Inside the Innovation House

We pulled out all the stops to bring the latest home tech features to our Innovation Home. See the 16 coolest things from the home and be amazed by how smart one home can be.

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Bathroom Countertop Ideas

Good-looking countertops -- whether made of marble, limestone, or concrete -- create high-functioning bathrooms that spill over with style. These popular countertop materials are sure to inspire a bathroom remodel.

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Find Your Dream Backyard

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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Easy Fireplace Upgrades

Does your fireplace need a facelift? Check out these 20 ideas for updating your fireplace with easy-to-apply embellishments and simple-to-make constructions.

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8 Cutting-Edge Exterior Features

The wow-factor of the Innovation Home starts with great curb appeal. See the eight things that make the home's exterior stand out.

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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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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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