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Whether you dream of sunning by a state-of-the-art pool or strolling through a simple cottage garden, there's an outdoor oasis with your name written all over it. Take this quiz to find out where you really belong.

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DIY Patio Ideas

Want to boost the beauty and usefulness of your outdoor spaces? Put one of these inspiring DIY patio ideas to work in your landscape.

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Update for $100

When it comes to DIY home projects, inexpensive does not have to equal inconsequential. For less than $100, you can create custom light fixtures, build accent walls, update your floors, or design one-of-a-kind decor. Budget home projects can make a big difference, as proven by this bunch of crafty bloggers.

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Add Exterior Charm

Is your home's exterior looking a little drab? These homes were too, until character-boosting updates completely transformed their dull facades. Take a cue from their makeovers and you too can refresh your exterior.

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Budget Curb Appeal

Be the best home on the block for less. These budget curb appeal updates will show you how.

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Popular in Home Improvement

Evaluating Security Companies

Select the right firm for your system.

Take the time to do your homework before choosing a security company to install and/or monitor your alarm system. You'll be entrusting the safety of your home and family to this company, and you want to be confident about its qualifications and reputation.

  • Get referrals from friends, neighbors, and your insurance agent. Also contact the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (301/585-1855) and your state associations for the names of members in your area. Most reputable companies will belong to one or both.
  • Check out the companies with your state's licensing agencies, consumer-protection agencies, the Better Business Bureau, and your local police department to verify that they're properly licensed and have no histories of consumer complaints.
  • Interview the companies you're considering. (On your first call, don't leave your name, address, or phone number; a good firm will understand your desire to protect your privacy.) For each company, find out:
  • How long have they been in business in your area? To ensure future service, look for companies with at least a five-year history.
  • Are they a licensed low-voltage electrical contractor? If your state also requires a separate alarm-contractor's license, make sure they have that, too. (Ask for the license numbers to verify the information.)
  • Are they bonded and insured, in the event of damage to your property during installation?
  • Do they conduct background checks before hiring employees? The most professional companies will.
  • Do they sell or lease the system hardware? Though you'll pay more up front, when a company sells you the equipment for your system, you own it forever. As long as the equipment is compatible with other security companies (ask to make sure it is), you can switch monitoring services in the future without replacing the entire system.
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