Newsflash, remodelers: Just in case you hadn't noticed, the Internet isn't a fad. It's here to stay, and its role in your industry is growing larger, seemingly by the day.

A recent report from the Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) suggests that you already knew that. HIRI surveyed more than 500 remodelers and found that around 70% of them consider the Internet to be "extremely" or "very" important to their business. Approximately two-thirds said they would use online resources more in the year ahead.

Data from online product catalogs Sweets and ebuild corroborates these findings. Ebuild, which is owned by REMODELING's parent company, Hanley-Wood, received an average of 50,474 page views per weekday in August 2003, nearly double the number from a year ago. And Tim Traber, director of residential marketing for McGraw-Hill Construction, which produces Sweets, says that usage of their site's residential community has grown "around 15% or 20% per quarter" since its online launch in 2002. The relative youth of both sites accounts for some of that growth, but the numbers still represent a substantial increase.

The HIRI report also revealed that more and more homeowners are using the Internet for home improvement product-related research and purchasing. "All the information is at your fingertips," says Richard Johnston, senior research analyst at HIRI. "You can look at products and compare them in the privacy of your own home, without having to make a lot of calls or visit a bunch of stores."

What does all this mean for remodelers? Well, first and foremost, if your company doesn't have a Web site, it would behoove you to create one. If homeowners are using the Web to find products, they're probably using it to find a company to install those products, too. And perhaps more importantly, you should be prepared for customers who have fixed ideas about how much things cost, and who want you to use materials they've already researched and possibly purchased.