How Certifications Help in a Down Market

In an era where any person with a truck and a tool belt can try their hand at remodeling, it has become more important than ever for professional remodelers to get certified. Deciding to remodel a home is a big decision for many homeowners. They need to know that the remodeling contractor they choose is a full-time, dedicated professional who has their best interest at heart and follows a strict code of ethics. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry’s (NARI) certification program offers this assurance through a comprehensive education, screening and testing program.

“In this down market, homeowners have more choices than ever when selecting a remodeler,” said Paul Zuch, CR, CGB, president of Capital Improvements in Allen, Texas, and NARI vice president. “Contractors who take the initiative to earn certifications in their field of expertise simply put themselves at the top of the list.”

Certification doesn’t take the place of licensing, but in states that don’t require general contracting licenses, a Certified Remodeler designation is an opportunity to distinguish yourself from other remodelers in your area. “It shows your clients that you went above and beyond what’s required to get a certification through a professional association,” said Dale Contant, CR, owner of Atlanta Design/Build in Marietta, Ga.

Only full-time, professional remodeling contractors are eligible for certification by NARI. To be eligible, a NARI member must be in the remodeling industry for at least five years. NARI certification means a remodeler has developed skills that can only be gained through extensive hands-on practice. NARI members can become a Certified Remodeler (CR), Certified Remodeler Specialist (CRS), Certified Remodeler Associate (CRA), Certified Kitchen and Bath Remodeler (CKBR), Green Certified Professional (GCP) and Certified Lead Carpenter (CLC).

Contant said his business has benefited by having a team of certified remodelers on staff, which includes two Certified Remodelers, three Certified Lead Carpenters and one Certified Kitchen and Bath Remodeler. “We use certifications as a cornerstone to our marketing,” Contant says. “We proudly display our certifications on our Web site, marketing materials and at our home shows. It separates us from other people who don’t have certifications or companies that have only one person who is certified.”

NARI certifications can be challenging to obtain because remodelers are required to study material from several resources and must pass a comprehensive exam. This is different from other association designation programs that simply require you attend the classes, and everyone passes the open discussion test.

“I’m most proud of earning my NARI Certified Remodeler designation,” Zuch said. “One thing remodelers understand is that anything worth having takes hard work and must be earned. NARI certification programs are not easy to obtain, but once earned, they will be valued and promoted.”

Even highly experienced and skilled remodelers find the screening and testing process demanding. “Getting certified is not a cake-walk,” Contant said. “It’s detailed, not easy or cheap.” NARI certified remodelers have been reviewed by the NARI Certification Board, which looks at a remodeler’s years of hands-on experience, industry training, involvement in continuing education, technical skills, practices in business management and community service.

Most certification candidates participate in a formal study group and spend eight to 12 weeks studying in preparation for a one-day written exam. The exams cover critical subject areas, such as business management practices, building codes and construction law, plans and specifications, safe and proper use of tools and equipment, and specialized skills. Once they gain certification, NARI certified remodeling professionals must meet annual recertification requirements involving continuing education and participation in industry-related programs.

NARI national and the local chapters do a good job of promoting the benefits of working with certified professionals via Web sites, print ads, radio, home shows, remodeled home tours and other venues, but the education shouldn’t stop there. Certified remodelers should spend time educating their potential clients about those benefits as well. NARI provides its members helpful promotional fliers that discuss what a certified contractor is and the benefits to homeowners that choose to work with them.

Once you acquire a project, certifications can also help a remodeler to command a higher rate for their work. “We get more than your average company because we have certified people on staff, but that also comes with a higher sense of quality that people expect,” Contant said. “It shows that we have services, warranties, systems and procedures in place. We have taken a stance that it’s valuable to have people who are certified, and they have enhanced skills because of it.”

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