Choosing a Master Builder

Eliminate many of the unknowns with the professionals in the MBA.

Courtesy of Remodel Seattle Magazine

You're ready to remodel, but you're unsure how to proceed-the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties can help. All the members of the MBA Remodelers Council are professionals who are registered, bonded, and insured-and ready to help make your remodeling dreams a reality.

The first step in any remodeling project is finding the remodeler who will be a good fit for the kind of project you want to do and-just as important-a good fit with you.

To the first-time remodeling customer, finding the right remodeler may seem "somewhat like the prince trying to find Cinderella," says Sherry Schwab, a Certified Graduate Remodeler (CGR) and president of the remodeling firm, HCS Construction Services Company. "One way to make that task easier and to find that 'perfect fit' is through Master Builders.

The MBA offers homeowners several resources to locate that "prince" of a remodeler. A few inquiries before starting a project will pay handsomely.

Most important, take the time to talk to several remodelers. Ask yourself, do you feel you can trust this person? Are you communicating well? Making certain the basic lines of communication are open will give you the foundation for a good relationship throughout the project, says Gary Potter, Potter Construction Inc.

This is a time for being open, honest and getting personal. For example, remodelers will be asking about your lifestyle.

"We need to know whether they entertain a lot or if they have children," says Bob Dalton of JBL Construction Inc. who specializes in remodeling vacation homes on Whidbey Island. Dalton even asks where their favorite chair should go.

Ask the remodeler for an up-to-date reference list and then talk to these recent customers-you'll want to ask whether the project was finished on time and on budget.

Why an MBA Member?

Beginning your search with an MBA member means you'll get a remodeler who has demonstrated interest in the industry by his or her membership. The MBA provides its members with education and networking opportunities and sets standards for the profession that every customer wants. For example, members teach classes on estimating, blue-print reading, accounting, safety-basically every aspect of construction management.

"Learning from each other is a lot faster than reinventing the wheel on your own," says Potter.

And fortunately for residents in this area, finding a great remodeler is made easier by the strength of the MBA. The Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties is the nation's second largest local home-builders association with 2,870 members.

"Many people join professional associations for education and to enhance professionalism," explains Joe Ratto, J.A. Ratto/Builder. "We are part of Master Builders primarily to enrich our own understandings of our profession."

"I've been very impressed with the high level of professionalism among my colleagues in the association, says Howard Chermak, CGR, Chermak Construction Inc, who has been a member of the MBA Remodelers Council for 14 years.

The MBA also requires its members adhere to a code of ethics, provides dispute resolution services in case problems arise, and requires its members to offer a warranty program, all of which give the homeowner additional peace of mind.

What does CGR mean, anyway?

Another thing to look for are the letters CGR. Some MBA members are Certified Graduate Remodelers, meaning they have completed extensive and rigorous educational courses in business administration, design, estimating and job cost, contracts and liability, project management, marketing and sales skills, customer service, finance, quality construction techniques and building codes. CGR classes are taught by industry experts and graded. CGRs must be recertified every three years.

"Getting that designation is not easy," says Ratto, who teaches CGR classes on a state and local level. "It's not a diploma mill. These are among the most highly qualified remodelers in the marketplace."

For example, the CGR courses on business management teach contractors how to run a remodeling project on time and on budget.

"Getting a firm grip on how you run your business is just as important as how you build," says Shirley Blayden, CGR, Blayden Design/Build, because it will mean the customer is getting the best value-quality construction performed in a professional and timely manner.

"If you take a class and learn how to do it right the first time, it can save you (and your customer) a lot of headaches," agrees Michael Tenhulzen, CGR, Tenhulzen Remodeling Inc. "The education is far greater than the course material alone."

Giving back to the community

MBA members also believe in community service to help build the communities that you call home. Each year MBA remodelers build handicap access ramps for low-income homeowners during the annual Rampathon, and build playhouses to benefit Master Builders Care, an MBA charitable foundation that funds transitional housing projects in the community.

The MBA also teaches industry members how to build and remodel environmentally responsible homes through its Built Green program, rewards excellence through its annual Remodeling Excellence (REX) awards, puts on the fall Remodeled Homes Tour (which this year features 27 homes throughout King and Snohomish counties), and answers questions at the Remodelers booth at the Seattle Home Show every February and October.

Joining the MBA means members are making a commitment to their profession and to setting a high standard for the workmanship and business manner.

"Your whole focus is customer service," Blayden says of MBA members. "You realize that being in business means creating customers who want to come back and do business with you again."

How to find a remodeler:

1. Remodel Seattle magazine
The pages of Remodel Seattle magazine include many qualified professionals. Remodel Seattle magazine is available each February and October at the Seattle Home Show or by calling the Master Builders Association at (425) 451-7920.

2. Remodeled Homes Tour
The Remodeled Homes Tour each fall feature the work of MBA remodelers and is a great place to meet the remodeler themselves and many of the homeowners. A selection of homes that fit varying styles and budgets are included in the tour. For more information visit

Visit the MBA website at for a complete list of MBA remodelers listed by

We look forward to hearing from you!

North Seattle
7543 15th Avenue NW, Seattle 98117

Our Sister Company:
Sound Seismic Earthquake Retrofitting
Contractor's License # JACKSDB835CB

Seattle Website Design