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Hiring a Pest Control Professional

When pests set up housekeeping in your home, sometimes it’s “a problem that’s bigger than you.” Sometimes the infestation is out of hand or too widespread throughout the property. Or it just won’t go away after sinking time and money into all the cleaning, products, and pest control methods you can try on your own.

Often the solution is in a product that only certified pest control technicians can apply. You may be out of time and patience when you’re ready to pick up the phone, but a little effort can make a huge difference when you call in the professionals.

Hiring a Professional

If you’re not sure of the pest’s species, you can check the website of a state university’s agricultural extension office. You can also contact their office or peruse their site for ideas on how to manage the pest or make changes on your property.

Think beyond the usual online recommendations when you’re shopping around. Your state’s pest control association is a helpful source, and www.npma.com offers state-by-state list of providers. Neighbors and local friends make great referrals. You can even ask pest control providers for references, but be sure to contact those past customers.  Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, look up each company’s reputation with the Better Business Bureau.

Neighbors and local friends make great referrals. You can even ask providers for references, and be sure to follow up with their past customers.

Next, check each company’s online presence. You’ll likely find at least a few professionally worded websites with thorough, knowledgeable text. And like any maintenance pros you let into your home, this business should be licensed, bonded, and insured. Almost every state requires pest control technicians to be certified and undergo annual training to keep their licenses active, so this information is usually prominent on the site. Look for a company that practices integrated pest management (IPM) methods.

Then it’s time to talk. Any technician or customer service representative you speak with should be conversant enough in pest control to answer your questions. You want someone who is abreast of the latest technologies and safest pest control strategies. But don’t be concerned if he or she can’t give a firm answer on an issue right away. A straightforward “I’m not sure, but I’ll find out for you” is better than a meaningless answer.

Pest control isn’t cheap, but remember: a bargain isn’t a bargain if the problem isn’t solved. Some companies offer a one-time service for a specific low price. But if you’re still infested after the bill’s paid, you haven’t saved anything but the pests’ lives. Starting over with a more expensive service option costs much more money than if you had made that choice in the first place.
A simple inspection by itself may not be free, but this fee should include an identification – and written diagnosis – of your pest problem.

Meeting the Technician

When the technician comes to your door, give everything one last review. The company vehicle, equipment, chemicals, and technician’s uniform should all have a clean, professional appearance. Ask to see his or her identification, license, and certification, and check to ensure that it is current.

Before servicing your property, the pest control technician should question you to discuss exactly what the problem is, determine what pests you’ve seen or heard, and where. At that point, he or she should inspect your home or building, identify any pests, and set a treatment plan.

If chemicals are called for, the professional should be willing to discuss their known adverse effects, and any non-chemical alternatives. A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) and specimen label should be available for each chemical he or she uses.  You’ll want to consider the chemical tolerance of everyone in your home. Be sure you know the active ingredients of pesticides and their effects on any children, elderly adults, and pets in the family.

Safety isn’t the only concern when it comes to synthetic pesticides. Ask your technician where they will be applied. Spraying them around the perimeter of the property may defeat the purpose if there are water-repelling materials like concrete. The pesticides can also be washed away by rain. You won’t want to pay for wasteful, ineffective spraying that could contaminate drinking water.

The service visit generally concludes with a report detailing the service performed, any necessary follow-up action, and any customer advice. Your professional may identify potential points of entry like holes or loose screens. If there is an excess amount of loose paper and cardboard or standing water, you will likely be advised to get rid of it sooner than later. If there is a maintenance issue or another situation outside the scope of the technician’s role or expertise, you will be briefed on your next step. You may hear recommendations before, during, or after servicing.

Setting Up On-going Service

If you want to hire this company for ongoing maintenance, ask careful questions. How often is really necessary in your case? Your contract may include quarterly or monthly service to follow up on a recent infestation, then a less frequent schedule once the main problem is addressed.

Your contract should stipulate a treatment plan, length of service, price, and any guarantee the company offers. Make sure you understand how to invoke any guarantee – including “guaranteed satisfaction” – if issues arise. Check not only the fine print, but the back of the contract for additional details. Look for responsibilities on your end, as well as arbitration clauses, possible exclusions, and cancellation penalties.

Once you’ve committed to your contract, keep in touch. Let the company know of any changes in pest populations between visits. Check to be sure that they are doing the monitoring stated in your contract.

You’ve likely spent a great deal of time eradicating these pests on your own. If you must outsource this task to get pests out of the house, don’t skimp on time now. Be sure to do the same kind of planning and research you did when you noticed the problem in the first place. While a DIY solution isn’t always possible, a little consumer savvy can make sure your pests go away and stay away.

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