Helping consumers choose among house repair options

House maintenance is a never-ending and costly task. Roofing, siding, windows and even garage doors wear out.

Now researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a software program that takes the guesswork out of replacement decisions. The free program, called NEST (for National Economic Service-life Tools), allows homeowners to select the most cost-effective replacement material for roofing, siding, windows and garage doors. It also provides, for the user’s own zip code, cost estimates for replacements, including the cost of local labor and local materials, as well as the cost of maintenance.

NEST currently consists of two software tools. “NEST Builder” and “Durability Doctor.” NEST Builder asks homeowners to specify the house layout and size, as well as various kinds of materials used for roofing, siding, windows and garage doors. The software program uses the information to build a virtual or graphic model of a user’s home.

“Durability Doctor” then combines the house model data with information on material cost and service life of the selected housing component. It estimates the installation and maintenance cost as well as the monthly financing cost of each alternative over the product’s lifetime. Consumers then can compare costs for nine different types of roofing, four garage door materials, six types of windows and eight varieties of siding. “Durability Doctor” also reports which replacements are the most durable, have the lowest installation cost and lowest life-cycle cost for each housing component.

NIST developed NEST with funds from the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing, a government-industry initiative led by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to modernize the homebuilding industry. NEST is available at www.pathnet.org/sp.asp?mc=tools_nest.

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