Please note: This older article by our former faculty member remains available on our site for archival purposes. Some information contained in it may be outdated.
Reviews search techniques for remodeling contractors. Provides reviews of popular remodeling oriented sites.
I just typed the word “remodeling” into the Webcrawler search engine (http://www.webcrawler.com) and received references to 2,775 web pages. Twenty-three out of the first twenty-five referenced sites were individual remodeling companies advertising their services. Network Wizards (http://www.nw.com), a site which tracks internet usage, produces a survey the number of “domain names” or host website names, twice each year. Over the past three years the number of “hosts” has increased from 22 million in January, 1997 to 30 million in 1998 and now to 43 million in January, 1999. You can bet that the number of web “pages” is a much higher multiple of this.
So, what is a remodeler to do? How can we find the answers to our questions without becoming mired in a sea of information? Well, here are some tips for surfing the web for remodeling information. We also give you reviews of key remodeling sites that might have what you are looking for.
TIP 1: Learn How Your Favorite Search Engine Works and BE SPECIFIC!
The more specific you can be about the nature of your question, the more likely you are to get your answer quickly. There are dozens of “search engines”, sites which can help you find information. More and better engines are coming on-line every day. Each engine works differently, both in how it organizes information and in how it interprets your requests for a search. It will pay off in the long run, to pick a favorite or two and learn their “advanced search” techniques. For example, by typing the word “siding” into the search engine http://www.altavista.com, I was rewarded with “…195,070 web pages for you”. No thank you! Using the words “vinyl siding” reduced “my” pages to 12,324. Finally, enclosing the words “installing vinyl siding” in quotation marks gave me 54 pages, now that is a number I can begin to work with!
Some of the more extensive search engines include:
TIP 2: Find Some Favorite ” Jumping Off” Points
Just like mastering the learning curve in using your chosen search engine. You will eventually find some “favorite” remodeling related sites. You can use these as starting points for solving your installation problem, answering a technical question, or obtaining other needed information. Some of the sites reviewed below feature their own “search engines” and listings of products, companies, and services. Each of us is an individual, with different ways of thinking, learning, and doing. We have our own business niches, customer bases, and information needs. No one method, site, or search engine, is best for all of us, so try a few and see what works for
I’ve found that my favorite “jumping off points” have the following features. They are:
easy-to-navigate – the organization, layout, and categories match how I think
not full of a lot of fancy graphics & applets (animations) – “just the facts ma’am”
filled with lot’s of hyperlinks – which allow you to point and click to get to more detailed information
So, on your next “surfing” expedition, try some of these techniques and visit one or two of the sites below. Hopefully, you’ll find the “information superhighway” is beginning to appear a little less backed up, and that you are able to get you to your destination quicker and more profitably.>
Remodeling Site Reviews
Depending on your particular business, the following remodeler oriented websites may be good sources of information for you. Obviously this can’t be a comprehensive list but the following reviews should give you some likely “jumping-off” points. Included is the URL (or website address) a description of the content of the site, a comment or two and an overall rating. The reviews are organized alphabetically by company in the following categories:
Bath & Kitchen
Construction & Building Products
Remodeling & Preservation
A note on the “Rating System”. The rating system is an overall grade for the website taking the following into account:
Information content – how relevant is the information to the professional remodeler
Ease of navigation – is the site well-laid out, providing easy and useful links
General attractiveness – was the site appealing and a pleasure to visit
Excellent – Indicates a valuable, well laid out resource for the professional remodeler
Very Good – Indicates the site has good information for the remodeler
Satisfactory – Is given to those sites which are valuable but are less easy to navigate or make use of
Needs Improvement – Is given to those sites which might frustrate the web user seeking information
Bath & Kitchen:
Kitchen.net. More homeowner oriented than professional. It has a good finder for K&B designers (it found two in my small town!) You should check to see if you are there! Also, an interesting section entitled “Doctor in the House” with advice from K&B experts. The links to product manufacturers seemed a bit weak.
Rating: Very Good
The Kitchen Source – advertises the “Kitchen Cyber Mall”. I found this to have a rather disorganized search engine for professional help, but a rather extensive set of links to K&B manufacturers.
Rating: Needs Improvement,
Suggestions: I found the title fonts on the homepage hard to read. The use of buttons for links to website and email is becoming nonstandard. Commonly underlined hyperlinks are becoming the norm that users look out for.
Kitchen Web – The Canadian software company 20-20, who author the 20-20 Kitchen Design package have a fairly far ranging family of websites (Lumber Web, Bath Web, Builder Web, Deck Web,…) these seem primarily useful for locating manufacturers. Rating: Very Good
National Kitchen and Bath Assoc. (http://www.nkba.org) – This site has been upgraded extensively in recent months. If you are an NKBA member you can be privy to all sorts of business management, and industry research information. The content of this site seems extensive. I was a little put-off by the funky background colors and some dark lettering on dark background made for poor readability of some sections.
Rating: Very good
Construction & Building Products:
Building Online – This site is a good resource for product information. Well organized and easy connections to retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers of building related products in 28 categories. Rating: Excellent
Door and Window Website – I was a little frustrated on my first couple of visits, not being able to figure out the key features available at the site. They feature an extensive listing of manufacturers and suppliers but very few of these had hyperlinks. I suspect that many more of the suppliers listed will soon, or already have websites. Their “Sites to Surf” section has hyperlinks to associations related to the door and window industry. Rating: Satisfactory
Home Center News – This page provides a vast listing of trade associations. If you’ve got a question and are looking for an authority to contact, this list probably has it. Unfortunately, too few of the listings include hyperlinks to the association websites. This page needs to be updated to reflect all of the new association websites that have come on-line in recent months. Rating: Satisfactory
Homebuilder.Com – This site features a whole slew of new home information separated into sections for consumers, builders, and agents/brokers. The builder categories include: information on home builders associations, how to list your homes, an online builder’s bookstore and an overview of the International Builders Show. Rating: Very Good
National Assoc. of Home Builders – This site has the usual membership and recruiting info for trade associations, but also advertised a “Catalog of Building Products and Services”. When investigating this on-line feature I was impressed with the sheer number of products, companies, associations, and services featured. However, I was continually frustrated by the inability to provide hyperlinks to the companies and organizations referenced. They are able to provide good old-fashioned snail mail addresses, and telephone numbers but this site could be greatly improved by maintaining working links to the company pages directly. Rating: Very Good
National Institute of Building Sciences – If you are the kind of remodeler who revels in the fundamental and pure science, this is the page for you. It provides links to national sites providing “knowledge and advice on matters of building regulation, science and technology. A simple straightforward, easy-to-navigate site with no frills.
Rating: Very Good
Remodeling and Preservation:
America’s Home Improvement Network – A homeowner oriented site which offers a “screened” referral service which claims to sort out contractors who are unlicensed, or frequently in court. According to John Starkweather of Improvenet, they have referred over $1.5 Billion (Yes that’s Billion with a “B”) in business in their first full year of the service. The referral service works when a “qualified customer” fills out detailed project information. This information is then sent to the 40 contractors with zip codes closest to the inquiring homeowner. The first 4 contractors who respond to Improvenet that they are interested get the homeowner’s name and address. If the homeowner eventually contracts with one of the four, Improvenet gets a finders fee ranging from 0.5% to 1% of the project value. According to Starkweather average project size has been close to $60,000! You may want to email them to see that you are in their database. If you find you aren’t there, they have a procedure for “screening” you to get your business in their database. Rating: Very Good
The Association for Preservation Technology – This site features association info on publications, conference, membership, committees, and local chapters but also has an excellent links page for those interested in the techniques of preservation. The website style is straightforward with no time consuming graphics. Rating: Satisfactory
National Association of the Remodeling Industry (http://www.nari.org/) This homepage of the National organization provides a Homeowner Help section with a map based member listing, What’s Hot – What’s New, a Press Pass section with facts for press releases which might help remodelers get some free PR with their local media, and the usual Association recruiting stuff. Overall I found the site to be of little value to the professional remodeler. Most of the information seems static and dated.
A complaint from one local chapter is the fee that NARI charges for members to link to their national association web site. Christina Patterson confirms that the annual fee is a hefty $245. It is also surprising that there are few links to the sites that are maintained by the local chapters. You can find some local sites through search engines like http://www.yahoo.com. By typing “NARI Chapter” into a search engine like http://www.altavista.com I found the first 50 hits or so to give good links to local NARI chapters. Rating: D
Old House Renovator’s Resource – This commercially oriented site offers publications, tools, gifts, educational opportunities, and a place for renovators to discuss problems and issues. The Publications pages feature a large number of reference and other books ranging from furniture and fixtures to Victorian Period homes. Rating: Satisfactory
Ian Evan’s site “The World of Old Houses“ – For an Australian view on the “caring and restoration of old houses” you could visit this site which is exceptionally pleasing to the eye. There is a wealth of useful information and wonderful links to all aspects of house preservation. However, a word of caution to professionals, the site is designed primarily with a homeowner perspective. Rating: Excellent