The number of home improvement iPhone apps on the market leaves smartphone-equipped DIYers with few excuses for putting off projects. Since the variety of digital tools may seem overwhelming, and of course not all apps are created equal, the following six are ones you should know about.
This home design and construction app seems custom-made for tablets. There are in-depth articles, vendor manuals, photos, schematics, animations and no-nonsense instructional videos. It’s easy to imagine using Construction Instruction—a combination textbook, cheat sheet and clipboard—not only to plan and build your own home, but also to examine a contractor’s work on the fly.
Overall, though, Construction Instruction is like walking through an unfamiliar, sheetrocked building. You can see potential, but it’s not ready for a certificate of occupancy. Where there is content, it’s crunchy with useful, often technical info. But there are a lot of blank pages and obvious topical gaps. It’s also too easy to lose track of where you are within the app. All or most of the textual content is displayed on PDF pages, difficult to navigate on small screens. Download this one and hope for frequent updates.
After Angry Birds, no other app is so obviously named. Power Tools is a concise explanation of six popular power tools: circular saw, jigsaw, miter saw, reciprocating saw, and router. You learn the most likely uses for each one, common designs and innovative new features. Power Tools is a basic tip sheet for consumers deciding on purchases and rentals. Interestingly, it includes recordings of what each tool sounds like. Good for identifying what your neighbor’s using at 6 a.m.
This tool is billed as a “virtual laser level,” which might lead some to believe that it will actually produce a laser line on walls. That’s not the case, of course. Apple hasn’t put lasers in iPhones or iPads. Yet.
However, sightLevel is a perfectly serviceable app that uses a device’s camera and accelerometer to determine angles and slopes. You can choose different grids and guides on images shown on the screen. You also can use two fingers to find the slope of something within the image.
This is an interesting piece of software. Initially, I thought it’d be an app for recording DIY expenses, but no. While there are many possible uses for HouseKeeper, the most ideal, in my opinion, would be documenting something like a growing wall crack or a ceiling water stain or some such.
You create a file with relevant details about a project or problem and photograph the area in question. HouseKeeper has a clever tool that helps you overlay the previous picture (from a week ago, for instance) on top of a live image. Take another photo and you can compare progress or degradation. HouseKeeper should be called HouseHector, because it’s perfect for holding your landlord, builder or significant other’s feet to the fire.
Here’s another consumer/contractor app. This one estimates the cost of building more than a dozen styles of fences. At its heart, Fence Builder is a robust materials calculator, telling you how much wood, concrete and hardware you’ll need.
Want to surround South Dakota with a dog-eared cedar fence with one gate? You’ll need 14 million planks, 780,000 posts, 1.6 million boards, 62 million nails, two hinges and one latch. Fence Builder estimates that it would cost $90 million to let South Dakotans have their privacy, but—and this is a big “but”—the app uses “estimated average” materials pricing. Your cost may vary, indeed. Good app, but Fence Builder needs to do the measuring for you and to link in real time with local supplier price schedules.
This is a dead-simple app that, at first, might seem superfluous. What it does is join the two most important factors when buying items or materials for your home: dimensions and context. Use SIZEd to take a picture of, say, your living room. Then use your fingers to draw lines signifying the window dimensions (for drapes) or the big empty spot where you would like a couch. Standing in a home furnishing store, you can more accurately anticipate how a piece of furniture will fit, and blend with, the room.