Some of you may remember the days before the World Wide Web was available to the masses. If you wanted to research a topic, whether for school or otherwise, it often required a trip to the local public library. Or you would peruse through the gargantuan set of Encyclopedia Britannica that had a prominent place in many homes. These days, simply open up a search engine on your laptop or mobile device and you can get answers to any question you can think of in milliseconds.
So if you're considering a home improvement project, the internet is a great place to begin your research. From changing the paint color of a room to installing replacement windows, replacing a faucet, replacing electrical outlets, or regrouting bathroom tile, expert (and not-so-expert) advice lives on countless pages online. This is why you need to proceed with caution when trusting information from online sources.
If you're looking for references or reviews for a contractor you're considering hiring, there are a few larger online review sites you can turn to. There are sites dedicated to home improvement company reviews. Sites like Angie's List, Guild Quality, and Home Advisor not only list customer reviews, they provide a list of the products and services offered by the contractor, as well as detailed company information including licensing, memberships, and award information.
If you're looking for renovation or design ideas, there are many popular websites growing by leaps and bounds by the day. Pinterest (pinterest.com) allows you to save favorite webpages and organize them on various Boards created by each user. Popular Pinterest categories include Health & Fitness, Home Decor, Food, and Travel, among many others. If you discover a particular "Pinner" whose boards you enjoy, you can follow those boards and get notifications when new items are added. For example, if you're interested in home energy savings, Thompson Creek has a Pinterest Board dedicated to that - follow their Energy Savings board and stay up to date on the latest information on saving energy in your home.
While Pinterest allows users to pin websites on any topic, Houzz is dedicated to home improvement, design, architecture, and landscaping. Houzz allows you to browse photos for design ideas (at last count the site includes more than 4 million photos) and when you find something you like, save it to your one of your Ideabooks. It's similar to the old way of tearing photos out of magazines and putting them in idea folders, but Houzz lets you do it all online. Houzz also has active online forums where you can research topics or post a question. And Houzz lets you search for professional contractors in your area. It includes customer reviews, photos submitted by the contractors as well as customer-submitted photos.
When using the web to research home improvement ideas and contractors, keep in mind the source. Just because it's online doesn't necessarily mean it's accurate. Stick to trusted sources, and always back up your research with some good, old fashioned word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and neighbors.