By Jesse Morado

How important is it for you to work with a professional who holds a certification, accreditation, degree, or professional designation? Does this ever enter your mind when you are considering hiring any service professional?
I often wonder how many consumers really pay attention to the letters that follow someone’s name on the shingle hanging from the office door or on their business card.  There are definitely times when I rely on those post-nominal initials MD, DDS, CPA, MCP, or ASE before I elect to pay for services. Often times these post-nominal initials or acronyms can be helpful in identifying a particular service professional whose services we need.
There is a certain degree of comfort in knowing that the guy working on the brakes of my car (which could mean life of death) has been certified. I guess I could hire my friend’s uncle who has been working on cars out of a shed in his backyard since I was in diapers, but a little voice in the back of my head says, “Don’t do it, you will regret it.” Just because he’s been doing it since I was knee high to a grasshopper does it really mean he knows what he’s doing?
That little voice should be going go off in the back of your head anytime you are getting ready to hand the keys over to your house to a contractor who holds no certifications, credentials, or has no formal construction education. I mean think about it, just because someone can brush paint on your house does that make him or her a painter?  Does he or she know the difference between pigment, vehicle, and catalyst; understand how to deal with surfactant leaching, or where to use an elastomeric product?  Just like the guy working on your car, furnace, or water heater, you should consider asking the contractor you are preparing to hire what certifications, credentials or degrees he or she holds relating to the design, construction, or systems of your home.
There are many new trends, products and regulations that have impacted the home building industry over the last ten years and a contractor who is not keeping up could cost you dearly. The recent EPA Lead Paint Rule, which went into effect on the in April, will impact owners of any home built pre-1978. There are a host of contractors out there today that are completely unaware that this rule is in place and are violating the law. It’s unfortunate for them and their customers.
The customers who may have small children may be exposing their families to lead dust and the contractors violating this rule will incur huge fines when caught or subject their businesses to litigation. Another trend is the movement toward green building practices that has affected how contractors will be required to meet new energy codes to increase energy efficiency and performance in a home. This knowledge and training only comes through education and industry involvement.
The value in working with a certified or credentialed professional is that you can feel much more comfortable knowing that the contractor who has elected to invest in him or herself and the industry they represent through acquiring credentials and certifications is really doing it for your benefit. The commitment to securing a certification or trade accreditation helps the contractor keep you better informed, provide you more options, deliver real solutions and increase his or her ability to sustain their business.
Here are just a few certifications to look for when hiring a home improvement professional:
BPI Analyst – Building Performance Institute Accreditation: Can identify, test and provide solutions for increasing energy performance in your home.
CGR – Certified Graduate Remodeler: Professional certification achieved through the National Home Builders Association. Requires continuing education credits to maintain.
National Association of Remodeling Industry Certifications: CR (Certified Remodeler); GCP (Green Certified Professional); CKBR (Certified Kitchen & Bath Remodeler); CLC (Certified Lead Carpenter) All require continuing educations credits on a yearly basis to maintain
National Kitchen and Bath Association Certifications: CKD (Certified Kitchen Designer); CKBD (Certified Kitchen and Bath Designer); MCKBD (Master Certified Kitchen and Bath Designer). All require continuing education credits to maintain.
EPA Certified Renovator: Has achieved EPA Lead Safe Work Practice certification as required to work on any home, childcare facility, or school built pre-1978.
The next time you interview a home improvement contractor don’t just assume they have the training or experience to do it right, ask them what credentials or certifications they hold. Like the guy working on my brakes, I really think about how glad I am that I listened to that little voice in the back of my head when I’m riding the brakes cruising down that steep mountain road.  Have a great summer!
Jesse Morado is CEO of Renovation Coach, Inc. a consulting firm providing pre-construction guidance and risk management for homeowners and business coaching of best practices for contractors.  He is a Certified Remodeler, a Certified Aging in Place Specialist, and registered mediator and currently serves as NARI Nationals Education Committee Vice Chair. (404) 729-4969 or www.renovationcoach.com.