Find the right Pro
Before you start, know that not all repair companies are created equal. Virtually anyone can put an “AA Handyman” list in the phone book; Due to the wide variety of licensing and accreditation requirements from state to state, having a license does not necessarily indicate ability. What you need is a list of trusted professionals at your fingertips - references from trusted people who have worked with the contractor repeatedly. See the box to the right for the best recommendations in town.

Keep a list
It is best to have a list of two or three of each type of professional handy. This way, if you need to gather estimates, you know who to call. Additionally, contractors often accept multi-day jobs and are not available when needed. Example: I had a plumbing leak over the Christmas holidays and had to call four "a1plumbersbristol " before I found someone available. Prepare for the worst. Even if you only have one tree in your yard, it could fall, so look for tree men and the following specialists:
• Device installer / repairer
• Electrician
• Exterminator
• General contractor (carpentry, etc.)
• Maintenance personnel
• Heating / Cooling Technician (Furnace)
• Landscaper
• Locksmith
• Painter
• Plumber
• Roofer or Exterior Specialist
• Sewer Contractor

When you need a recommendation, ask ...
Who WhyThe key question
Your famous and restless neighbor She always demands the best. Anyone she recommends is likely to do affordable, high-quality work."What contractors have you used and liked?"
A contractor you've used and liked Repair people tend to know each other and have often worked together on large projects. Therefore, the electrician probably knows a good plumber."Who do you use in your house?"
Your real estate agent Through his work, he interacts with dozens of contractors, so he knows who is good and who is not."Who likes it? Who should I avoid? "
AngiesList.com OK, you're not a person per se, but the $ 5-a-month service (higher in some areas) gives you access to ratings and reviews from thousands of local contractors, and all reviews are by real customers, not anonymous.Search the database for a contractor to whom someone has referred you. Check their qualifications, type of work, prices and level of professionalism. (Hint: Avoid businesses without a postal address. Many scammers, particularly bogus locksmiths, only list PO boxes.)
Uh-Oh… It's broken!

First of all, is it an emergency? If your problem involves any of the following, take action accordingly:

1. smoke. Get out of your house and call 911. It doesn't matter if the smoke is coming from an appliance, an electrical outlet, or something larger; make the call!

2. Water leaking near electrical outlets. Turn off the main power switch in the house (usually located where the circuit breakers are or under the electric meter) and the main water shutoff (usually where the water meter is), which will end the immediate danger. (If you know where the water is coming from, you can turn off the water supply only to that area of ​​the house.) Then call the plumber. And call the electrician if the water got into the plugs.

3. Gas. Get out of your house and call the fire department and gas company. Damage to a gas line inside or outside your home (common when cars roll toward gas meters) is also reason to drive away and call 911. You're not exaggerating: gas can cause explosions and flash fires, and a Police officer or fire personnel will come to the right.

4. Flashing lights. If power fluctuates in one area of ​​the house, turn off the breaker or unscrew the fuse for that area, and call the electrician and your power company.

5. Loss of power. Call the power company. Loss of power throughout the house usually indicates an external utility problem. If it's not an emergency but you're still not sure which professional is handling your problem, consider asking a helpful friend or neighbor to see who to call. If you have existing relationships with contractors, you can also call them and ask. Having a general idea of ​​what was broke and why makes it easier to explain what you need when you call in a professional. Once you speak on the phone, you will need to explain:

• What is broken
• Why is it broken (“I stepped on it”, “there is a crack in it”, etc.)
• What repair do you think should be done
• What you would like the repair technician to do (if not it's an emergency, it's an estimate)
• Any history of problems related to the same item. (This last point provides relevant information and is the code for “I've been through this before, I understand what's going on and I have a rough idea of ​​how much it should cost”).

On the phone, mention who referred you (a contractor will often treat referrals better than overnight panic callers) and be as pleasant as possible, as you need help right away. You also need to make sure the repairman is insured (which means if you get hurt on the job, you are not liable) and bonded (meaning if you do the repair incorrectly, your company must fix it). Some states also require contractors and repairers to be licensed. Ask to see proof of everything in person.

All about estimates
For common, small jobs, many contractors will give a rough estimate over the phone. If you suspect you are in a major repair, call several contractors and ask each one to come in and give you a quote. You always want a written estimate, on some form of official company paper. This way, if they charge you an outrageous amount, you have written proof that the agreed price was lower. Most importantly: save the budget; You will need it so that you can compare it to the final invoice. An estimate should include:
• What is being repaired
• Hourly work rate
• Approximate time frame of repair
• Estimated costs of tools, products and materials
• Payment terms

Once you are comfortable with the price, request a contract if the work exceeds $ 250. It should include costs for materials, permits, or licenses, describe how a change to the project will be addressed, and authorize the contractor to do the work. . Photo: Thinkstock

What to expect from an estimate
Who PricesWhat to look for
Electrician Fixed or hourly rateA very detailed and typed estimate, which lets you know exactly what they plan to install. Electricians' estimates are easy to compare with each other, because they list the prices and details of the circuits and panels they plan to install or repair (as opposed to a plumber, who will say "replace toilet"). It's okay to get three or more, and then call back and ask questions.

Plumber Typically hourlyIf a basic repair turns out to be more complicated than planned, speak with the plumber as soon as it is apparent and negotiate. Say, “I know this is taking a while, but I can't spend $ 500 on my shower leak. Can we set a price now? "

Heating / Cooling Technician Fixed or hourly rateThe furnace, air conditioner, and water heater are the most complex systems in your home, and repair mistakes are very costly to fix, so choose wisely. Opt for an experienced contractor and make sure you have multiple references.

General contractor HourlyCheck references, ask for examples of their work, and be sure to request a written estimate, including deadlines and materials. If everything looks good, apply for a contract, then follow carefully as the project continues.

Exterminator Service agreementThe service agreement will state how the exterminator will treat a pest problem. They will abide by the terms of the agreement, whether it takes days or weeks to fix what's wrong. Get several estimates and compare.
Ding-Dong, the repairman is here

Hooray, the repairman has arrived. Your presence is your chance to learn how to make repairs yourself, so you don't have to leave the room and make phone calls for an hour. Instead, stand still, watch what the repairman does, and feel free to ask about it. By observing carefully, you will not only educate yourself, but you will also make sure the technician is being diligent. Good questions to ask:

• "How does this work? How does it work?"
• "What is that knob / pipe / control and what does it do?"
• "Should I do any maintenance on that?"
• "What should I do if it breaks again?"
• "How do I turn off the electrical [or gas] lines that feed it?"
• "How can I prevent this problem from happening again?"

If a job becomes more complicated than planned midway through the repair and the contractor has given you an estimate, you should show him the complications and ask what he would like to do. Ask how the change affects the price, and be sure to get a revised estimate.

Fix-It Tag
While 99 percent of repair professionals are good people, keep in mind that you are allowing a complete stranger to enter your home. What to offer them and what they can use in your home depends on whether your contractor is there to give an estimate (rarely more than 40 minutes) or to do a repair. Your cheat sheet:
Topic Here for an estimateHere for a repair
Shoes Yes, you can politely ask him to take off his shoes.The contractor can keep his shoes on. However, you can politely ask that they matte them well and avoid pretty rugs.

A drink He's always nice to offer, especially if it's hot or cold.Offer water, tea, or coffee.
Bath You don't need to offer.Point to the one you prefer to use, and pick up any bath mat you don't want to get muddy.

Kitchen room You don't need to offer.If a contractor will be there at lunchtime, it is courteous to offer him the microwave and turn off any utensils you want him to use.
Values When in doubt, close the doors to rooms with valuables or ask the contractor to enter through a side door. Remember: you are basically taking a tour of your home.Hide any items you are worried about could disappear. Multiple workers can have key access to your home, so instead of taking chances, slip valuables into drawers.

Access You must let it in, and be there for the entire visit.Stay home if you can; if not, try to avoid giving your login password. If you have to leave, let the contractors in and ask them to block out.

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Access You must let it in, and be there for the entire visit.Stay home if you can; if not, try to avoid giving your login password. If you have to leave, let the contractors in and ask them to block out.