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Home Show Warrior

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by Clarissa A. French

As I celebrate my first year of home ownership, I am looking forward to attending the HBA Home Show.

If I've learned anything about owning a home in the last year, it is that there is always something to fix, clean, decorate, redecorate, touch up, unclog or caulk.

As I tour this year's home show, I will be looking for ideas for small do-it-yourself projects, as well as major long-term renovations and improvements for my house. I'll be looking at the types of building materials available, scanning the hottest trends in home interiors, checking out contractors for planned (and unplanned) repairs and maintenance, and seeking financing options for improving my home.

With so many exhibitors to choose from, I could be there all day every day for the entire three-day event. But in order to get the most out of the home show in as efficient a manner as possible, I am plotting a strategy for my visit. You might consider this as well, particularly if your time is limited.

I made a list of the specific projects I'm interested in for my house, along with questions about specific concerns.

My list looks something like this:

?Improvements to the bathroom, including bathtub fixtures, resurfacing or replacing the tub, and dealing with a dripping faucet. Also, how can I maximize my limited bathroom space? Is moving the toilet and installing a corner tub a possibility?

?Improvements to the deck, including waterproofing and possibly a railing all around. Is this a do-it-yourself project, or would it be worthwhile to contract it out?

?Finishing out the unfinished part of my attic. This is a long-term project to expand the living area in my house. There is a great deal of wasted space in the unfinished portions of the attic, but the space is oddly shaped, defined by the peaks of my roof. Is it worthwhile to do this project or would it be better to add on?

?Repairing small cracks in some of my walls. What is the method and what materials do I need? Is cracking a sign of a bigger, underlying problem?

?Replacing the leaning column that supports a corner of the front porch roof. The column appears to be sinking, but so slowly that month-to-month measurements over the course of a year showed no change. What would a project like this cost? How long dare I wait to do it?

?Building a garage in the back yard. Currently my car is exposed to the elements because I have neither garage nor carport. A detached garage with space for a workshop would be ideal, but what are the costs involved? Is a carport a better idea for the short term?

?Putting in bushes or some kind of planting north of the front-porch steps. Hollows in the ground at that location show where two bushes were removed in the past. Since that part of the front yard is generally shaded, are yew bushes my only option?

?Dealing with the 93-year-old ash tree in my front yard. The tree, one of the few large old trees left on my street, is entering its dotage. Someone topped it in the past, causing the limbs to spread. Recently, one of the main limbs, weighing in at several hundred pounds, sheared off for no apparent reason. Is there a way to save this tree? If not, what is a fast-growing replacement to restore the shade I would lose at the front of the house?

?Planning my garden. I have a maximum-sun back yard that goes back for 50 feet. The soil is as rich and black as it can be, but the tomatoes planted there last year came out bitter. Most of my yard is choked with Bermuda grass, so breaking the ground to plant is a nightmare. How can I best and most easily take advantage of the favorable soil and sun conditions in my back yard, and minimize the toil and trouble of its less favorable attributes, i.e. the sod-busting part of the job?

?Financing the above improvements. What are my options? After a year in my house, do I have any equity for a home-equity line of credit? Are there specific loan programs available to benefit first-time home buyers?

With my list in hand, I will compare it to my list of home show exhibitors (listed on pages 25 and 28 of this section). I'll go through and put check marks next to the businesses that are resources for my particular needs. Then I'll cross-reference to the map (on pages 26 and 27), marking the locations of the booths I want to visit.

As a result, come the home show, my route will be mapped out. Instead of wandering aimlessly, I can tackle the show in record time and get the maximum benefit, focusing on those things that are of greatest interest to me.

As I go from planned stop to planned stop, I will also be looking at and taking note of surrounding exhibits, seeking ideas and inspiration for additional projects.

Strategy or no, I may still end up spending all my time at the home show.

I hope to see you there.

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