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13 handy smartphone apps for home improvement

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | October 28, 2015

You probably rely on your smartphone to do a lot of things, but home improvement? While your phone can't replace a full set of tools, only a fool would wield a crowbar much less a power saw before designing, measuring, calculating quantities of materials, ordering supplies, or finding qualified professionals to handle the job. Smartphone apps for home improvement help primarily with the planning and designing phase, making them handy first installations for any home remodeling project.

What can you do with home renovation smartphone apps?

  • look for inspiring remodeling ideas
  • measure your space
  • calculate the number of tiles you need
  • find the perfect paint color
  • locate an interior designer who speaks to your style
  • rearrange the furniture without dragging it around
  • hang a mirror even if you don't own a level

The following home renovation apps, for both iOS and Android, represent a selection of the most popular. Some receive mixed reviews -- users' comments range from thrilled to disappointed. But since you can download many for free, take them for a spin on your own device before drawing any conclusions. For some apps, you may have to pay a premium for a version with additional features geared to serious users and professionals.

Apps for gathering ideas and inspiration

Your favorite websites for home remodeling and design have gone mobile, making them easier to take along and use when you're in reconnaissance mode visiting stores and showrooms.

  • Pinterest. You can exchange ideas with other pinners, create a private board for yourself or to share with your friends or your designer. Take photos with your phone of products you see while shopping or browsing through magazines. Pin ideas from other websites. It's an easy and simple way to organize and share all of your ideas.
  • Houzz. Like their website, their mobile app boasts millions of professional quality photos of home renovations for inspiration. You can find articles, ask advice from forums, and purchase products for sale, as well as browse portfolios and profiles of design and remodeling professionals to find the ones best qualified to work on your project.
  • HomeZada. Manage your home's maintenance and improvements allowing you to oversee projects from start to finish; organize planning, documentation, and execution. You can photograph and keep track of your wish list as you go. The mobile app is free but requires a HomeZada account.

Apps for re-imagining and designing your space

Use your phone's camera to play with shapes and colors in your own space.

  • Magic Plan. With this app from Sensopia Inc., you can gather visual data to create an indoor map. You start by taking photos of the indoor space at the floor level from corner to corner. Calibration options improve accuracy. Choose from more than 400 objects, including fixtures, appliances and electrical to complete your floor plan. You can also share the map with other users and save it to the cloud.
  • Home Design 3D. Available for iOS and Android, this app allows you to completely re-imagine and redesign your house in 3D, similar to the way the professionals do. A premium account gives you additional capabilities for sharing and saving.
  • TapPainter. Take photos of your home and play with paint colors on your device without painting splotches all over your walls. You can play with colors from the wheel, changing hue, brightness, and saturation. You can also match colors to objects in your photo or choose from colors offered by brands that include Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore and Behr. Save, share, email, and purchase your selections using this app, currently available only for iOS.
  • Project Color. The Home Depot offers their answer to TapPainter with similar functionality in that you can photograph your home and see how their available paint colors look on your walls before actually start painting. It's available for both iOS and Android.
  • Adornably. For iOS only, this app allows you to see your space in virtual 3D, furnished with pieces you select from their gallery. Move the furniture around in a photo of your room and see what it looks like before you buy.

Apps for measuring, calculating, DIY, and professional help

These handy tools on your phone can help with your DIY projects. If not, use apps to locate professionals.

  • iHandy Carpenter. For iPhone and Android, this app provides five measuring tools: ruler, bubble level, surface level, plumb bob, and protractor.
  • Handyman Calculator for Android. This free mobile app provides conversion calculations including fractions, arc length, density, and even exotic calculations for specialized professionals.
  • Home Improvement Calcs for iOS. For $1.99 you can plug in the measurements of your space and figure out how much material you need such as tiles or concrete.
  • iFixIt. The tutorials on this app show you how to tear down, diagnose and repair your own appliances and household furnishings. You can purchase replacement parts from their online store.
  • Porch. Find local licensed and insured professionals including handymen, plumbers, electricians, cleaners, and landscapers vetted by your neighbors.

Don't be surprised if you hire a professional and they show up using their phone to measure, calculate, and do some preliminary designs. These handy apps -- or professional versions of them -- make their work easier, too.

Photo credit to Myryah Shea

About the Author

Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.

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