Alphabet Soup of Professional Certification

Remodelers have numerous professional organizations they may join, and many offer certification. The Des Plaines, Ill.-based National Association of the Remodeling Industry, for example, offers a number of certifications, including CR, CRA and CRS designations.

CR, or certified remodeler, encompasses the general contractor population. The Certified Remodeler Specialist (CRS) certification is geared toward remodelers who specialize, such as concrete and masonry work, electrical work, insulation, mechanical and plumbing systems, roofing and siding. A Certified Remodeler Associate (CRA) supports the industry as a professional in areas such as architecture, design, manufacturing, distribution and consulting.

Only full-time professional remodelers who have been actively involved in remodeling for at least five years are eligible for certification through NARI.

Nick Kress, CRA, UDCP, with Standards of Excellence, Sacramento, has been a member of NARI since 1995. He received his CRA designation four years ago and his Universal Design Certified Professional (UDCP) one year ago. He also is chair of the NARI certification board.

Kress works for an appliance supplier and helps customers select appliances for their remodels. In addition to putting his certifications on his business card and website, Kress explains to potential customers that he looks at a project through the eyes of a contractor rather than being concerned only with the product he is supplying.

Generally, customers come into the store and see 20 or 30 appliances with a variety of features, Kress says, and they leave confused. But because of Kress’ knowledge about remodeling, he asks customers about space considerations, power sources, safety and accessibility to narrow the choices. “My certification course was the same course the CRs take, which enables me to look at a project through a remodeler’s eyes,” Kress explains. “I sit down with my clients to narrow the field so they’re looking at products that apply only to what they want to do. We’re not just selecting appliances; we’re completing another piece of the puzzle.”

One way certified professionals use their education is by creating a process to determine their customers’ wants and needs. For example, one of Kress’ colleagues not only determines clients’ needs but he also asks what they aren’t happy with in their current situation. Through those conversations, he is able to create a plan. Kress follows a similar process when he talks with his clientele. He credits the ability to discover wants and needs, in large part, on the education he received as the result of certification.

To maintain his certifications, Kress must complete 10 hours of continuing education units in a year’s time. “Those can be courses that are offered through NARI local chapters or online webinars,” he explains. “You can also take courses offered by other professional organizations such as the American Institute of Architects, National Association of Home Builders or the National Kitchen and Bath Association, as well as courses offered by manufacturers and suppliers.”

One of the advantages of being certified, Kress notes, is collaboration with other NARI members and an increase in business. “When I’m working with other NARI members, certified or not, when they’re choosing some place to send their clients to look at appliances, there’s an advantage to sending the clients to a CRA or specialist,” Kress says. “The marketing value to me is it increases my value to professionals, designers, contractors, cabinet shops and leaders of the project.

“One of the great things about NARI is the camaraderie and the willingness of competitors to share knowledge and tips to make other members more successful,” Kress continues.

Throughout the coming year, Kress and the certification board are focusing on making the public more aware of who certified professionals are. “We’re not saying certified professionals are necessarily better than noncertified members of NARI,” he says, “but what certification does show is that the certified professional has made a conscious decision to stay current and educated so he can make the best tools available for his clients.”