|COMPUTER SOFTWARE PUSHES
REMODELING TO HIGH-TECH LEVEL
BY KAREN TENSA, AS REPORTED IN THE REPORTER DISPATCH,
MARCH 17, 1996
he two most important tools in
Sylvain Côté's toolbox are his tape measure and his laptop computer. --"The laptop
changed my business," said Côté, 32, a home remodeling contractor who owns and
operates Absolute Remodeling Corp. in Yorktown Heights.
Like a growing number of other
remodelers, Côté has revolutionized his business by offering customers a look in the
future: He uses his laptop and the customer's TV set to draw a computerized floor
plan and three-dimensional view that shows how the house would look after the work is
"I can design a floor plan
in an hour," said Côté, who specializes in large interior remodeling jobs.
"I can make all the interior changes and make a detailed, formal estimate."
Côté, who swings a hammer as
well as wielding the laptop, is convinced that using computers for customer presentations
and for planning the actual construction is the future of remodeling.
Although computer-aided design
already is the standard in architecture and engineering, it is only starting to make its
name in building and remodeling. Its use is on the increase, with builders and
remodelers branching out from using PC's for record-keeping, reports the National
Association of Home Builders, a trade group based in Washington, DC
A survey done at a trade show in
Atlanta last November showed that 90 percent of remodelers use a personal computer for
word processing, said Jean Carmichael, manager of the software review program for the
group. Also 50 percent were making estimates on computers and 43 percent were
designing work on computers.
Carmichael said the latter figure
was probably a bit high to be representative of the entire remodeling industry because
remodelers attending the show were more likely to be on the cutting edge of
technology. But she said use for designing and presentation definitely is growing.
"As systems get easier to
use, a lot more remodelers are using them for customer presentation," Carmichael
said. "Remodelers are more sophisticated in their use of computers because the
have so many more jobs and the jobs very so much."
For all builders polled in a 1994
study, 82 percent use PC's, she said. Of those, 28 percent are using computer-aided
design software, and 70 percent are using the computer for customer presentations.
"That's a big increase from
earlier surveys," she said. "Before we saw the computer just as a drafting
tool, but now they're using it as a communications tool."
Becoming adept at using the
computer software has made the job easier for Côté, who began to use software programs
more that a year ago to do his design work and estimate the need for an architect.
But the real value is in
presenting a project to a prospective client. Using a split screen, Côté can show
a before and after view of the floor plan and take the homeowner on a before-and-after
three-dimensional tour of the home.
The computer's vision especially
is helpful when remodeling jobs large in changes such as removing a wall or adding
windows. A popular remodeling job today is to knock out the wall between the kitchen
and dining room and redesign the space as one big kitchen.
Lou Colasuonno, a Westchester
homeowner, hired Côté to redesign and rebuild a 15-by-10-foot space in his house.
The old laundry room and bathroom were made smaller to add corridor to the home's back
"I had a pretty good idea of
what I wanted to do but was concerned about it looking like a tunnel," said
Colasuonno, a former editor of the New York Daily News.
The computer presentation helped
sell Dan Sladkus of Yorktown, who hired Côté to renovate his kitchen.
"It was neat," said
Sladkus, president of Deerfield Productions, Inc., a film and video production company in
Hawthorne. "It was a good service to have. He did different versions of
the kitchen, with counters in different places. It was fun to play around with
A wide variety of software is
available for professionals and amateurs alike to make home designs.
Côté has high praise for three
low-cost software programs that he uses most frequently: 3-D Home Architect, Planix
and 3-D Kitchen. Versions of these programs can be purchased for about $60 each - in
the price range of a do-it-yourselfer or a homeowner with imagination.
Côté also uses a Quantum Leap
Estimator software program to come up with his detailed estimate and punch list.
The work of doing the design
entails drawing the current floor plan and set-up of the rooms to be remodeled. He
has a sample library of household items. By clicking on, say, a cupboard, he can
change the size, the style or location.
"I can do a floor plan in an
hour," Côté said. "It's all drag and drop."
He got involved with using the
computer on the job after attending a trade show two years ago. He experimented with
software programs on his office personal computer, then bought his laptop in December so
he could visit customers' homes.
Côté's high-tech work practices are a long way from his low-tech start in contracting in 1988 after moving to the United States from Montreal. (Côté, who plays in a hockey league for fun, is a distant cousin of a National League player with the same name.)
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