Three Things to Move the Industry Forward

by Kyle Clapham
Shawn Headshot Accountant

Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock, you know remodeling is booming, and there are way more open jobs than candidates to fill them. This inhibits the growth of a remodeling business and its profits.

Many have offered suggestions for addressing this concern, and some are proactively doing things to help. Kudos. However, in my opinion, here are a few key and structural changes our industry needs to address if remodelers and the industry really want to meet the challenge and actually turn it into an opportunity. Some may not want to hear the things I will point out in this article. Just remember, doing the same things over and over hasn’t worked well enough yet. It’s time to think differently.

If you know me, then you know I almost always think and do things differently. Consumers pay more for different. If the remodeling industry and remodelers want to earn more, they too must think and act differently. Here are a few suggestions to help get the industry on the right track.

Professionalize Job Titles/Descriptions

As I have pointed out many times in past articles, our industry is too loose about job titles and job descriptions.

A bookkeeper should be able to keep the books and keep them accurate for the purposes of business reporting, otherwise that person is a data-entry clerk.

A lead carpenter must be able to keep the project on budget and on schedule. If he or she can do so, but the company doesn’t give them the information needed, they should not be given the title of lead carpenter.

If we want to attract and keep good employees for the industry and for your business, we must define jobs and offer them a clear path for how they can enter and advance in the industry in a standard, predictable and measurable way. Otherwise, why would a candidate aspiring for the American dream be motivated to start a career in the remodeling industry?

Without such a clear vision, and one to hold employers accountable, what parent or school system would encourage children to give it a try? Right now, what they see out there unfortunately is the stereotype for a construction worker. Workers even think it’s okay to come to work in dirty, torn and paint-covered work clothes. Standardizing job titles, job descriptions and career paths can help foster the education needed to create and define positive new perceptions of remodeling, one the American worker can aspire to and be proud to be a part of.

Create Serious Certification Programs 

First, let’s recognize the main professional trade associations for the industry are trying to do their part. They offer certification programs to differentiate employees and businesses. This can be a great value. However, these certifications are more about confirming skills and knowledge than they are about teaching new skills and knowledge. This is mostly due to a lack of funding.

Also, the recertification requirements are light and typically not verified. Less than one percent of remodelers belong to a trade association. Yet the majority of remodelers complain there are not enough good employees, and many blame the trade associations for not stepping up. To help NARI and NAHB Remodelers provide more of what the industry needs, they need money and members.

Above, I pointed out the need to professionalize and standardize job titles and job descriptions. I suggest the industry work to agree on job titles and agree on more stringent certifications so employees can learn, prove they have skills and maintain them. That way, those skills are transferable when workers move between businesses.

If a company is not treating, advancing and compensating an employee the way he or she expected, they can pick up and move to an employer who will. Unfortunately, for example, a carpenter might think he’s a lead carpenter until he applies at a business that has a real lead-carpenter system and is seeking real lead carpenters to join them. If you are a carpenter reading this and want to find a good company to work for, ask if they have written job descriptions. If they don’t, will they be serious about your career path?

Fair-Trade Contracting Requirements

Our country seems to be fixated on fairness these days. Some groups seek fairness for themselves while others make sure those who may not be able to are treated fairly. Perhaps it’s time to start a similar movement in remodeling, what I have titled fair-trade contracting. Our trade associations could help with this, and it would grow their membership. Shouldn’t consumers who demand worker benefits at their jobs want the same for employees of the remodelers they hire?

What might happen if associations created fair-trade scorecards to rate remodeling firms? Would consumers check to make sure they hire a remodeler who offers career advancement, health insurance and retirement matching for their employees? How about worker’s comp coverage, liability insurance, compliance with OSHA, and professional licensing requirements?

Would they call out the businesses who do not? Wouldn’t it make it a lot easier for prospective employees to vet firms before accepting a job? Would all this make it more likely for parents and schools to encourage seeking jobs in our industry? Would it help lower skilled workers see the industry as a promising career path?

I think so. Let me know what you think at QR

McCadden is a speaker, business trainer, columnist and award-winning remodeler with more than 35 years of experience. He can be reached at

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