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Improving -- Improving and remodeling homes has become one of America's favorite pastimes. In fact, a recent Harvard study shows the $214-billion-a-year home improvement industry has been a major force in boosting the country's economy. Whether you're buying selling or staying right where you are, every homeowner has a wish list to make their largest investment more comfortable, functional, convenient or more aesthetically pleasing. You'll find valuable help here.

IMPROVING

The basics
How to hire a contractor -- Remodeling your home is not something you do every day. Here's how to be selective when choosing a contractor.

The cost of luxury -- Just how does the other half improve its homes? With top-notch entertainment rooms, gourmet kitchens and massive master suites that cost more than the mortgages most of us carry on our run-of-the-mill houses.

Making your home bird-friendly -- Want to encourage feathered friends to visit your property? There's more to it than just putting up a bird feeder.

Remodeling, room by room
Family room -- The old adage that less is more is truly the rule of thumb in this high-traffic space.

Kitchen -- Homeowners typically recoup more than 80 percent of their kitchen-renovation dollars at resale.

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Master bedroom suite -- Add some space to your bedroom, with sitting areas, big closets, dressing areas and even snack areas.

Bathroom -- Products once available only in million-dollar homes are now available to the masses.

Spare bedroom -- Spare bedrooms are doing double-duty as combination guest room, hobby room, workout room, home office or playroom.

Patio -- It's more than just a place to sit outdoors.

Yard -- Make a profit while you beautify your surroundings.

Garage -- Most people use their garages for storage, so the hot trends are things that maximize space.

Utility room -- If the garage is full, add space by organizing and shelving this little-used room.

Home office -- Think "wireless" to avoid having to hire someone to rewire your house.

 

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