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Computer Design for Remodeling and Home Improvements:
“Smile! You’re on Candid Camera…”

Coming Soon to a Home Near You

You say you’ve heard about this… or seen it on TV or maybe in a magazine? And you would like to know more about how it works? Well, here’s the scoop:

One such company using in-home computer design to help their customers select products, colors and materials – and to visualize what they will look like  on their home – are the project managers for our friends at

They have teamed up with a leading computer design software company headquartered in Canada – called RenoWorks – that specializes in “visualization tools” for remodeling and renovation. And what makes their software and program totally unique is that it was designed by a former contractor (now the head of RenoWorks) specifically for contractors.

Here’s how it works: When a quality project manager from comes to your home, the process begins with their taking a photograph of your house and scanning (transferring) it into their laptop computer.

Then with a few knowing clicks and commands, the computer design software starts doing it’s job…right before your eyes. First, you see your home on the screen as it is now…and as you watch, a process called “masking” begins. The image of your home takes on various bright hues and blocks of bold colors where specific products will be applied, such as on your existing siding or on the roof.  

This is where the “interactive” aspect of this amazing design software becomes evident. At every step, you participate in the decision-making process. First, by selecting and/or suggesting products and colors…and then viewing them on your home… and then, by also having the ability to make “instant” changes. With a simple “click” – sky blue changes to forest green and sleek siding becomes sturdy brick – and “whole-house” changes take place right before your eyes.

Want to add new windows… or luxurious double entry doors? No problem. How would it look with etched glass side light panels? Again no problem? How about Mahoagony… Birch… or a bold color, Maroon maybe?

Once you’ve seen it… choosing from tiny samples and color swatches will never be good enough again.

Today, offers in-home “Design Visualization” for a wide range of exterior products including: siding, roofing, stone, brick, paint, windows, doors and a host of accessories. And new products and design capabilities are being added as they become available… such as for bathroom design.

And another nice feature, once you’ve decided on specific products and colors for your home, prints out a high quality photo image of the

completed remodeling or home improvement before the work has even begun.

You say you like to see this computer design software in action? No problem. Just click here for a free online demonstration.

Got your interest? It gets even better. For a limited time, is offering this personalized in-home digital design service – a $50 value – free of charge to On The House listeners and readers in the California and Pennsylvania markets that it services. Just click here, and tell us what type of project you are interested in, and will bring it to life…  on your home and in your home… right before your very eyes.

Planning a remodeling or renovation project has never been easier. And maybe, never more fun. Try it and see for yourself. You’ll be amazed.

Advice for a Happy -- and Safe -- Holiday

Here are a few tidbits of holiday savvy that we hope will save you loads of heartache as you shop for this year's freshly cut tree. Keep in mind that we like freshly cut trees, but we also suggest that you consider a live tree and a synthetic one as well.

No matter how often you have put up a tree it is important to read this list.

A real tree should not lose green needles when you tap it on the ground. Hold it upright and slam the trunk on the ground. Loose needles mean the tree is already drying out. Not a good thing.

Be sure to cut at least one inch off the trunk just before you put it into the tree stand. If you are distracted and don't get it into the water within a few minutes, make another slice. The cut begins to seal with sap almost immediately after it has been cut. This procedure will help the tree absorb water. A well watered tree will stay fresher longer.

Leave the tree outside until you are ready to decorate. The air in your home is heated and will begin to dry the tree out.

The tree stand that you use should hold at least one gallon of water. If you sliced off the bottom of the trunk and placed it in the water you will notice that the tree will absorb about a quart of water before you go to bed. A 6-foot tall tree will use about a gallon of water every two days.

If you really want to keep your tree moist and safe, add a commercial preservative with the water. And, make sure to check the water level every day. If the water is completely absorbed and the stand goes dry, the base of the tree will then seal up and watering after that point will not be as effective.

If possible, it is wise to secure your tree with wire to keep it from tipping. The finest wire is all that is needed and normally wont be seen by most people. High tensile fishing line also can be used.

Keep your tree away from all sources of heat such as floor heaters and fireplaces. Use only UL-listed lights. The one thing you don't want is an electrical fire. And please, don't use more than three strands linked together -- ever. Miniature lights, which have cool-burning bulbs, are safer to use because they wont dry the tree out and they will save you money by using less energy.

Turn off the Christmas lights before you go to bed, or if you leave your home. Even low voltage, low energy lights can start a fire.

Never use candles, even on artificial trees. Raw flames are a definite no-no.

Finally, dispose of your tree properly. Contact your local disposal company if you aren't notified in advance of what to do.

When we suggested that candles should not be used in a Christmas tree we didn't mean to suggest that they shouldn't be used at all. Candles can be a great mantle or table decoration on a cold holiday evening. However, we do suggest a few precautions when working with and enjoying open flames:

When using candles, place them a safe distance from combustibles.

Be sure to mount candles in sturdy containers. Remember, hot wax burns.

It is absolutely necessary to extinguish candles before going to bed or before leaving the house.

Stay on the ball when you use your fireplace. The ashes should always be put into a metal container until cold ice cold!

Be sure to have a fire extinguisher ready and handy. Before the holiday season begins, make sure that the pressure is up to snuff and that the date hasn't expired.

Think safety outside too. Remember, water and electricity dot mix.

Use only outdoor lights outside your home. They may not be perfect but they are much safer than interior lights would be. Examine light strings each and every year. Look really close and discard the ones that are worn or tattered.

Fasten each bulb securely and be sure to point each socket facing downward. This will help to avoid unnecessary moisture build-up.

Just as with indoor lights, never connect more than three strands of lights together and never use indoor extension cords outside.

It really is important to keep outdoor electrical connectors above ground and out of puddles and snow.

And whatever you do, remember to unplug the light string before replacing a bulb. Wrap a plastic bag around each electrical connection and tie the ends with Teflon tape.

You cant be careful enough when connecting light strands.

And, that's all there is to it for a safe and happy holiday season.

Icicles Can Bring Chilling Costs To Your Heating Bill

Many of us get to see the coldest part of the season represented by beautiful strings of icicles fanned out along deck rails and roof overhangs.

But there is a side to these magnificent creations of nature that we need to more clearly understand, so that we can continue to enjoy them without experiencing the great cost that often is a "silent partner" in their formation.

There are actually three reasons why roof snow melts, other than nature:

--Poor attic ventilation.

When attic ventilation ports are blocked, warm air is held inside the attic and the heated air can cause roof snow to melt. When the water hits the overhang, it is instantly cooled and can turn into both ice dams and icicles. Although ice dams cannot be seen, they can build up to the point where future runoff is diverted back into the attic and finally into the home. This can cause substantial damage.

--Air leaks between the house and the attic.

Air leaks from the home also can heat up the attic. The leaks usually occur at penetrations where electrical wires, plumbing pipes and heating ducts and flues traverse from living space into the attic. Even with the best attic ventilation, this warm air can raise the attic temperature enough to melt the coldest snow. Today's building practices involve sealing these penetrations as a standard procedure. However, older homes were not managed in the same way, and major leaks may exist.

--Poor ceiling insulation.

Poor ceiling insulation is another of the most common reasons why heated air escapes from the home into the attic. Gaps in the insulation can allow heat to pass. Also, old insulation that has packed or compressed can allow great amounts of heat to penetrate that layer of insulation.

By cooling down the attic you can solve two major problems: winter water leaks and energy waste.

Both of the problems can literally equate into thousands of dollars in unnecessary expense. And don't forget your own personal comfort. No one likes a home filled with drafts, chills or hot spots.

Many folks believe it is a good idea to seal roof vents during winter months. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is extremely important the attic be properly ventilated all year long. If the insulation in the ceiling is properly installed, then proper attic ventilation will not have a negative impact on the inside of the home.

Keep in mind that proper insulation includes sealing all penetrations. These can be hard to find beneath a thick layer of insulation, but telltale pipes, wires and ducts from below are dead giveaways.

Expanding spray foam in a can is the best way to properly seal these penetrations. Although stuffing insulation (or most anything) into the holes can help, nothing is more effective than expanding foam. It's inexpensive to purchase, extremely forgiving during installation and results in a most permanent seal.

Sounds crazy doesn't it? The air from within the home must be prevented from getting into the attic, but the air from outside should be allowed to pass freely. It really is important for your attic to be properly ventilated. To ensure that this is the case, check all the vents at the eaves -- from within the attic -- and make sure there is clearance between each eave vent and the attic insulation.

Special cardboard baffles can be placed in the attic near the vents to hold insulation back. The baffles are normally held in place with staples, but you also can use nails or screws if you prefer.

It may difficult to decide to climb up into the attic -- especially now that it is so cold outside. However, if there is even the slightest bit of warmth in your attic, it could cost you big time this winter.