The ABCs of Looking for a Contractor: Consider Acronyms Beyond Just "BBB"

If you're looking to renovate your home, you know that there are many contractors out there. To narrow down your choices, there are several acronyms that you'll want to consider, and "BBB" (the Better Business Bureau) is a good place to start. But don't stop there: following are several other initials you should expect to find on your contractor's website.

HIC= Home Improvement Contractor License: Many states require home renovation contractors to be licensed. To put it mildly, if your contractor doesn't have one, this should be a huge red flag. Contractors working in Massachusetts are required by law to hold this license. And working with an HIC-licensed contractor means that if you have a grievance with your builder and an arbitrator finds in your favor, you can be reimbursed from the HIC guarantee fund, a pool of money that all HIC licensed contractors in Massachusetts contribute to.

CSL = Construction Supervisor License, Commonwealth of Massachusetts: The construction supervisor license means that your contractor is legally able to do structural work on your home and to pull all necessary permits. Again, if you're working with someone who doesn't hold this license (and asks you to pull permits for them) you might want to quickly reconsider. Obtaining a construction supervisor license requires a 4-6 hour written test and a notarized affidavit that a worker has at least five years experience in the field.

NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) and NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) are two of our industry's leading national trade organizations. Each sponsors certification programs that train members in evolving renovation and build procedures. NARI Certified Lead Carpenters (CLC) are trained in standard carpentry techniques plus mechanicals like the electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems. This program teaches what it really takes to run a job on the construction site, nine hours a day, dealing with your own team and all of your subcontractors. Certified Remodeler (CR) certification is a similar program geared more toward management and the business of running a renovation company from the office and customer relations perspective. Like the lead carpenter program, it involves eight to ten comprehensive study sessions and a long written test. Finally, NARI now offers a Certified Green Remodeler program. CGRs are trained in the latest sustainable building practices, including energy efficient building envelopes and high efficiency mechanicals, as well as sourcing materials such as sustainably harvested woods, recycled products, etc.

Through the NAHB, contractors can be trained as Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS), meaning that they are well versed in renovation techniques that accommodate the elderly, disabled, or injured.

Finally, Lead Certified Remodelers have been trained on methods that ensure homeowner and worker safety when working in homes that contain lead paint (almost any built before 1978.) This is called the Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) program and is currently the law under new federal guidelines. In Massachusetts, the Department of Health oversees the program and all information, including who is registered, can be found on their website.

So next time you're looking for a good contractor, search for acronyms beyond "BBB" and you'll find out exactly what kind of builder you're dealing with!

Possessing more than 20 years of experience, Mark Philben is a project development manager at Charlie Allen Renovations

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