Credentials Matter

What to look for in your residential Design/Build firm
By Bruce Wentworth, AIA

When I started my firm in 1986 I could never have imagined where business requirements would evolve in 2010. Being licensed as an architect and contractor are important and a company’s credentials matter; probably more now than in 1986. The internet allows emerging businesses to look professional and upscale with a website; but look closely to see if they carry the proper credentials and experience to do the work they purport to do. It’s easy to be fooled by a fancy website. Here are important credentials to look for when selecting a residential remodeling company.

1. Licensed Contractors: Is the firm licensed as a Home improvement Contractor? Are they legally entitled to provide the remodeling service their website promotes? The Washington, DC metro area is more complicated than a single state area; to work in the tri-state area, we need licenses in Maryland, DC, and Virginia. Maryland and Virginia have exams, and all three states have fees and insurance requirements that must be adhered to. Visit the website for your state to determine whether the contractor you are considering is properly licensed.

2. Licensed Architect: There are many firms providing residential design services who are not licensed architects. Some of those designers are good and some are not. Knowing that the remodeling firm you select to do your home remodeling has licensed architects on their staff can make you feel confident that the design will be good and meet code requirements. Because of the complexities of construction some jurisdictions are beginning to require that plans be prepared by a licensed architect. At Wentworth we take pride in seeking design excellence with cost effective solutions. You can visit your state’s website to learn if your designer is a licensed architect. Maryland, Virginia, DC.

3. EPA Certified for Lead Paint Renovation: On April 22, 2010 the United States Environmental Protection Agency implemented new requirements that require representatives from the firm to take a 10 hour course, pass an exam, and become certified in conducting lead-based paint renovation. 40CFR Part 745.89. After a key person with the organization, in our case two, is certified the firm then pays a $300 fee to the EPA and becomes certified. People most at risk for lead poisoning are children under the age of six and pregnant women in homes typically built prior to 1978. Visit the EPA website to see who is certified for this remodeling work in your area.

4. Professional Associations: AIA, NARI, And ASID: If the owners of the company you plan to hire are members of professional associations it’s a good indication of their commitment to their profession. Most associations offer educational opportunities to help their members learn more and expand their skill base. The American Institute of Architects, (AIA) has over 83,000 members nationally and requires that their members study to obtain 18 learning units each year to remain a member of the AIA and up to date with the field. The National Association of Remodeling Industry (NARI) has local chapters that promote education and networking between members. Their annual awards competition (Contractor of the Year or COTY) promotes excellence through their awards locally and nationally. The American Society of Interior Designers also promotes education and professional development. Many states are now requiring that interior designers become licensed professionals to remove the stigma of “interior decorator”.

5. Insurance: Verify that the firm you hire for remodeling is insured with at least $2,000,000 of General Liability coverage. Companies should also carry worker’s compensation and employer’s liability. Request a Certificate of Insurance as evidence of their coverage. Even with the best of intentions and with the most professional firms there is risk. Be insured.

6. Design & Remodeling Experience: Once you have satisfied the basic credentials listed # 1 thru 5 you can start to examine the firms design and remodeling experience. Are they good designers? Do you have rapport with the design team? Will their designs provide good value for a realistic budget? Study their portfolio and speak with past clients. Is their construction team skilled with remodeling? Remodeling is often more complicated than new construction. Are the carpenters skilled and concerned with craftsmanship? Do they plan ahead and schedule the work? Visit a job site and speak with their references.

7. References: References are important. Typically three are provided so that you can call and speak with past clients of the firm. If it is not too much trouble you might ask the firm if you can visit a remodeling job site they are currently working at.

8. Be a good client: Remember that being a good client will help you to get a good remodeling project from the firm you select. Review your drawings thoroughly to know what is included and what is not. Respect the integrity of your written contract and architectural plans. Show up for meetings on time. And if you are happy with the work – refer your friends and colleagues for their remodeling work. It’s simple.

For more information about the well credentialed team at Wentworth Studio, check out www.wentworthstudio.com

No comments: