Mark Robert Halper

Remodeling’s low barrier to entry is good for the same reason it is bad: Inadequate entry requirements and insufficient oversight let anyone compete, including those who simply do not belong and who bring down the rest of the industry as a result. We have no one to blame but ourselves for this problem. Only we can get ourselves out of it.

Survival of the Fittest

I think Darwin was right. Evolution should be allowed to run its course. Evolution’s natural selection process benefits a species by eliminating its weak and allowing its fittest to reproduce. The resulting offspring are typically stronger and better equipped for changing environments.

Cavemen were either subject to or masters of their environment. The fittest survived because they learned to adjust to, or even control, their environment.

By comparison, the remodeling industry suffers from a crippling combination of apathy and lack of pride. This has perpetuated an environment that allows the weak to survive.

Out of the Cave

Economic conditions have forced many remodelers out of business. When the supply of work picks up again, you can bet that much of the displaced remodeling workforce will be back. Those laid off from other industries will jump in as well. Unless we evolve, the weak and unprepared will keep the industry in its cave.

Being able to predict the future lets us change the outcome. Stop complaining, and start doing something to strengthen our industry’s professionalism and the environment in which we work. It’s a good time; work is relatively slow, and those who remain are likely to be committed to success and open to positive change.

As individuals, let us:

  • Stop providing free estimates and designs. If we don’t value our time, why should consumers?
  • Stop using illegal workers. Similarly, stop illegally using those who could be legitimate employees; stop paying people under the table.
  • Stop doing work that is unpermitted, inadequately insured, and not reported as income.
  • Identify and report remodelers who do not get proper permits and insurance, and who disregard code and safety requirements.
  • Adequately train employees so that they consistently perform high-quality, sustainable work.
  • Demand that employees take pride in themselves and their appearance on the job. Sloppiness and poor hygiene send the wrong message to consumers, to our future workforce, and to the parents and educators who influence them.

Collectively as an industry, let us commit to:

  • Consolidating into one trade association that is solely dedicated to remodeling and that represents and leads the industry.
  • Embracing and promoting laws, licensing, and regulations that will catalyze the industry’s professionalism by setting standards for entry and requiring continuing re-qualification for those who wish to stay.
  • Imposing significant consequences for violators of those regulations and delivering those consequences swiftly and consistently. To make it fair, give consumers a meaningful and equal share in this responsibility.
  • Supporting and capitalizing on the green movement, demanding clarification of what is green and what is not, and requiring documented testing and verification that installations meet established standards.
  • Working with complementary industries; cross-breeding, in short, to create a stronger species of remodelers who will carry America’s housing stock into a more energy-efficient future.

It’s time to come out of our caves. Let’s leave the weak behind for the good of the species. They’ll either adapt to the new environment or own their inevitable demise.
—Shawn McCadden founded, operated, and sold a successful design/build company. A co-founder of the Residential Design/Build Institute and former director of education for a national K&B remodeling franchise, Shawn speaks at industry events and consults with remodeling companies.