The best way to find a contractor is by word of mouth -- from a friend, colleague, or neighbor. We started this project by asking readers to tell us the names of home-repair firms they recommend. More than 1,700 readers filled out our survey.
Once the votes were tallied, we also asked top vote-getters for referrals. We asked plumbers what firms they liked for remodeling. Appliance sellers suggested electricians. And so on.
We then did our own research, including checking each company's licensing as well as its record with the Better Business Bureau.
In the end, we came up with this list of recommended home-repair help.
One thing we noticed about reader favorites is that most of the companies have been around for decades -- many are second- or third-generation family firms.
There are many honest, reliable tradespeople out thereâ€”more than we can list. If a firm isn't on this list, that doesn't mean it isn't doing good work.
Keep in mind that even the best contractor can get overbooked and strained when satisfied homeowners share their names -- in fact, at least one top vote-getter asked us not to list his firm because he already has too much business. And sometimes one homeowner will have a terrific experience with a repair firm while someone else will get a different technician from that company -- and a not-as-pleasant experience.
As with any consumer purchase, you'll still want to do your homework and get several bids. Go with the firm that seems to understand your job best and that you trust the most. Don't shop just by price -- an exceptionally low bid may mean the firm is cutting corners.
In future months, we plan to publish more of our survey results, including articles about interior design and landscape design.