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Searching for America's top (re)model

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Provided by Networx.com

Are you remodeling all or part of your house this year? Whether you're preparing to move into a home and you want it to be just perfect, or you're working on the home you live in now, you might want to consider entering This Old House's search for the best remodel in the country. You could win critical acclaim for your hard work, and you could take home some case, too! The grand prize winner gets $5,000, while runners-up get $1,000.

Even if you're not brave enough to pit your home against the other entries (or you won't be done in time to meet the 27 May deadline), you should definitely take a look at the ongoing gallery of new entries in the competition being hosted on their website. With ten categories, including whole house, kitchen, attic, yard, and more, there's tons of inspiration for remodeling projects that may give you ideas for tweaking your project to make it just a little more perfect.

We at Networx know that planning a remodel can be fun, but also stressful, especially if it's your first time. Even when you're working with an experienced contractor, you'll be making lots of tough choices about materials, interior design, and little details that might matter a lot in the future, even if they don't seem like a big deal now. Like, say, the placement of cabinets, or your San Francisco plumbing layout.

Use these remodels as learning experiences and visual lessons; think about what works and what doesn't for you, and take note of the writeups to find out what people learned from their remodeling projects. You might just find the project of your dreams to show a contractor and use as a basis for your planning...or you might be warned off something that you were thinking about doing; let someone else's costly mistake work to your benefit!

There's another great benefit to this contest: the staff at This Old House kindly posted some tips on taking high-quality photographs of home improvement projects. All too often, inexperienced photographers don't capture a home at its best, making it hard to see the improvements they made. It's always disappointing to read about an interesting project and not be able to see it brought out in the images -- these tips can help people with issues like lighting, composition, and presentation.

Taking great photos isn't just about having something nice to pass around to people interested in how your remodel is going. It can also be useful for detailed documentation of a job in the event something goes wrong, or in case you need to file an insurance claim. Furthermore, good pictures are the cornerstone of a great home sale, as we know, because they're what lures potential buyers in to look at a home on the market, so if you're thinking about listing, get a jump on things with a stellar set of photographs.

Remember: pros sometimes take hundreds of shots to get the right one, and thanks to digital cameras, it's not like you're going to run out of film. So don't be afraid to spend some serious time shooting at different angles and different times of the day to get that perfect capture of your beautiful home...and then why not upload it to This Old House and put yourself in the running for $5,000 clams?!

Katie Marks writes for Networx.com.

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