FAQ

Homeowners Questions

Questions & Answers

What does NARI membership mean to me as a homeowner?

The goal of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) is to help homeowners find the right professional partner to do their remodeling. Whether it is updating a kitchen to make it more efficient, turning an ordinary bathroom into a haven of rest and relaxation, or adding a room to meet the needs of a growing family, NARI wants each homeowner to get the maximum value or enjoyment for the dollars they invest in their remodeling.

NARI membership means that a professional is a full-time, dedicated remodeling expert. NARI membership requires its members follow a strict Code of Ethics, and there is a grievance process that can be pursued when they do not.

Homeowners can be assured that any time they hire a NARI member, they are hiring an individual who has made a strong commitment to the professionalism of the remodeling industry and to his or her business.

NARI members have access to the latest information in the industry through publications, educational programs, educational seminars and conferences.

You can use the "Find a Professional Remodeler" tool on this website to find a NARI member to create your dream space.

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What questions I should ask potential contractors?

NARI members share the short list of questions they are usually asked by homeowners and offer a list of questions that you should ask:

Questions about timing and cost are the most common inquiries a home improvement contractor hears, but during an interview with a homeowner—when homeowners should be asking about credentials and verifying business practices—they are instead asking,“When can you start? When will it be finished? How much will it cost?"

These simply aren't enough. If you are going to have a successful remodeling project, you need to learn the right questions to ask and how to ask them.

Although a reasonable timetable and budget is important, it shouldn't be the primary focus of an interview for a job. Homeowners should also focus on trust and quality.

Start by asking questions about a company's business practices and experience in a similar type of project. If you decide you want to hire a particular remodeling contractor, then you can discuss when he or she can start, what time he or she can knock on your door each morning and when you will have your home to yourselves again.

Here are some questions NARI members recommend you ask before signing a remodeling contract:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Who will be assigned as project supervisor for the job?
  • Who will be working on the project? Are they employees or subcontractors?
  • Does your company carry workers compensation and liability insurance? (Always verify this information by calling the agency. A copy of an insurance certificate does not let you know if the policy is still current. Even if the certificate has an expiration date. you cannot tell if the insurance has been canceled by either party. If licensing is required in your state also ask if the contractor is licensed and call to verify compliance with the law. Not all states offer or require licensing. Check with your local or state government agencies.)
  • What is your approach to a project such as this?
  • How many projects like mine have you completed in the past year?
  • May I have a list of reference from those projects?
  • Are you a member of a national trade association?
  • Have you or your employees been certified in remodeling or had any special training or education, such as earning a Certified Remodeler (CR), Certified Remodeler Specialist (CRS) or Certified Lead Carpenter (CLC) or Certified Kitchen & Bath Remodeler (CKBR) designation?

Remodeling can be a fun experience. You get to create your dream room or home and learn a little about design and building along the way. But the person who does this work will be part of your family for the duration of the project, so you need to make sure you're comfortable with the company you choose. The above questions should provide you a starting point to making that decision. If a company is uncomfortable with these questions, that should tell you a lot, too.

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Does every remodeling job need a permit?

Building codes have been established by most cities, towns and countries. They vary considerably from one jurisdiction to another. A building permit generally is required whenever structural work is involved or when the basic living area of the home is to be changed. A professional who works in your city or town every day will know to local requirements. If your project does require a permit—and your remodeling professional asks you to pull the permit—this should be a red flag. The professional you hire should be in charge of obtaining the necessary permits.

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How much should my remodeling project cost?

This really depends on the size and scope of your project. The materials chosen, the size of the room, and age of the infrastructure can all impact the project cost. Remember when you are comparing bids that you are comparing the exact same scope from each contractor. If a price comes in that looks to good to be true, it probably is. How much value will my remodeling project add to my home? This also depends on the scope of your project, and you may be surprised which projects add the most value.

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How long should my project take?

This depends on the size and scope of your project, and what is found during demolition. Unforeseen problems can crop up once walls are taken down that require additional work. Ask your remodeling contractor for the most reasonable timeframe and stay in touch with him or her as the project progresses so you can plan for a finish date.

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I have three different estimates, and the prices vary greatly. Why?

There are a number of different factors that go into pricing a remodeling project. Be sure that every estimate has the same scope of work. If the estimates are vague—meaning they don't spell out what work is going to be done— and you cannot interpret that information, go back to the contractor for clarification in writing. If you are unable to get adequate written clarification, it may be wise to eliminate that remodeling contractor from the process.

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How important is it for my remodeling contractor to be licensed and insured?

It’s very important. If licensing is required in your state or town, ask for proof of licensing or call the issuing municipality to verify the license. For insurance, ask for a proof of insurance or call the insurance company with whom the contractor is insured to verify coverage.

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What is the Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule and what do I need to know to protect myself from lead exposure?

The EPA is calling for all remodelers who intend to work in pre-1978 homes to register their company and complete an 8-hour training and certification course with an accredited trainer. The course teaches remodelers how to safely contain lead in a home as it is being disturbed and reduce exposure to residents and workers.

NARI is providing homeowners with information on how to protect themselves from harmful lead exposure during renovations. If you know your home was built before 1978 and your renovation will disturb painted surfaces you will have to hire an EPA Certified Firm. Please visit the NARI Lead Safety page for more information.

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There are so many from which to choose. How do I select my remodeling contractor?

It’s best to employ a home improvement contractor with an established business in your area. Local firms can be checked through references from past customers in your community or through your local better business bureau. Local remodelers are compelled to perform quality work that satisfies their customers for their business to survive. Many states, but not all, require contractors to be licensed and or bonded. Contact your state or local licensing agencies to ensure the contractor meets all requirements. Ask the remodeling contractor for a current copy of their license.

You can also contact the government Consumer Affairs Office and the Better Business Bureau to check for complaints on record for the contractor. Ask to see a copy of the remodeling contractor's certification of insurance for the name of his or her insurance agency to verify coverage.

Most states require a contractor to carry worker's compensation, property damage and personal liability insurance. Make sure the contractor's insurance coverage meets all the minimum requirements.

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While I'm interviewing remodeling contractors, what questions should I ask?

How long have you been in business? Look for a company with an established business history in your community. Surviving in any business in today's competitive marketplace is a difficult task. Most successful contractors are proud of their history in the industry.

What is your approach to a project of this scope? This will give you an idea of how the contractor works and what to expect during the project. Listen carefully to the answer. This is one of the big indicators of the company's work ethic.

How do you operate? In other words, how is your firm organized? Do you have employees or do you hire subcontractors? If you do have employees, what are their job descriptions? Do you use a project supervisor or lead carpenter to oversee the project? Other firms will have additional positions. You should know what parts of your project will be handled by staff, and which will be contracted out to independent contractors.

Do you have design services available? If you are considering a large or involved project, you will need design services. If the contractor does not have design/build capabilities, you should consider hiring an architect. Depending on the size and scope of the project, you may need an architect or structural engineer.

Does your company carry workers compensation and liability insurance? Ask for copies of the insurance certificates to verify coverage. In addition, some states require licensing and registration. If your state does have construction licensing laws, ask for your contractor's registration and license, then confirm the license number and expiration date with your local jurisdiction.

Are any of your company's employees certified? Trade certifications are good indicators of dedication, professionalism and knowledge of the industry. Remodelers are required to meet certain industry criteria to maintain their certifications. NARI offers nine designations: Master Certified Remodeler (MCR), Certified Remodeler (CR), Certified Remodeler Specialist (CRS), Certified Remodeler Associate (CRA), Certified Remodeling Project Manager (CRPM), Certified Kitchen & Bath Remodeler (CKBR), Certified Lead Carpenter (CLC), Green Certified Professional (GCP), Universal Design Certified Professional (UDCP).

May I have a list of references for projects you have completed which are similar to mine? The contractor should be able to supply you with a minimum of three references, including names, telephone numbers and addresses. As a follow up to this question, ask how long ago the project was completed and if the contractor can arrange a visit to see the finished job. You should also ask for professional references from suppliers, financial institutions, or subcontractors to verify sound business practices.

How many projects like mine have you completed in the past 12 months? This will help you determine the contractor's familiarity with your type of project. You should confirm that a good portion of those completed projects were similar to the type of project you are proposing.

Will we need a permit for this project? Most cities and towns require permits for building projects. Failure to obtain the necessary permits or to arrange obligatory inspections can be illegal. In some cases, if a project violates a zoning law or some other regulations, it may even have to be demolished if there is no way to comply with the law. A qualified remodeling contractor will be conscious of the permit process, and ensure that all permits have been obtained before initiating any work.

Of the many questions you can ask during an interview, the most important question is one you must ask yourself: "Do I trust and feel comfortable with the person I am about to hire?"

Your answer to that last question should make the hiring decision a little easier.

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How can I see who holds NARI membership in my local market?

Go to the homepage of the website, and put in your zip code at the top under Find a Local Remodeler.  Select the radius you wish to view, and you will be able to see all of the members in your area.

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