Our business is weird, seriously weird, says Bill Murray of himself and his cohorts who joined the Army in the movie Stripes. He could have been speaking of the remodeling business.

What are the barriers to entering this industry? Not many, but some might say a pickup truck and a dog. Imagine going to a doctor who had a bag full of implements but no education or credentials.

Is education a prerequisite in remodeling? In some states it is required, but in most states it is not. Would you ever consider working with an attorney who simply had hung out a sign saying he was in practice but had not passed the bar exam? Seems like that might be foolhardy.

When you think architect, engineer, lawyer, or doctor, certain images and qualities come to mind:

  • It takes considerable effort to become a member of the profession.
  • Education for a specific degree is part of that process.
  • Credentialing and licensing are essential and, in many cases, required.
  • The changing knowledge base demands that those in practice stay current with developments.
  • Get on Board

    The public stereotypes remodelers as having good intentions but always being late, not following through, and communicating poorly. Typical client complaints might point out that while everyone involved did good work, each trade did not respect the previous work done.

    Let's change these perceptions by taking cues from other professions. The remodeling industry should support licensing for contractors. I am active in the National Association of the Remodeling Industry because I am committed to raising the level of professionalism in our industry. NARI, the Remodelors Council, publishers like Hanley Wood, peer groups like Remodelers Advantage and Business Networks, and suppliers to the industry could all work together guided by this statement from the October 2004 NARI board meeting:

    “NARI National supports the licensing of general contractors provided that the laws and regulations are fair and equitable for all contractors. Licensing can and should encourage ethical conduct and the demonstration of good business practices and professionalism. Such conduct and practices are directly linked to the purposes of NARI, whose members voluntarily subscribe to a Code of Ethics.”

    Imagine the PossibilitiesBoth the Remodelors Council and NARI have certification programs for remodelers. Consider the possibilities if rigorous certification were required for licensing and continuing education required to keep one. Several states, such as Minnesota, already have that in place. A certain number of classroom hours are needed to be able to renew one's license. Educational forums could include association-sponsored seminars at shows like JLC Live and The Remodeling Show and classes at local colleges.

    We could be educating the marketplace on the merits of using professional remodelers. Steps could include publicity campaigns in the consumer press, pointing out the benefits of hiring only certified, licensed remodelers. Such publicity efforts could be funded by industry suppliers who would benefit from being allied in the public mind with the best remodelers. Imagine being a remodeler in the environment created by these steps.

    In Stripes there came a point where the recruits decided to take responsibility for being the best they could be. I think our industry is at the same point. What are we going to do about it? —Paul Winans, CR, is co-owner, with his wife, Nina, of Winans Construction, a design/build remodeling company in Oakland, Calif. Paul will take office as president of NARI National next month.