Home-office tips

These suggestions for a home work space are from office designer Lauren Rottet:

n Save space. Install wall shelves if you don't already have them. If you need more storage, look for cabinets with sliding panels instead of doors that open out and gobble up square footage. For tidy workers, Rottet advocates a slim-profile writing table or vanity.

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n Use the closet. Printers, fax machines and computer accessories can go behind closed doors.

n Hide visual clutter. Old-fashioned secretary's desks were built with modesty panels, front aprons that blocked the view of ladies' legs. In a home office, the same panel can hide wires and junky trash.

Too much water

It's estimated that the average American uses around 100 gallons of water per day - and, unfortunately, about half of that water is wasted.

For gardeners and weekend warriors, much of the water lost is due to overwatering, runoff and evaporation. On average, our lawns and plants happily exist and look great on about an inch of water each week. Once established, many plants, especially natives, are well adapted to thriving and looking good only on the water received from nature. They rarely, if ever, need supplemental watering, yet we feel compelled to pour it on, literally.

Crawl space

If you want to insulate a crawl space in an older home, make sure you have sufficient air flow into the crawl space. You may also need to add a dehumidifier to cut down on moisture. In newer homes, many builders install what's called a "conditioned" crawl space to deal with moisture. If you're not sure about the proper way to vent or condition your crawl space, you should consult with a contractor.

As far as the insulation, usually it's the floor of the room above that gets insulated. And make sure the vapor barrier of the insulation goes up against the bottom of the floor, not in the crawl space. If you have any heating or cooling ducts, they need to be insulated as well.

Bad economy?

Now may be the best time in years to invest in your home if you have a little cash or equity built up.

For the first time in a long time, good contractors are readily available and are aggressively working with homeowners to keep labor costs down. Materials are also coming down in price, especially for larger luxury items. Also, investing in your present home with a big remodeling job or addition can give you the dream house you always wanted without the hassle of moving.

Whether it's a kitchen, a bathroom or even a swimming pool, now is the time to jump in the deep end instead of drowning in fear.

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