On The Level - The Home Improvement Blog
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StairSimple makes adding stairs an easier DIY project.

Simple Stair Building

Stairs have always challenged us humans. As infants, it was climbing them. As adults, it is building them. Even experienced DIYers hire out the stair-building of a renovation or addition, and for good reason. Stairs are scary.

For the stubborn DIYer who insists on hammering every nail, there is the option of the stair-building kit like the StairSimple Axxys. I came across an announcement that the Axxys system will be available at a few home improvement retail stores in the Northwest states (Washington, Colorado, Utah). The Axxys is sold as a do-it-yourself interior stair rail kit from BW Creative Wood Industries. With pivoting connectors and pre-measured and pre-drilled holes, the Axxys system takes a significant amount of the mystery out of stair building.

The final result is nothing to turn an upward nose to, either. Check out the photo gallery on their website to see just how diverse the application can be.

Would you use the StairSimple Axxys in your home?

Interactive Stair Lighting | Home Lighting


Check out this cool residential stair lighting project that recently came across my desk. The stairs detect your presence and automatically light up. It's perfect for the late night stumble to the refrigerator.

This reminds me of the musical stairs at the Boston Museum of Science, which worked a little like the video below of an ingenious musical stair application in a Swedish subway used to encourage more folks to eschew the escalator in favor of the extra--albeit often discordant--exercise.

A Heated Walkway


As much as I loved snow days as a kid, I hated spending the day off from school shoveling the driveway and walkway.

I think that's why I like the idea of the HeatTrak, the plug-in heated mat for walkways, stairs and rooftops. The video above tells all. No more shoveling!

Take a look at the different options on their product page. I like the stair mats, personally, although $60 for a single mat seems a bit steep.

The mats plug into standard 120 V outlets and melt snow at a rate of 2" per hour.

Too bad I didn't have one arriving today, with the Winter Storm Warning and all. Guess I won't be throwing out that shovel anytime soon.

This unused attic could be converted into additional living space.

Making Use of Little-Used Space

There is a new trend in home remodeling. Instead of blueprints for a new home or a large addition, designers are beginning to see plans for transforming little-used space. This cost and time-efficient method is one of the best ways to improve your home. For example, you can sacrifice part of an adjacent dining room that is rarely used in order to remodel your kitchen. Also, space under stairs can be turned into office space, a laundry room, etc. Storage shelves high in children’s rooms are a good idea, too. The most popular examples of transforming space are when basements or attics are turned into living spaces. Utilizing the space you already own is definitely a great way to remodel.

Photo courtesy of Monolithic.

A Staircase for Distinctive Homes

Here's an interesting idea for those looking to have multiple levels in a smaller space: a "monk" staircase. The steps alternate from left to right to allow the stairs to be a much steeper grade, making them function more like a ladder and saving a lot of space. I'm not sure how much I like this idea for a home with kids, but it would work well in a loft-style home for young urban hipsters. The monk staircase in this photo is found in a dome-style home in Ann Arbor, Mich. Note the rounded ceiling in the photo. Very cool.

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