Smartphones like Apple’s iPhone and those based on Google’s Android do more than make calls, thanks to hundreds of thousands of downloadable mini-software items called apps. There are many home improvement apps designed to help you save money or take care of projects. Here are some of the best:
Match that paint color
If you see a color at a friend’s house that would look great in your home, use Benjamin Moore’s Ben Color Capture or Sherwin-Williams’ ColorSnap, free mobile apps for iPhone, to conjure up a matching paint color and code in a jiffy. Take a photo with your phone, and the app matches the paint as closely as possible, and will display secondary and complementary colors. (ColorSnap is also available for BlackBerry.)
Get rid of stains
Good Housekeeping magazine has placed all their best stain-removal and cleaning advice into their free @Home app. It also includes decorating ideas and a searchable list of the 5,000-plus products that have earned a Good Housekeeping seal.
Look for recycled stuff
If you’re searching for a cheap replacement part, or looking for a deal on slightly-used appliances and materials, eBay’s free Mobile app lets you search the auction site’s entire marketplace from iPhone, Android, Windows Phone 7, and BlackBerry devices. You can also put any of your disused-but-functional household items up for sale and recoup some cash.
For listings close to home, search the popular Craigslist site through the free Craigsnotifica for Android or Craigspro for iPhone.
Finding lower prices on electronics and appliances used to mean driving from store to store or scanning Sunday circulars. With the free Price Check by Amazon, you can scan a product’s barcode at a store and compare the price against Amazon and other merchants. (Android and BlackBerry versions are also available.) PriceGrabber has a similar app for iPhone and Android.
Carpenter’s tools in one
For $1.99, the iHandy Carpenter app puts a ruler, protractor, bubble level, surface level, and plumb bob into your iPhone, allowing you to make measurements without lugging out the tool box. It’s perfect for simple jobs like hanging frames and mirrors.
Need just a level? There’s a free app for iPhone from iHandy and for Android from Johnson.
Calculate materials you’ll need
Before you approach a home improvement project, use the $1.99 Handy Man DIY to record dimensions of flooring, windows, walls, and more. It calculates how much material you’ll need and gives you a cost estimate.
If you’re in the middle of a home improvement job and need supplies, use the $4.99 Work Shop app to order them from your iPhone. It’s also a great tool for keep track of expenses or plan your budget for a future project.
Light the way
With the iPhone’s bright display and the super-bright LED flash, you can use it in place of a traditional flashlight to illuminate crawl spaces, attics, cabinet recesses, and other dark spots. There are many apps for this purpose, but two favorites are the 99-cent Flashlight (and 99-cent Flashlight+.
Know what and when to plant
Wonder why certain vegetation isn’t growing in your yard? Landscaper’s Companion provides a reference guide to more than 2,000 plants. You can search for a plant based on your garden’s sun exposure and garden zone, helping to ensure you won’t get any dead leaves after planting. The app costs $9.99.
Find a stud
Using your iPhone’s magnetometer, StudFinderPRO can help you locate studs by locating the magnetic fields emitted by metal objects like screws and nails. The app costs $2.99. A free Magnetic Stud Finder is available for Android devices.
Hire a virtual designer
Need decorating ideas for inspiration? Check out Home Interior Layout Designer—Mark On Call for $2.99. Created by an interior designer, the app can help you plan a space and determine if furnishings will fit. Also consider the $4.99 Living Room app for iPad and the 99-cent Dream Home app for iPhone.