- The Washington Times - Friday, November 10, 2000

If you are planning to buy a house or if you are getting one ready to sell, you might need to do some home repairs. The reality of home maintenance starts setting in as soon as you face the first leaky faucet or weeds in the flower garden. The landlord used to be the person to call, but now you need only look in the mirror to find your maintenance person.

Never fear. Plenty of help is available for your household maintenance needs.

You can get plenty of assistance at the local hardware store, but sometimes it's better to do some research on the project facing you, then go to the hardware store for the items you need.

I have found that the personnel at such retail outlets are loaded with great information, but it also seems that the person who has never, ever worked on a home repair project is the one who has the full attention of the person I want to see. I spend more time waiting to talk to that guy than I do looking for the materials I need.

Now I go on line with my questions, then head to the store.

Here are some great sites to peruse before you take on a home maintenance project or head to the store.

• www.Improvenet.com. This site has some great tools to help you prepare for your project. The most beneficial tool is the "Estimators and Project Calculators" section. The site operates estimators for the following project categories: bathrooms, kitchens, decks, roofing, windows and doors and patios.

I selected the kitchen estimator and entered the details of redoing my small kitchen with a partial remodeling job. The estimates came out to what I had determined on my own roughly $1,000 for new counter tops, sink, faucet and wall covering.

• www.Homestore.com. This real estate Web site has gone on a spree of buying fledgling Web sites to beef up its offerings of home-related services, and the investment seems to have paid off. Click onto "Home Improvement," and then you re just a few clicks away from "How-to Projects," "Do-It-Yourself," "Land & Garden" and various other sections.

The site also features project calculators and tools, such as a home improvement calendar, but the coolest help is the animated how-to instructions.

The site also provides slides showing each step of the project and then a shopping list with estimates on cost.

• HomeImprovement.com. This site is powered by the cable TV show "Hometime" from the Learning Channel.

Though it doesn't offer as many computational tools, it still provides plenty of information on various projects, including material on books and how-to videos to purchase on various home improvement tasks.

Projects range from overhauling the basement to creating a workshop in your home.

• www.Toiletology.com. This site takes a very frustrating project and makes it fun.

With more than 40 lessons on fixing your toilet, toiletology.com has plenty of how-to articles on what to do about one of the most-used rooms in the house.

From something as basic as "How a Toilet Flushes" to "The Bloo Goo Story," this site helps the non-plumber householder with all questions about working on the toilet.

Lesson plans include "How to Replace a Flush Valve," "How to Really Clean a Toilet," "Septic Tanks" and "Toilets in the News." There's even a Toiletology 101 e-mail list.

With all the changes coming upon the real estate industry via the Internet, the change in the flow of information on how to maintain your house is one of the best.

M. Anthony Carr has covered the real estate industry for 11 years. Please send inquiries and comments to him at 8411 Arlington Blvd., Fairfax, Va. 22033; or by e-mail (macarr@nvar.com).

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