|Visualizing tools for exteriors enable do-it-yourselfers to preview building materials on photos of their own home.|
Photo: The Tapco Group
The great shade of yellow paint that turns to mustard on the wall or the snatch of carpet with the “oh so slight” tinge that once installed morphs into a sea of violet are examples of do-it-yourself (DIY) projects gone wrong. DIY-TV shows make renovations seem easy but anyone who has worked on their home knows the inherent angst and amount of planning even the simplest job entails. Yet a new group of handy tablet and smartphone apps aim to guide homeowners to more successful DIY projects and, of course, to enable mobile purchases of paints and other materials or services.
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Working with your uploaded photos, apps such as room planners and virtual design tools make it possible to preview materials, try out paint colors or explore different combinations of counters, floors, and cabinetry all within the context of an existing room. New design tools also spark creative juices, enabling even the most uninspired to envision a potential makeover.
But is the growing number of free smartphone & tablet apps worth downloading? For example, it’s possible to snap a photo of almost anything with color, upload it to a paint manufacturer’s site and match the color with paint or even build an entire palette around that color. And it’s no coincidence that these DIY apps make shopping a lot easier too. Both Lowe’s and The Home Depot have Android and iPhone apps so potential customers can see what’s available in local stores and compare prices.
How-to guides are also plentiful both online and via Smartphone. Other apps turn a phone into a measuring device and allow you to keep tabs on dimensions and required quantities. Many of these apps are free or offer a free trial or charge a nominal fee for an upgraded version.
Here are a few examples of what’s available:
|Behr Mobile's ColorSmart Smartphone app enables a photo|
match with any Behr Color.
Photo: Behr Process Corp.
Explore palettes, match colors to an architectural style, even create and coordinate a custom look for a room, all without dipping a brush into a can thanks to new color design tools from paint manufacturers. Sherwin Williams and Behr Paints enable consumers to virtually paint rooms in their own houses using an uploaded photo of their room. With Sherwin Williams Color Visualizer tool, they can select surfaces to paint including walls, trim, windows and doors and use a different color for each. Color options range in the thousands but suggested palettes narrow the options. Projects can be saved and revisited later.
Sherwin Williams Chip It tool, allows consumers to select any online image and the tool automatically finds corresponding paint colors. finds a matching paint color and even suggests a custom palette. Behr has a mobile tool called ColorSmart, which allows consumers to match colors, share projects online and virtually paint their room.
Manufacturers are integrating virtual design tools into their sites, but they have only just begun to tap the potential of virtual design for DIYers. Shaw Flooring’s Try on a Floor, allows users to upload a photo of their room and explore a variety of types and colors of flooring including carpets, tile, a number of different hardwoods and laminate. They can even add an area rug or change the color of walls or nearby surfaces. Mannington Floors offers a similar Web tool called Virtual Decorator.
Armstrong’s design resources include preset designs for kitchens, bedrooms, family rooms and bathrooms in four different aesthetics — casual, contemporary, traditional, eclectic and European country. Potential customers can explore different home styles, and also try out various floors, cabinets and can coordinate colors from Pittsburgh Paints. GE’s interactive kitchen designer tool offers four different styles and gives consumers the option of changing cabinets, countertops, flooring and appliances.
|Armstrong's Design A Room app helps customers visualize different flooring, wall colors|
and cabinet options.
Revamping the façade or simply updating the roof is expensive and time consuming. Here too new tools will give you a fix on how these additions or changes will look. Simpson Door’s “Test Drive a Door” app allows homeowners to upload a photo of an interior or exterior door and try out different doors and new configurations. Exterior products manufacturer Ply Gem has compiled an image library of the most popular home styles of the last 40 years. Users can find their home’s style and change various exterior features and add windows, gables and other elements. The Tapco Group’s Virtual Remodeler enables owners to upload a photo of their home’s façade and then gives them the options to experiment with a range of textures, colors and designs.
Some of the best almost turn a Smartphone into Swiss Army Knife. Construction Buddy, available on both iPhones and Android phones and tablets, offers 35 timesaving tools including wallpaper, concrete, base trim, carpet and heating calculators. These tools are also available individually for $.99 but the full set can be had $2.23, after a free trial. A toolkit in your phone, iHandy Carpenter, incorporates a level, surface level, plumb bob, steel ruler and steel protractor. Taking a measurement is as easy as swiping the phone left and right along a surface. Even if you’re not into home improvement this is a nifty app and especially handy for anyone shopping for furniture. Lastly, what could be more convenient than iLevel (available for both android and iPhones), which turns the phone into a virtual, yet functioning level for balancing pictures and objects.