Home Theater Installation: How to Hire the Right Installer

Reviewer: Phil Conner

OK, so you just purchased your flat panel television. You realize that your new 50" is going to be rather heavy to put on the wall yourself….. you think to yourself that maybe a home theater installation company would be the best option here…. for you and your back! Finding a professional home theater installer sometimes feels like the toughest part of your project. We've heard from lots of readers of our reviews and have compiled a list of tips.

Top Tips to Find the Right Installer:

  1. Select someone locally. There are thousands of professional home theater installation companies across the country. Find a professional home theater within a 50-mile range of your home or commercial installation. You are more likely to have an installer come by and tweak your system, if need be, when you are within a reasonable distance. Plasma TV Buying Guide has a list of installers in your area that is free to use. Find a local home theater installer here.

  2. Before you invite the installer to your home, gauge their pricing estimates. If the home theater installation company primarily works on home theater and multi-room home automation systems for all-star athletes, they may not be competitive when you want some wires hidden and your flat panel mounted on the wall. You should be able to obtain a general cost range estimate over the phone.

  3. Find out how an installer works. If you have a several room installation and your plasma tv installer is an early bird and is at your home by 7am and you typically wake up at 9am, it's going to be a tough couple of mornings. If you are a neat nick and your professional installer is very proficient in plasma and audio technologies but can seem a little scatterbrained, your working styles may not connect.

  4. Ask for a link to the home theater installation company's Web site or for some images of recently completed installations. Occasionally, home theater installers will keep a showroom to provide you with living examples of their workmanship. Home theater showrooms can sometimes result in increased overhead and charges to you, which is why it is always good to get a price range upfront. Today, most professional home theater installers are collecting images of completed projects anyway.

  5. Ask for references on finished projects that are similar to what you have in mind for your home theater and are relatively within the same cost range. Home theater installation companies may refer you to a Web link. This is a great data point and should be used in connection with speaking to with at least one customer with a similar installation project. Ask the homeowner or, if in the case of a commercial installation, the commercial project manager, about how the installation company works and how satisfied they are with the finished results.

  6. Before beginning the work that both of you agreed upon, the home theater installer should provide you with a complete signed contract that details pricing, equipment specifications, including connecting cables, deliverable dates if your project runs in phases and a payment structure. Final payment should always occur upon completion of the project.

  7. Ask the home theater installation company for a copy of their liability insurance policy to cover you and the installer if something should go wrong. A minimum $500,000 policy is typically best for everyone involved. It's rare, but we have heard of displays tipping over and breaking by accident during an installation. These issues would be covered under the home theater installation company's policy. If you accidentally break your plasma Tv, it's typically covered under your homeowner's policy. (We also recommend that you consider purchasing an extended warranty which covers any outages of your plasma tv, LCD, DLP or similar display unit. In our opinion, it's money well spent, as maintenance costs remain high despite the reduction in product prices.)

  8. Find out if your home theater installation company specializes in commercial or residential installations. While similar skill sets are required for home and office home theater installations, adding wiring to an office building is typically easier than adding to your home, although commercial home theater or automation installations tend to be more technically challenging. If you live in a historic or older home and want to retain its antiquity, you and the home theater installation company you choose will need to find solutions to overcome any obstacles found when 'peeling' back the onion of your home's walls.

  9. While references are typically your best insight into how someone works on their installation projects, ask the professional home theater installer for a general background of their training. Many home theater installation companies have licensed electricians on their teams and may have additional trade certifications as well.

  10. Many custom home theater and home automation installers only work through architects, interior decorators or custom homebuilders. If you are already working with some of these professionals, you may also want to look here for a recommendation. Ask outright if the recommending professional is receiving a commission or other benefit from the home theater installation professional. If they are, you may want to consider other options for finding your installer.

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