On-Ramps to the Net There are so many Websites out there, where do you start? If you know the name of a manufacturer or retailer (say, The Home Depot), type its name followed by .com (homedepot.com). If you know the name of trade or nonprofit group, use its name or initials plus .org. For government agencies, try the initials followed by .gov. Listed here are some terrific sites for you to check out. General
Contractor-licensing information: www.contractors-license.org/. In alliance with National Association of REALTORS(NAR), www.housenet.com/ offers an archive of how-to and do-it-yourself articles on home improvement, home decorating, lawn and garden and real estate topics. Seeking to be a full-service portal for home remodeling and repair, www.improvenet.com offers general information, a design gallery of ideas and projects, kitchen and bath estimators and product information. A contractor, architect and designer referral service helps you find prescreened pros, and a personal project coordinator answers your questions and holds your hand during the project. Finance
For general information on home loans and going rates, visit www.bankrate.com. If you don't have the strongest credit history, www.hsh.com will tell you about "subprime" loans and lenders. It also offers an archive of general information. If you want to set your own rate and fees, try www.priceline.com. Government
For information on product recalls, listed by product as well as by company, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission at www.cpsc.gov. The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network, part of the U.S. Department of Energy, offers brochures on making your home more energy efficient as well as an ask-the-energy-expert feature at www.eren.doe.gov/consumerinfo. The Environmental Protection Agency has articles on indoor air quality at www.epa.gov/iaq. For general information on home-related topics, visit the Federal Consumer Information Center at www.pueblo.gsa.gov. Repair and Maintenance
Featuring animated instructions on home improvement projects and the tools you'll need to complete the project, www.cornerhardware.com also lets you talk to a customer service rep via a live-chat feature. For information on appliance repair and buying parts, try www.repairclinic.com. Sponsored by the nonprofit United Homeowners Association, www.remodelingcorner.org alerts to you common remodeling problems and offers advice on how to avoid and solve them. Examples include situations like: What if your contractor does not like to work with your architect, and How to recognize and avoid "remodeling fever" (the urge to keep expanding your project). Older Homes
For those of you with an older home, online booklets are available from the National Parks Service Preservation Department at www.oldhousejournal.com. Calling itself a community for old-house owners, www.oldhouseweb.com has articles, products and bulletin boards. For a source for hard-to-find restoration products and contractors, visit www.restorationcentral.com.
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