Getting Started
Begin by studying the houses in your area. Look for ideas you would like to try on your house and for ways to tie the remodeling into the overall appearance of the neighborhood. For instance, a bare-bones ranch house on a block of cottages would blend in more if you were to add a front porch. If stucco covers most of the homes, think twice before opting for vinyl siding.

Snap a photograph of your house, blow it up on a copying machine, lay a sheet of tracing paper over it and sketch out some different details. Or take a more high-tech approach with home design software that lets you cut and paste a new façade onto your house. Some larger home centers also offer this service.

See what impact dormers would have on the front of the house, or how a new trim treatment or a covered entry would change its appearance. If this kind of creativity isn't your strong suit, hire an architect to develop a few ideas for you. Architects work on either a per-project or an hourly fee basis. In the first arrangement, you define the job (for example, design only, or design and construction supervision) and negotiate a fixed fee for it. The second option can be more flexible, but you'll need to keep an eye on how much time is being spent on the job. When you're paying $60 or more per hour, time really is money.

There are several major elements to be considered in exterior remodels. Applied singly or in concert, they can make a dramatic difference in the appearance of any home, as our two examples illustrate. Read on for information on each of the major elements.

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