There’s a lot you can do to prevent yourself from having pest problems. Keeping a clean house, reducing clutter, sealing up gaps and cracks in the structure of the building, and being careful about where you do your shopping can all help to reduce the likelihood that your home will be invaded by bugs and other pests. If you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of having pets in the house, you may be able to solve the problem without professional help…
However, that’s not always possible. Pest control is a multibillion-dollar a year business for a reason!
Some pests are too tricky to deal with by yourself. Besides, if you’re not keen on creepy crawlies, you may feel that it’s worth the money to let someone else do it.
Wherever you live, chances are good that there are multiple pest control companies in your area ready to serve your needs. This is especially true if you live in a big city. In urban areas, there may be dozens of pest control companies for you to choose from. So how do you know you’re choosing the right one?
Well, it’s tricky. But by asking a few careful questions, you can figure out if an exterminator is worth hiring.
Here’s the 10 questions to ask before hiring an exterminator.
1. What pesticides or methods will be used?
The pesticides a pest -control company uses vary. Sometimes, this is because certain pesticides only work on certain pests. Other times, it has to do with the laws regarding pesticide use in your area. What is legal in one jurisdiction may not be in another.
You’re probably not an expert on pesticides. After all, that’s why you’re hiring a professional. But by talking to a couple of different pest control companies, you can soon see if there’s a particular pesticide or method of treatment that is more commonly used on the pest that you have.
Once you know how an exterminator intends to treat your problem, a quick Internet search may tell you whether what they suggest is a good idea or not. It can also indicate how well your chosen company knows their stuff.
And beware of companies that claim to have some secret formula that works better than anyone else’s. The pesticides an exterminator is allowed to use are tightly controlled by government agencies. Generally, all pest control companies use the same or very similar products. It’s all about how they use them.
2. Will follow up treatments be needed?
Some pests can be knocked down with a single treatment. For instance, a spray for ants will often eliminate the problem, especially if it directly targets the nest.
Any reputable company will tell you upfront whether your problem can be solved in a single visit or whether more visits are likely to be needed. They can also provide you with the cost of those treatments and at least an estimate of how many treatments might be needed.
Remember that all pest problems are slightly different, and what works in one situation may not work in another. However, any exterminator who has worked for a significant period in the field will have a rough idea of what it will take to solve your problem.
You should also get a clear idea of if the price you’re being quoted includes follow up visits or not.
3. Will the treatment be safe for pets and kids?
This may be the most important question of all. Ultimately, it’s better to live with a pest problem than to make yourself or your family sick by trying to deal with it.
Reputable pest control companies do everything they can to ensure that their treatments are safe. Being able to safely get rid of pests is a requirement for a company and its staff to be licensed, so they should know how to do it safely.
Of course, every company is going to say that their treatments are safe. But don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions. If they say their pesticides are safe, ask how. Find out how the pesticide in question works, and why it isn’t a concern for children and pets if it kills bugs. Honest companies have no problem answering questions like this.
The “correct” answer to most questions is any legal pesticide is safe for pets and children when used as directed by the label. Even though you wouldn’t want your little one to come into contact with the pesticide, once it dries, it’s generally not really a concern.
4. Will I need to do anything to prepare for the treatment?
Depending on the treatment, there may be steps you will need to take. Legitimate exterminators know that cooperation with the homeowner is essential to ensure effective treatments. Make sure you are ready to do everything the company requires for treatment to be successful.
For some pests such as ants, that may be as simple as cleaning your kitchen. For others, such as bedbugs, the preparation may require packing up your possessions, clearing clutter, and even moving furniture around.
A legitimate pest control company will explain in detail everything that they require. Often, they will provide you with a written instruction sheet to help you get ready for the treatment they propose. Be wary of companies who tell you that you don’t have to do anything, especially when you’re getting an interior treatment. When it comes to pest control, that’s almost never the case.
5. What will they do if the treatment doesn’t resolve the issue?
Anytime you’re dealing with animals, surprises can happen. Even people who have been in the pest control industry for decades know that there’s always a possibility of discovering something new.
Sometimes, a treatment that has always worked in the past suddenly becomes ineffective. Whether it’s due to pesticide resistance, poor preparation, improper equipment, or some other factor, pest control treatments sometimes fail.
A legitimate pest control company stands by their work. If possible, try to choose a company that guarantees their treatment. But be aware that warranties can be very difficult to enforce, and often come with disqualifying factors.
If a company does offer a warranty, make sure you follow the instructions to the letter so that the warranty remains valid. And ask them to be clear about their process for honoring the warranty if the treatment fails. Is it a money-back guarantee? Or will they provide free treatments until the problem is solved?
6. How long have they been in business?
There’s a relatively low barrier to starting a pest control company. Every year, usually in the spring, new companies emerge, often started by former employees of existing companies.
Just because a company is new doesn’t mean it’s bad. After all, everybody has to start somewhere. However, for your own peace of mind, you may prefer a more established company.
An exterminator that has been in business for 10 or 20 years has a reputation to maintain and is less likely to risk that reputation by treating you badly. Also, if a company has been around for decades, it suggests that they are doing something right.
In the highly competitive world of pest control, longevity can indicate that a company knows what it’s doing.
7. Are they licensed, bonded, and insured?
Don’t be afraid to ask for proof. Any legitimate exterminator will easily be able to show you that they have the licenses necessary to use pesticides in your jurisdiction. Licensing requirements vary from place to place, but almost all jurisdictions require pest control companies and their employees to be licensed to apply pesticides.
When a pest control company is bonded, that means it has purchased a fidelity bond which protects the company from employee dishonesty and damage to a client’s property. Likewise, insurance can protect you by paying out if the company does damage to your home.
Reputable pest control companies are often asked to provide proof of insurance and licensing for major clients, so there should be no reason why they can’t do the same for you.
If a company gets upset that you would ask for proof, it’s a sign you probably shouldn’t hire them.
8. Do they provide written estimates and will they stand by them?
Some pests are very predictable. Often, it’s possible to provide a price quote over the phone. However, other creatures are trickier. Ants, especially Carpenter ants, termites, squirrels, rats, raccoons, and other pests often fall into this category. For pests that have unpredictable behavior, the company may need to visit your home and provide you with a quote.
Some companies charge for this. Many do not. Either way, you should make sure that any estimate you get from an exterminator is given to you in writing.
You should also ask if the estimate is binding on the company. It’s no good choosing the cheapest quote if the price of the treatment ends up being double or more what the company said it would be.
9. Are their prices in line with what others charge?
This may be something you have to research for yourself. But as with any contractor, beware of choosing the cheapest price. If a company is offering treatment significantly cheaper than their competitors, you have to wonder why. Often, it means they are cutting corners somewhere, and this can come back to bite you down the line.
10. What is their online reputation?
No company is going to hide the fact that their customers like them. Any company you talk to should be able to provide you with testimonials from satisfied customers. It also pays to do your own research online and see what other people’s experience with the company has been like.
Be warned that some companies post fake reviews to make it seem like they are better than they are. If something seems suspicious, trust your gut.
If a company that started last year has 3000 5-star reviews online, something is probably wrong. By the same token, if a company has been in business for 15 years and still hasn’t garnered more than a handful of positive reviews, that’s cause for concern.
Choosing the Right Exterminator
As with any other service you purchase, choosing an exterminator to work on your home can be tricky. However, by asking the right questions, you can make it far more likely that you pick a reputable company that will do good work. Spending a little time shopping around can save you a lot of money and headaches down the line.