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Family room

Costs: Adding a family room, as opposed to remodeling one, averages $52,251, according to 2002 figures from Remodeling magazine, an industry publication.

Value added: Homeowners who add a family room will recoup about 79 percent of their investment at resale, according to Remodeling.

Popularity as a remodel target: Adding a family room ties for eighth place, along with adding a home office, adding a sun room and installing a security system, among 23 remodeling categories surveyed by the National Association of Home Builders.

New trends: Knocking out walls to create a great room, especially in homes built before the 1990s. Lots of light with windows, skylights and glass doors; entertainment centers with surround sound and flat-screen TV, family computer, electronics and built-ins for storage. Also look for: fireplaces or wood-burning stoves and tile or wood floors.

Features to consider: "You need space. In a family room that's one of the most important things," says Lou Manfredini, author of Mr. Fix-It Introduces You to Your Home.

Try to plan the space by factoring the size of your family, the number of people you typically entertain, the ages of your kids and what you require from the space over the next five years, says Mark A. Brick, president-elect of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

Remodeling suggestions and helpful hints: Make life-sized cardboard cutouts in the shapes of your furniture, as well as the pieces you want to buy, and lay them out on the floor so you can get a feel for the space, says Manfredini, who's also a correspondent for the NBC "Today" show. This allows you a "test-drive before you invest," he says.

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New products: Higher-end solutions for media storage and multipurpose furniture, ottomans and coffee tables with hidden storage. In addition, look for: entertainment systems, home theaters and plasma TVs, wet bars, small refrigerators and built-in cabinets.

Also big: floating floors, which glue or snap together, says Tom Silva, general contractor for "This Old House." The products typically range from $2 to $12 a square foot and "sometimes a homeowner can do it in a weekend," he says.

Special problems: Decide in advance how you want to use the room. "Once you've built those built-ins, they're there [permanently]," says Julius Lowenberg, president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry

With family room/kitchen combinations, "as nice as they are, you have to figure out how to hide the mess in the kitchen," says Silva. His suggestion: create an island or peninsula in the kitchen with storage as a catch-all for clutter.

And the best entertainment system may not sound so good over the din of a dishwasher or clanging pots. "As a result, people are paying extra money for super-quiet dishwashers," says Rich Trethewey, plumbing expert for "This Old House."

Biggest mistake: Trying to "jam too much into the space," says Manfredini. "The old adage that less is more is truly the rule of thumb."

Professional or DIY: "Know your limitations," says Manfredini. "You have to identify what you can do. Just because you can paint a room doesn't mean you can put in windows."

-- Posted: April 7, 2003


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