Navigating the Top 500

Thirty-one years ago, when the remodeling industry was still struggling for an independent identity, one completely distinct from builders and trade contractors, the founder of Qualified Remodeler, Dave Sauer, thought it would be a good idea to profile the industry’s leaders and innovators. Then as now, the challenge for the best remodelers — those who created satisfied customers and earned enough profit to create a growing business — was how to separate their work and reputations from the hurly burly of what can be a rough-and-tumble, no-barriers-to-entry business.

The first Leaders issue was published in the fall of 1978 and grew to become the Top 500 by 1983. Today, the industry stands clearly apart from the pack, and the Top 500 has never represented a better group of industry leaders in all 50 states. Despite the credit crisis and the slower business conditions generally, remodelers seem to be standing taller this year. To the degree there is any growth in residential construction activity, much of it is being driven by remodelers like those we present on the following pages.

This year’s Top 500 list is truly better than ever. We dedicated 90 percent of the editorial pages in this issue to presenting not only which companies are on this year’s list, but also presenting the data in new ways so we can all learn more about these industry leaders.

Beyond our insightful overview of the 2009 Top 500 (see Still 500, Still the Top) written by senior editor Ken Betz, in which top remodelers from around the country describe their challenges and opportunities, we have also analyzed the numbers to create a new list of the largest kitchen and bath remodelers in the United States (see Kitchen & Bath Leaders). Managing editor Jon Minnick spoke with the range of presidents and owners of these firms and learned more about how they have adapted and grown despite the downturn.

It is important to note that we compiled this list of kitchen and bath remodelers not simply by ranking those firms that had designated themselves kitchen and bath remodelers. We added the percentages of their business attributed to kitchen remodeling and the percentage attributed to bathroom remodeling. If more than 50 percent of their business was one or the other, or both, we put those firms into the mix for ranking. Seeing big full-service firms like Case Design & Remodeling, The Neil Kelly Company and Normandy Builders among this group crystallized the vast significance of kitchen and bath projects to all parts of our diverse industry.

Some of you may remember that last year we presented a table showing the number of Top 500 remodelers in each state. This year we took it a step further. We pulled a list of the two largest remodeling firms in each of the Top 25 metropolitan statistical areas as ranked by the Census Bureau. This unique listing of local Top 500 leaders appears on Keeping it Local.

Finally, we are very proud that many firms on our list have been sharing their numbers with us for many years. To that end we compiled a list of Top 500 Perennials. These are remodelers who have been listed every year for the past five years. In up years and down, these firms have chosen to participate in our ranking. We sincerely appreciate their confidence to present the numbers as accurately and honestly as possible. I think that is why Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies has used the Top 500 as another way to study the composition of the remodeling industry. If you have any questions or comments about the Top 500, we encourage you to send them to us using the “Letter to the Editor” function.

Enjoy the list.