Top Ten Standards to Look For a Home Improvement Contractor

Finding a quality home improvement contractor is not always easy. Anybody can sell you on something that sounds great, but how can you know if you’re really dealing with a quality company? Home improvement companies come in all varieties, from shysters to newbies to companies that have been in business for decades. These ten tips will help you pick out the best fit for you no matter what kind of company, from a replacement window contractor to a roofer, you may need.

1) Does the company offer free estimates?

Never go with a company that doesn’t value a relationship with you enough to do a free estimate. When you pick a company you’ll be spending quite a bit of money with them, so they should be willing to invest a bit of time in you.

2) Does the company offer an honest estimate? Is it detailed?

Many people don’t know that there’s a difference between an estimate and a bid. A bid is a legally binding statement, while an estimate is not. Some unscrupulous companies will pitch a too-low estimate to sell to you then and then hit you on the back end with “fees” they tacked on. If you get detailed, realistic prices and time frames, you increase the odds that it’s an honest estimate. In addition, the detailed estimate gives you legal recourse if the company does work you didn’t authorize.

3) What kind of customer guarantee does the home improvement company give?

How long do you have to report problems? What kind of certification can a given home improvement contractor give you on his or her workers? What kind and quality of materials do they use? You should be asking these questions in the initial meeting and get it in writing on any contract. If the answers are vague or deceptive, run.

4) How willing is the company to work with your schedule?

Of course, you don’t necessarily want people in your home you don’t know. However, some home improvement jobs can take several days or even a couple of weeks? If the job is only on the outside, say you’re getting a roof replaced, you don’t necessarily have to be there. However, if entering your home is required, are they willing to work with your schedule?

5) Is the contractor insured, and what protection do you get out of it? Do you have any liability?

Let’s say you’re having your roof fixed and a worker falls off into your bushes, breaking his or her arm. Who’s responsible for taking that worker to the hospital, who’s responsible for paying the bill, and who ultimately is liable for what? Any decent company is insured and does not hold you liable for accidents common in the line of work. Get all liability spelled out in the contract.

6) Is the contractor truly knowledgeable in the area you want improved?

If you’re wanting energy-efficient windows replaced then a “general contractor” who’s done roofing for fifteen years probably is not the right contractor for you. Make sure the home improvement contractor you pick has plenty of in-depth detailed experience with the specific improvements you’re having done.

7) Does the company belong to the local Better Business Bureau?

BBB seals don’t always mean a lot on the Internet, but they still pull their weight locally. If, for instance, you live in Cincinnati, Ohio and you want to know a contractor’s worth, the contractor that’s part of the local Better Business Bureau has been around for years and has a reputation to maintain, while one who isn’t may be a fly-by-night company.

8) Does the company offer financing? If so, is it legitimate?

Some companies are large enough to be able to offer their own financing. Others don’t want to deal with the headache of an entire finance department. If contractor-provided financing is important to you, be clear on that when first talking to contractors. If one offers you financing, check it out thoroughly. Are they doing it in house? Do they have an arrangement with a bank? Do they charge a reasonable interest rate or too high? When do payments start? Any financing is, at heart, the extension of a line of credit. If the company isn’t doing the same checks as a credit card company, look twice.

9) Does the contractor have offices you can visit?

Some contractors are one-person specialist affairs and may even work out of a home office, while others are larger companies with their own offices. No matter what kind or size of contractor you’re dealing with, you should be able to visit an office. You’re not going to get home improvement from a company across the country, you’re going to get it locally. Therefore, their physical offices should be accessible and professional. If you can’t visit their office the company could easily be a fly-by-night operation to take your deposit and disappear.

10) Can you get references you can look up and call on your own? Would any references be willing to have you visit to see examples of the home improvement company’s work?

This one should be a no-brainer, but all too often it’s a detail that gets overlooked in the furor of home improvement contracting. Can you see examples of their work? Can to talk to people they’ve done work for in the past? Just one reference doesn’t cut it, nor do three who you can’t find in the phone book. Anyone can pretend to be three different people, and it’s easy to get call forwarding for three different numbers.

Landscaping Ideas for Your Home

Landscaping ideas form the basis of landscape architecture. Landscape designers are commissioned by clients who have the land and budget to experiment with different design ideas and create landscapes that compliment their home and status. Landscaping ideas are the basic ideas which the designers keep in mind while planning the landscape.

Plants in landscaping ideas-Plants are widely used to give the natural feel in the landscape. While choosing the plants one must be careful; it should be most appropriate plant for the area and climate
Rocks in landscaping ideas- Rocks are important to any landscape. They give functional characteristic and they also have a distinct beauty.

Contractor in landscaping ideas-Included in the investment is the search for the best professional landscape contractor available who can stay within your budget and yet do an acceptable job.
Energy Efficient Landscaping ideas-Many experts have proven that efficient landscaping that takes into consideration energy needs, may well save a family more then 30% of their usual heat or cooling costs.
Environment Friendly Landscaping ideas-It is recommended to use the view of the sky or big trees as the background for the scene and to frame the house.

Fire Resistant design for Landscaping ideas-Fire problem is the most dangerous problem that one has to keep in mind. A properly landscaped property can be a good defense for surviving destruction or damage.
Habitat Restoration and Landscaping-Most gardeners always set up a well-organized and well-maintained habitat for a balanced life cycle in their bioscope.

Landscape Designs-It is more than just beautification and enhancing of a garden to fit to an individual’s taste and preference through landscape design.

Landscaping Plans-Landscaping is an art. It is something that takes some time to do, some effort, and some patience. Landscaping – if done properly – becomes a masterpiece.

Landscaping Maintenance-Maintenance is something that has to done properly. The blooming flowers or the green trees can not be only left out without care.

Landscaping ideas also changes with the geography of the land. In China, landscaping ideas originated with Feng Shui, which is translated into English as ‘wind and water’ and is used to describe a set of general principles for the planning of development in relation to the natural landscape. In Europe, the history of landscaping ideas can be traced to the work of Vitruvius.

Landscaping ideas are not set in stone. The best ideas come with the fluid imagination of both designers and home owners. Landscape planners are concerned with the ‘health’ along with the beauty of the landscape.

All About Better Homes and Gardens

Our home is our own private space.Whether you are building a dream home or just want to add a little spice to your existing house, all you need is a little time. If you have a garden, you can experiment with a lot of plants, colors, themes, fountains and more. Before venturing to discover whether you really have that ‘green thumb’, you need to study a little about garden plans, flowers, lawns, trees & shrubs, herbs & vegetables, house plants, landscaping, regional gardening, container gardens, garden guides, paths, pergolas, seeds, pests, fertilizers etc.

Just go through some planting guides and you will have a fairly good idea. I found the Better Homes and Gardens site offering useful Growing Zone Maps of USA spanning Northeast, South, Midwest, Mountain and Plains, Pacific Northwest, southern California to the Desert Southwest with the ideal locations for growing different plants.

Better Homes and Gardens is a popular magazine in the US Published by the Meredith Corporation, the magazine focuses on homes, kitchen, gardening, crafts, healthy living, decorating and entertaining. It began its course in 1922 when Edwin Meredith, the United States Secretary of Agriculture under Woodrow Wilson, founded the magazine. The magazine has kept in touch with the pulse of the changing times, and today it also has a website.

The Better Homes and Gardens website is quite interactive and user friendly. The site offers relevant information on topics related to food and recipes, garden, holidays, health and family and crafts. What I personally do not like about the site is, when you open the home page, there is are special offer pop up windows asking you to sign up. But of course, you can just ignore that, close the window and move on to navigate the site.

The website also has a section devoted to Garden Slide Shows. Here, you can view every garden slide show that the magazine has ever done. Tools and Guides is another a helpful section in the website. Arrange-a-Deck, Garden Flower Gallery, Garden Newsletter, Plan-a-Garden and Plant Finder are some useful features. The site also has a forum with a number of great sections but it does not appear to be too active.

The Expert Advice section of the Better Homes and Gardens is probably the most useful. You will find experts sharing their opinion on flowers, roses, lawns, pests and problems, trees & shrubs, vegetables & fruit and tips & techniques. If you have a doubt about something, just express it here and you will probably get your answer. The website also provides you with the option of joining the club to avail of weekly updates, weekly recipes, newsletters, home improvement ideas and other offers. If you are looking for seasonal e-cards or interesting desktop items or online gifts you may again stop at this site. Some of these offers are fairly priced while others are comparatively a little high.

Targeted at providing useful information, Better Homes and Gardens is fast becoming a preferred magazine in the United States.