How We Test and Review Products
Table of Contents
- Why Trust Bob Vila
- What We Test
- How We Test and Review Products
- Curated Product Guides
- Affiliate Disclosure
- Meet Our Experts
Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement. Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice.
Today, the Bob Vila team carries on the mission by distilling need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. Our writers and editors include experts in all home and garden areas, from general contractors to master gardeners. Often, the same knowledgeable people writing detailed how-tos on projects that use the tools and gear we recommend are the ones we trust to research, vet, and test those as well.
We may earn a commission through one of the team’s product review links, and we will always disclose this. This does not influence our opinions in any way: Our product reviews and recommendations are solely guided by our expertise, research, and personal experience. Likewise, any “sponsored reviews” or deals will be clearly marked as such.
Readers trust BobVila.com for answers on everything from where to start on a project (i.e., the right tools for a job) to what gadgets offer the best bang for their buck. We’re dedicated to creating accessible, solidly researched shopping advice for anything and everything related to the home: tools and DIY supplies, lawn and garden equipment, household appliances, tech, and much more.
We do our very best to research and vet every product we recommend in our buying guides, but we recognize that nothing beats real-world experience.
That’s why we have mowed 140,000 square feet of lawn to test-drive electric and gas mowers. We’ve cleared 27 bags of leaves to find the best leaf blowers. We’ve cut a combined 600 feet of composite decking, Douglas fir, red oak, pressure-treated southern pine, and more to find the most reliable table saws. We reviewed paint brushes, paint primers, tape measures, flashlights, and more to equip homeowners and renters of all skill levels with gear that they can rely on.
The Bob Vila Product Reviews team does not shy away from legwork: These commerce writers and editors scour the market, narrow down a selection to test, and put them head-to-head in real-world applications to confirm that they live up to their hype. Keep reading for how we choose, use, and review products.
STEP 1: First, we set our shopping guidelines and priorities.
Rooted in practical, real-world experience as well as product research, our experts highlight the most important considerations for shopping in a product category. We use these to select products and inform tests.
STEP 2: Our team scours the market for the most promising products in a given category.
At the market research stage, we often start by identifying the go-to retailers for a given type of product. (For example, we’ll explore different retailers if we’re seeking out the best mowers versus the best toasters.) Across those retailers, we look for big manufacturers in the category, lesser-known names with buzzy products, and overall top products—those with consistently high marks from users. In popular product categories, we look for products with both exceptional user ratings and a large total number of ratings. We keep an eye on the reviews though, reading through the extremes on both ends to determine their validity. It's our goal to discern if glowing reviews reflect actual use and if the occasional poor review reflects a quality issue or user error.
Then, we use the same shopping considerations to help us narrow in on the products we ultimately test. The collection ends up as a mix of top-rated products, best sellers in the category, and new releases from trusted brands.
STEP 3: We get our hands on products.
We obtain products to test through purchases or directly from the manufacturers. Receiving products free of charge does not guarantee that we cover a product in a positive light—if at all. We only share the ones that we believe to be helpful to our readers, and we’ll always be honest about our experiences, good or bad.
Whenever we do receive products for review, assuming that they aren’t single-use, we always offer to return them to the manufacturer when the test is over. Any products that we cannot return and those that we purchased for the test, we try to donate to worthy causes and organizations. Our tested chainsaws have been put to use in storm cleanup; sprinklers, tools, and furnishings have been offloaded at Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore; and electronics have landed in a thrift store where proceeds benefit a local nonprofit animal shelter, to name a few.
STEP 4: Testing officially begins.
In addition to inspecting the products closely for telltale signs of quality, we put products to use for days, weeks, and sometimes months to evaluate performance in real-life applications. Extended testing often takes place in the home, garage, or backyard—the likeliest places our readers might put these products to work. Our tests are designed to mimic the actual, everyday use of the product, and, depending on the product type, we sometimes add a few stress tests for good measure.
At the conclusion of a test, we evaluate products on ease of use, durability, and value, as well as category-specific priorities. (Lawn mowers might be assessed for maneuverability, while work boots get scored on comfort.) Those that earn top marks make our list of recommendations; moreover, these evaluations also help us rank them against one another. We go into detail in our reviews on what we like and what we’d change about each product. Our readers can trust that they know what they’re bringing home when they pick up one of our favorite products.
While we try to test everything, it’s not always possible to review all products in person. (Finding the space to house and set up more than a few large appliances, for example, is a tall order.) In these cases, our experts consult customer reviews of the product across multiple retailers and consider past personal experience with the product or brand. Our commerce writers and editors comb through user manuals and manufacturer specs sheets to verify the details that are most important to the purchasing decision. Ultimately, we treat the research as if we were hunting for the best for ourselves—and if we wouldn’t buy it for our own homes, it won’t make the final cut.
We earn a small commission when readers purchase products through the links in our reviews and recommendations. Buying through them helps support the site and continued product testing we commit ourselves to. That said, all products are selected independently by our experts and editorial team.
Designated advertising content, topics, or posts may be influenced by compensation received. That content, advertising space, or any sponsored posts will always be clearly identified as paid or sponsored content.
Here are just a few of the experts behind the scenes curating, developing standards, testing, and reviewing home and garden essentials at BobVila.com.
Stephanie Cronk: Executive Editor, Product Reviews
For more than 12 years, Stephanie Cronk has served as a content manager and lead editor for large retailers where her responsibilities were to ensure all product reviews and shopping guides featured the most helpful information. In her current role, she’s led the Bob Vila Product Reviews team since 2020 in deciding the next categories to review, scrutinizing which products make the cut, and facilitating hands-on tests.
Beth Cranston: Editor, Product Reviews
Beth Cranston is a commerce editor on the Bob Vila team with more than a decade of writing and editing experience, with a focus specifically on home improvement since 2017. She has worked closely with interior designers, architects, and project managers to ensure accuracy while also translating more technical talk to quick, engaging reads for homeowners—a skill she utilizes today when working on guides for BobVila.com. Not only does Cranston edit the team’s product reviews, but she also designs most of the tests for the product categories.
Michelle Larson: Assistant Editor, Product Reviews
Michelle Larson joined the Bob Vila team as an assistant editor in 2022. She wears a lot of hats in the product review process, but most notably works closely with staff and freelance writers who specialize in the home and garden space to vet products against the team’s standards. She also helps connect testers with the products they need.
Glenda Taylor: Staff Writer, Product Reviews
Glenda Taylor is a staff writer with a deep understanding of the residential remodeling, home-building, and commercial roofing industries. She and her husband have been general contractors for more than 20 years. Taylor has extensive hands-on experience with construction and shop tools, as well as working knowledge of household appliances. In addition to her construction experience, Taylor is a Master Gardener, a former real estate professional, a universal design enthusiast, and an advocate for green building practices.
Mark Wolfe: Staff Writer, Product Reviews
Mark Wolfe is a staff writer who specializes in lawn and garden product reviews. Before joining the Bob Vila team, he earned a degree in outdoor education from Northland College and worked 20 years in the nursery and landscape industry. Wolfe draws on his extensive career expertise in planting, mowing, blowing, tilling, pruning, irrigating, hauling, digging, spraying, and building to test the latest and greatest products for BobVila.com. When he is not testing new equipment or writing product reviews, Wolfe enjoys gardening, beekeeping, traveling, and exploring nature with his family in Georgia.