roofing contractors provide inspection service free-of-charge in an effort to solicit work. You should expect a roofing inspector to pay close attention to roof penetrations, flashings and distress areas such as blisters, curling and cracks. Tell the inspector about any problems you yourself may have noticed; particularly during the rainy or snowy seasons.

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Hiring a Roof Contractor
If you determine that you will need some roof work done, take the time to evaluate the roofing contractor who may be doing the job. The following guidelines will help in you choose a qualified, experienced roofer.

•  Check for a permanent place of business, telephone number, tax I.D. number, and (where required) a business license. Insist on seeing copies of the contractor's liability insurance coverage and workers' compensation certificates.

•  Make sure the coverage is in effect through the duration of the job.

•  Look for a company with a proven track record that readily offers client references and a list of completed projects. Call these clients to find out whether they were satisfied.

•  Check to see whether the contractor is properly licensed or bonded. Call your province's licensing board for your province's specific requirements.

•  Check to see if the contractor is a member of any regional or national industry associations

•  Insist on a written proposal and examine it for complete descriptions of the work and specifications, including approximate starting and completion dates and payment procedures.

•  Contact your local Better Business Bureau to check for a business report or any complaints that have been filed on a contractor.

•  Have the contractor explain his or her project supervision and quality control procedures. Request the name of the person who will be in charge, how many workers will be required and the estimated completion time.

•  Carefully read and understand any roofing warranty offered and watch for provisions that would void it. The lowest bid is not always the best option. Remember, price is only one criterion for selecting a roofing contractor. Professionalism and quality workmanship should weigh heavily in your decision.

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Keep a record of what you have planted, or better yet, keep the labels that came with your plants. This will help answer any questions about what the plant may need if it starts looking poorly and will remind you next year of what you liked and what didn't work. It also helps to take pictures and label them. You'll remember color combinations and favorite plants. If you start a garden journal, you can also record how plants perform, when flowers are in bloom, how large a harvest was and all kinds of information that will help you make a better garden next year.

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Simple start
You may have visions of drifts of color, wild flower prairies or bushels of tomatoes, but get your feet wet first. For flower gardens, choose a site close to the door or with a good view from a favorite window. Place your garden where you'll see and enjoy it often. This will also motivate you to garden more.

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Choose your site
If you have your heart set on growing a specific plant, check to see what growing conditions it requires. Vegetables will need at least 6 hours of sun exposure a day. The same goes for most flowering plants, however there are still many to choose from for a partially shaded site. If you want to start a garden where there is mostly shade, your choices are going to be more limited, but not prohibitive.

Also take into consideration when the sun hits your site. Afternoon sun will be hotter and more drying than morning sun. Many plants turn their faces toward the sun, so if your view of the garden is from a west window, your flowers may face away from you in the afternoon. Evaluate other elements of exposure such as high drying winds or heavy foot traffic. Once you know where you'd like to try your first garden, use a hose or extension cord to try laying it out on the ground.

Once you know where you want to plant, it's time to check the soil. Soil testing is the least glamorous part of gardening, but the most important. At the very least check your soil's pH. This will tell you how acid or alkaline your soil is. Plants cannot take up nutrients unless the soil's pH is within an acceptable range. Most plants like a somewhat neutral pH, 6.2 - 6.8, but some are more particular. If you are growing plants from the nursery, check the plant tag for specifics. If no pH preference is listed, a neutral range is fine.

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Making a bed
This is no one's favorite garden chore, but there's no way around it. Your chosen site will probably have grass on it or at least weeds. These must be cleared somehow, before you can plant anything. Tilling without removing the grass or weeds is best done in the fall, so that the grass will have a chance to begin decomposing during the winter. Even so, you will probably see new grass and weeds emerging in the spring. It's better to either remove the existing vegetation completely or to smother it.

A sharp flat-edged spade can be used to slice out the sod. If you have poor soil and need to amend it with organic matter or other nutrients, removing the sod may be your best bet, so that you are able to till in the amendments.

Removing sod can be heavy work and you wind up loosing good top soil along with the sod.

It your soil is in relatively good shape, it is possible to leave the grass in place and build on top of it. Place a thick layer (8-10 sheets) of newspaper over the garden bed and wet it thoroughly. Then cover the newspaper with 4-6 inches of good soil. The newspaper will eventually decompose and the turf and weeds will be smothered. There may be some defiant weeds that poke through, but not many so you can hand weed them. Starting with good soil means you won't have to add a lot of artificial fertilizer to your garden. If you've fed the soil with amendments, the soil will feed your plants.

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Choosing what to grow
This is harder than you might think. If you are starting small, you have to limit yourself to a handful of plants. If you are growing vegetables start with what you like to eat and what you can't find fresh locally. Corn takes a lot of space and remains in the garden a long time before it's ready to be eaten. If you have corn farms nearby, you might want to use your small garden for vegetables that give a longer harvest, like tomatoes, lettuce and beans.

Flower gardens can be even harder. Start with what colors you like. Rather than basing your dream on a photograph from a magazine, take a look at what your neighbors are growing successfully. They may even be able to give you a division or two. Take a walk around a couple of garden centers and read the plant labels. Then play with combining the plants that strike your eye until you find a combination of 3-5 plants that pleases you.

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Actual planting
Sometimes you have to plant when you have the time, even if that's high noon on a Saturday. But the ideal time to plant is on a still, overcast day. The point is, stress your new plants as little as possible. Water the plants in their pots the day before you intend to plant. Don't remove all the plants from their pots and leave them sitting in the sun for the roots to dry out. If the roots are densely packed or growing in a circle, tease them apart,   so they will stretch out and grow into the surrounding soil. Bury the plant to the depth it was in the pot. Too deep and the stem will rot. Too high and the roots will dry out. Don't press down hard on the plants as you cover them. Watering will settle them into the ground. Water your newly planted garden as soon as it is planted and make sure it gets at least one inch of water per week. You may have to water more often in hot dry summers. Let your plants tell you how much water they need. Some wilting in noonday sun is normal. Wilting in the evening is stress.

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You hear a lot about mulching lately, and it really does make a major difference in a garden. Mulch conserves water, blocks weeds and cools the soil. Organic mulches like shredded or chipped bark, compost, straw and shredded leaves, will also improve the soil quality. Plastic mulches are nice in a vegetable garden to heat the soil around warm season crops like tomatoes, peppers, melons and squash. Whatever mulch you choose, apply it soon after planting, before new weeds sprout. Apply a 2-4 inch thick layer of mulch, avoiding direct contact with the plant stems. Piling mulch around the stem can lead to rotting and can provide cover for munching mice and voles.

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Hopefully when you were selecting plants you did some background checking and didn't select too many prima donnas. All plants are going to require some maintenance. The idea that perennial plants require less maintenance than annuals is wrong. At the very least, your plants will require 1 inch of water a week. If it rains regularly, good for you. If not, don't let your plants get drought stressed. Once a plant is stressed it will never recover fully that growing season. There will also be weeding to do. Weed seeds come from all kinds of sources: wind, birds, soil on shoes... Deadheading or removing the spent blossoms from your flowers, will keep them blooming longer and looking fresher. Vegetables will produce more if you keep harvesting while young. Some taller plants may need to be staked, to keep from flopping. It may happen that one of your choices isn't happy and dies. Move on and replace it with something else.

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Don't forget to enjoy it!
You've heard the saying "Stop and smell the roses"? Gardeners can be the worst at taking that advice. We're so busy with our heads down at soil level, pinching, pruning and pulling every weed, that we often don't appreciate what we've created until someone else tells us. Step back and enjoy what you've accomplished. Then start making plans to expand next year.

After all major work inside and outside the house is done, it comes the time to consider the actual remodeling: how and what will you change/replace, what design styles and strategies will you use and which materials will be best suited to help you fulfill your vision. Here are the steps you should take to make your dream house a reality:

•  Decide ahead of time on a budget or payment plan and pace your decorating. Include money for accessories.

•  Decide on one room at a time and designate a priority within your room. That's where you should begin.

•  Have a plan, color scheme, style, and atmosphere. Have a target date for completion. Your confidence level in tackling your decorating project makes a big difference. If you are the least bit unsure, contact a professional designer. He or she will save you time, energy, money, and frustration. Select a designer that you respect with and trust. He/she should know your likes and dislikes to make sure your family feels comfortable with the design.

•  Measure your room to scale. Show windows and doors. Decide on a focal point. Measure furniture, rugs, etc. before purchase. Draw your furniture to scale and cut out the drawings. Place these on your floor plan, moving them around until you get an arrangement that you like. This is very easy on your back. This procedure will also help you decide if the items are proportionately correct for your room. Think about ceiling height and traffic flow.

•  Repeat each color in your scheme at eye level, mid level, and floor level to achieve good visual balance. Repeat any pattern and/or textures at least twice in the room.

•  Paint and wallpaper/borders go a long way in updating and refreshing a room, and usually cost very little.

•  View colors and patterns in your home during daylight hours before making a purchase.

•  If you do not plan to be in your home for a long time, invest in accessories (artwork, area rugs and decorative pillows) that could easily be used in another home.

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Using a designer and/or decorator

Interior decorators help you put your creative stamp in your home by dealing with decorating, furnishing, and space issues, often in unique and personalized ways. Choose an interior decorator whose projects are not only appealing, but have proven practical to build and live in as well. Interior decorating is not just "having an eye" for color or recognizing quality furniture. It is an extensive discipline that encompasses many specialized areas of expertise, including:

•  Colors and how they relate to one another
•  Patterns and how they relate to one another
•  Human perception of space, depth, and texture
•  Compatibility of furniture styles
•  Effective space utilization
•  Specialized painting and stenciling techniques
•  Wide variety of possible window treatments and much more

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How to find your decorating style
Buy and read home and decorating magazines. Begin flipping through them, finding photographs of rooms you really like. As you are searching, you will find things that jump out at you and eventually you will see a pattern emerge of rooms you like and styles that represent the kind of home you want. Knowing basic style categories will further help define your style preferences.

Styles are typically grouped into the following basic categories:

•  Traditional (formal, dressy, rich fabrics, cherry wood)
•  Country (antiques, pine, collectibles, cozy warm feeling)
•  Contemporary (clean lines, dramatic)
•  Romantic (soft, elegant, ruffles, lace)
•  Oriental (antiques, dramatic colors, high style)
•  Southwestern (earth tones, textures, artifacts)
•  Transitional or Eclectic (mixes of any style)

Purchase a couple of magazines that represented your style so you will have them as reference. It will help you when you are looking for furniture, colors, accessories, etc. later on. This exercise will also help you find a definition to your style.   Do you entertain a lot? How many people are in your family? Do all the kids in the neighborhood come to you house? Do you have small children? Who are you and how does your home get used? This is an important part of the process because the answers to these questions will determine where you should begin decorating your home.

Designers and decorators often say the first room you plan for should always be your master bedroom. The theory is you are in this room the most and therefore it should be a well-centered, organized place. If you wake and sleep in a beautiful place, you will be happier. If you are a person who loves to entertain formally, then you should consider working first on your living room and dining room. If you like to entertain informally with friends and family, work on your family room and kitchen spaces. If you are a cook and everyone congregates to your kitchen, then by all means do kitchen first. If you are a homebody and just love relaxing in your bedroom, do that first. If you are a busy professional and are rarely home, then the bedroom theory from above may be the best for you. Typically, you will be in that room more often anyway. Once you define what areas are most important to have completed first, you will be well on your way to a finished home.

If you don't focus on what area first, second and third, you will become very overwhelmed by all the things you need to accomplish. Break it down into smaller pieces and get it done step-by-step. Figure out with your lifestyle what rooms are most important to finish first while keeping an overall eye on your whole house. If you see bedding that would work for your master bedroom and it's on sale, go ahead and purchase it, but don't then switch focus to that room when you are almost finished with the family room. Once you find your style, the rest falls into place.

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Room and furniture arrangement

  • Find main piece in each room. In furniture arrangement of any room, the major piece for the primary activity of the room must be considered first - the sofa in the living room, the bed in the bedroom, the desk in the office. This piece in most cases should face the focal point of the room. The focal point can be a view window, fireplace or, as is often the case, the television. Large pieces should be evenly distributed so as not to put the arrangement of the room off balance. Leave space around them for the best effect. In selecting these pieces, keep the architectural shapes of the room in mind. To echo a curved bay window with a curved sectional sofa or curved desk is pleasing to the eye and makes the furniture arrangement much easier.
  • Identify pieces related to the main piece. The room arrangement must make your activity comfortable and convenient as well as flatter your furniture. Think about the use of the room as you arrange the furniture. If you typically eat or drink there, is there a place to set your cup or plate down? Is there enough storage for books or CDs? If the room is used for socializing, is there enough seating and is it appropriately arranged? Wherever possible keep pieces of similar scale together. A small occasional chair would look better next to an accent table or floor lamp than next to a large overstuffed sofa. Try to balance pieces of furniture opposite one another. A pair of upholstered chairs is visually more balanced across from a sofa than a pair of small-scale occasional chairs. Mix straight lines for interest in a room. A round table or curved chair breaks up the monotony of an otherwise linear furniture arrangement. Balance the number of wood and upholstered pieces. Mix hard and soft surfaces by adding rugs or fabric-covered tables to a room otherwise filled with wood, metal and stone.
  • Identify "accent" pieces. Furniture arrangement for a secondary use adds function to a room. A reading corner in a bedroom or a game area in a family room can be created with a minimum of space. A long empty wall can be made into a focal point by grouping pictures over a long narrow table. Place a desk under a window to take advantage of the natural light and view. Place a curved item in a corner to soften the angle. A corner cupboard or curio cabinet is a wonderfully functional piece that adds character to the room while displaying your favorite collection.
  • Find the best spot for your furniture. Be aware of the light in the room when deciding on your furniture arrangement. A dark cabinet may disappear in a dimly lighted alcove. Bright pieces may seem garish under a picture window. Break up the horizontal lines of the room by mixing in taller items. A secretary or bookcase against the wall, a high back chair next to the sofa or a pair of lamps on a credenza will give the eye some variety and improve the view. A sofa may be placed diagonally in front of a corner that has been softened by a plant or screen.
  • Be aware of traffic patterns. You can direct the flow of traffic through furniture arrangement. Leave a minimum of two and a half feet for walkways and avoid flowing traffic through a conversational grouping if possible. Guide the traffic around the room's perimeter to create a less disruptive environment. Be aware of the usage of adjacent rooms in laying out your floor plan and flow colors from one adjacent room to the next when they are visible from one another.
  • Personalize! Ultimately, your home is an expression of who you are. Design your rooms so that you are comfortable, with a realistic eye on your own taste and habits rather than relying on a picture from a magazine. After all, you're going to be living there.

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Adding art and accessories can be that final touch that makes a beautifully decorated room a fantastic room! Great care should be taken when choosing both the art you hang and the accessories you place in a room. It is with these items that your style and taste are further defined. As well as helping to complete a room, they may also be used as a basis for the decor of one or more rooms.

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Floor Cover

An area rug is perfect for giving personality to a room, and for this reason, they have few rivals. What could be more elegant than an heirloom quality Oriental area rug atop a gleaming hardwood floor, or more charming than a handcrafted braided area rug on timeworn pine planks? Area rugs come in a myriad of styles and prices, and their versatility will set the mood-and more.

Area rugs, beyond beauty, are stage-setters and contribute hardworking area rug design elements. Area rugs bring softness and warmth to any hard-surface floor, instantly infuse color and pattern into a space, and make comely cover-ups for soiled or damaged carpet. Area rugs are great unifiers, sparking entire color schemes. One of the best decorating strategies is to use area rugs to define specific activity centers within a room, especially important in large rooms and in today's flowing, open-plan homes. For example, let one area rug set boundaries for a conversation area and another area rug outline a dining spot. Area rugs can be used alone or in conjunction with carpet.

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Spacious or cozy?

Spacious: You love the wide-open spaces and want to bring the outside in. You may prefer a contemporary room design and think of your personal decorating style as "light and airy". Here are some tips on achieving that sense of spaciousness when you design a room.

•  Lighting. To create a feeling of largeness when designing a room, you will want to eliminate the shadows that tend to slice a room up into smaller spaces. Work on lighting the room with a soft, even light. Avoid ceiling lights, as they tend to make the ceiling feel lower. Diffused, ambient lighting will tend to enlarge the design of the room.

•  Color. Soft colors and monochromatic color schemes are popular styles of room design. Use cream, beige, gray or cool pastels on your walls and floors to make them recede. The ceiling should always be the lightest color in the room, when designing.

•  Textures. Keep your surfaces free of heavy textures. Smoother surfaces tend to reflect more light and make the room feel larger. Avoid heavy textured flooring designs. Choose tile over patterned or textured carpeting when you design a room. Reflective and shiny surfaces such as mirror and chrome also can be used effectively in room design.

•  Patterns. Limit the use of patterns in the room design to create a more airy feeling. The idea is not to stop the eye as it travels across the room. A typical application of a pattern might be to reserve it for an accent piece; pillows and/or accessories might be a good design choice.

•  Furniture. Selection and placement of furniture in room design is crucial in defining the space. Keep the largest pieces against the walls whenever possible. Choose furniture colors that are the same or similar design to those selected for the walls and floors. Select pieces that stand off the floor on legs and are made of materials that reflect or let light through. And above all, use as few furniture pieces as possible in the room to avoid an over-crowding room design.

Cozy: Your room is your nest. You want to be fully enveloped by it, surrounded by its warmth and comforted by its inviting spaces. Here are some things to consider when creating an intimate room space.

•  Lighting. Design spaces through the use of directed light. The shadows that will result will help visually eliminate those areas. Lighting from the ceiling will seem to lower it. A reading lamp or down-shaded lamp will cast light only in its relative vicinity. Use incandescent rather than halogen or fluorescent lamps for a warmer glow, when designing a room.

•  Color. Choose strong colors for your walls and floor in your room. This room design technique will tend to bring them in closer towards one another. A dark floor with walls of brown or deep red, blue or green tones will help create the feeling of a smaller, cozier space.

•  Textures. Heavy, soft textures add warmth to a space. Faux fur or hand knitted throws on a sofa, plush pile carpeting and draperies are all textural elements to consider in room design. Use rougher textures for the hard elements in the room; iron instead of chrome, brick instead of glazed tiles.

•  Patterns. The use of pattern in a room can also lend a sense of coziness to the space. Oriental rugs and printed wallpapers, patterned upholstery fabrics - used alone or in combinations; the more patterns in a room, the smaller it will feel. The subject of mixing patterns in a room will be covered at some future time. Suffice it to say, care must be taken when combining patterns in the design of a room. The rule of thumb, especially in a smaller space is "Don't overdo it."

•  Furniture. Choose dark finishes and fabrics to create a sense of the piece being larger than it actually is. Heavy textured fabrics and large patterns will add a cozy feeling to a sofa or chair. Place pieces away from the wall and use tall pieces to divide and define smaller spaces within a room for greater intimacy.

TIP 1: Buy a book on Feng Shui and learn how placement and arrangement of items in your house plays a vital role in creating a healthy, open environment. Best of luck!

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