Remodeling has progressed in its long march toward professionalism, but unethical and unqualified contractors still plague the industry. Most readers agree that to continue its advancement, the industry needs to establish standards for quality and ethical behavior.
But our survey found readers divided over whose role it is to create and enforce industry standards.
Some want a united remodeler front to crack down on transgressors. But many question whether they, as individuals, can or should police other contractors. Refusing to play Big Brother, some readers note that personal gain, not the betterment of the industry, often motivates whistleblowers. Others on the panel complain of unreasonable permit regulations and say licensure amounts to little more than a revenue source for apathetic local governments.
Underlying the debate is the difficulty inherent in putting high-minded ideals into practice under real-world conditions. Seemingly clear choices between right and wrong are clouded, readers say, by daily uncertainties and unforeseen challenges.
Does the industry do enough to police its own?
"If every business followed every regulation to the letter, none of us would be in business very long. We should strive to follow the spirit of the law, because it is impossible to follow the letter of the law in this industry and stay in business."
Gary Eichhorst, Eichhorst and Co., Spring Grove, Ill.
"If penalties were stiff and cases were handled swiftly, then trying to get unlicensed contractors out of the business would be easier. Instead, it's a tedious and often fruitless pursuit."
Jim Molinelli, ARDO Contracting, Columbia, Md.
"Education is the key to compliance -- not legislation."
David Clohessy, Clohessy Construction, Tahoe City, Calif.
"I don't believe the associations do anything to solve the problem. Nor do they do much to reduce the cost of insurance for the legitimate contractors and their employees."
Robert Hart, Desert West, Palm Desert, Calif.
"It's a gradual change to complete compliance with regulations and insurance coverage. The industry will get there, but not overnight."
Todd Hudson, DreamMaker Kitchen and Bath, Norcross, Ga.
"No one wants to butt in to another contractor's operation. This is a tough industry, and we've all had difficult issues and situations. It is not black and white."
Gary Kosmas, Quality Home Services, Kingwood, Texas
"Remodeling regulation is a general joke -- raising the cost for reputable contractors while not effectively preventing unqualified and unethical contractors from operating."
Edward Barann, PFC Sales, Livonia, Mich.
"The industry does what it can. There are too many small companies and too many homeowners who will try to get around the laws."
Bob McKay, McKay Building Co., Montgomery, Ala.
"The average remodeler doesn't want to get involved. They don't see the big picture. However, if we were all held to the same ethics and standards, maybe it would weed out the people working under the radar."
James Benoit, Benoit & Czarnecki, Newtown Square, Pa.
"Many young contractors are simply ignorant of what they are supposed to be doing. It's our responsibility to help train them, and it is our responsibility to educate the public as to the dangers of using unlicensed contractors."
Mark Scott, Mark IV Builders, Bethesda, Md.