Eighty years ago, most people would have no problem grabbing a truck full of asbestos and throwing it up as insulation in their home. Nowadays, hearing a home has even a trace of asbestos will send potential buyers running for the hills. While that’s an extreme case, it does illustrate that not all home improvement products are created equal, or equally safe.
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When you hit the hardware store, you want to make sure that your purchases are easy to use, safe, and functional. In a world where you could easily purchase 30 variations of a light bulb, choosing the best—and avoiding the worst—isn’t always easy. To help you along the way, consider a few resources at your disposal.
In the olden days, before the internet, folks would find out which tools and gadgets were good by word of mouth. Back then, if your cousin drove a certain type of covered wagon and liked it, then you’d buy the same kind. Nowadays, those word of mouth reviews are found online. Instead of taking one person’s word, you can sample the opinions of thousands of users. For home improvement products, do a simple online search for the product name. You’ll see reviews on Amazon.com and big box home improvement stores. Consumer Reports maintains an excellent database of consumer-focused product reviews. You can also check out DIY forums like those found on doityourself.com. Some experts note that many of the best products aren’t available at big box stores, but at industry specialists.
Designer Kerry Ann Dame makes this point in regard to flooring, “I have seen so many cheap flooring products delaminate, peel and fade after just a few years. It is definitely worthwhile to buy the best flooring your budget can afford, and unfortunately the details of what makes for quality flooring products are not available from the staff at a big box store. Also, their installation prices tend to be higher than necessary, offsetting any savings gained from using the cheap materials.”
Flooring is just one example. Whatever project you’re involved in, going to a business that specializes in that field of home improvement will almost certainly yield more professional results.
The worst outcome for a bad product is when it becomes dangerous for you to use. In extreme cases, products are recalled because they contain a major defect. Once a product is recalled, it should not be available for purchase at any stores, however; you may have already bought items that have been recalled. To check if a product has been recalled or to report a malfunctioning product, contact the Consumer product Safety Commission.
Even the best home improvement products in the world can be bad if they are used incorrectly. Before you buy anything, make sure you understand the product’s proper uses and any installation methods that might be involved.
Architect Kraig Kalashian points out, “Home Improvement retailers have done a great job of convincing owners that they can do everything themselves. The problem with all that is that it undermines the labor industry in that there truly is a difference between professional grade work and DIY level installations.”
Installing or using a product in the wrong way is not only frustrating and inefficient; it can prove to be downright dangerous.
Consumers should also be wary of new products or technologies that have just hit the market. While all products must go through basic testing and safety phases before they arrive on store shelves, it’s broad use by the general population that tests them the best. The most frequently failed and recalled products are those that are new. Furthermore, new products are often more expensive than those which have been around for several years.
This is not to say that you should never buy innovative things, but use common sense to measure risks and rewards. It goes without saying that a new type of broom that costs $20 is probably worth it, but you might want to wait on that $3000 laser powered wood chipper. Take the time to review every purchase and you’ll leave the store confident and safe.