You've finally done it: You've decided to hire a custom installer to ensure your project goes off with nary a hitch. So now what? Where do you begin, and how do you find the installer who's right for you? If your install is relatively simple - like mounting a flat-panel TV or connecting an existing audio system - it shouldn't be too hard. You might try calling a local big-box retailer and asking who it uses or recommends for such a job, or you could talk to friends who've had one done. But if you're doing something more ambitious, like adding audio throughout your house, putting in a dedicated media room, or distributing audio and video with automation and control, this article will help you find an installer who can do the job right.
Most installations come in two flavors: new construction and retrofit. (Remodels are a combination of both.) With new construction, you're limited only by the size of your wallet. With a retrofit, how your house is built might place limitations on what you (and the installer) can do.
It will be helpful if you have some sense of your budget in mind. Even if it's a vague "between $X and $Y," that's a starting point.
For new construction or remodels, there are a couple of sources you can tap into. Begin with your architect. If he works with an install firm, the A/V system can be designed into your home. With the system incorporated in the plans, the entire project can flow more smoothly.
Also check with your builder. Any installers he recommends should go on your short list. They'll be accustomed to working with his timetable, which will help keep the job on track. And a builder is usually more agreeable to any changes needed to accommodate the A/V system when it's his guy calling the shots. Plus, since builders refer many people to the installer, the installer will move heaven and earth to keep the builder and his clients (that would be you) happy.
The advice of a friend who's had an install done can also be useful. Ask how the installer handled things like schedule and design changes and service calls and whether he lived up to his promises. The big question to ask your friend is: Would he use the firm again?
The Web is another great resource. Start with the CEDIA (Custom Electronics Design & Installation Association) finder service at cedia.net/homeowners/finder.php. Along with contact information, it shows how long a company has been a CEDIA member, the brands it carries, and the services it performs. With members in every state, and more than 3,500 members nationwide, this should yield rich rewards. You can also search THX.com, imagingscience.com, and homeacoustics.net to find members certified by those organizations.
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