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Home Improvement Guide 2007
Get ready
Before starting any home improvement project, research and planning is the key to successful results.
Cool tools for the do-it-yourselfer

Until recently, homeowners have had a sweet deal. Rapidly rising housing prices allowed them to use the equity in their house like an ATM. They could take out tens of thousands of dollars to hire contractors to upgrade their space, in turn making their home even more valuable. Now that the housing market has cooled, many people are looking for less expensive ways to get the look they want. Often, that means picking up a hammer and drill themselves.

Fortunately, innovative products are making it easier on the weekend warriors. Here are a few things to get you started:

Measuring for measure
Many do-it-yourself projects require more than great tool skills. They require people to be adept at math, or at least with a calculator. Products that used to be solely for the professional contractor are now making waves in the consumer market. "Tools like these allow the DIYer to make some relatively complicated measurements without a lot of effort," says Sean Tegart, director of marketing for Skil North America. Here are two of our favorites:

Angle FinderDigital angle finder: In an ideal world, all corners would be perfect, 90-degree angles, making measurements for additions like crown molding or wainscoting a snap. The reality is that the angles are often just a degree or two off, which if not accounted for will create problems along the run of a wall. A digital angle finder will provide the exact angle of a corner and display tricky miter-cut calculations with the press of a button. Bosch, Skil, and Denali all offer digital angle finders with a range of additional functions.

Room EstimatorRoom estimators: Painting walls or putting in flooring, you'll want to know exactly how much material to buy. If you've got angled ceilings or irregular spaces, calculating that number is more complex than most people realize. Room estimators measure spaces with ultrasonic waves. No tape measures. It'll save you time, and if you're used to buying far more material than you need "just in case," it can also save you money. Stanley has the IntelliMeasure Laser Ultrasonic Estimator.

-- Posted: April 4, 2007
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