What to Look for in a Residential Design-Build Firm


When I started my firm in 1986, I could never have imagined where business requirements would have evolved to in 2014. Being licensed as an architect and contractor is 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 the firm carries the proper credentials and experience to do the work they purport to do. It’s easy to be fooled by a fancy website.

There are many design-build companies in the Washington, DC metropolitan area—so how do you know which one to pick? Looking out for certain credentials can help tremendously.

Necessary Credentials

When choosing a design-build company, be sure to check for:

Contractor License

Is the firm licensed as a home improvement contractor? Are they legally entitled to provide the remodeling service their website promotes? In the Washington, DC metropolitan area, it is more complicated than a single state. To work in the DMV 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 of your state to determine whether the contractor you are considering is properly licensed:

Architecture License

There are many firms providing residential design services that do not have licensed architects on staff. Some of those designers are good and some are not. Knowing that the remodeling firm you select has licensed architects 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. You can visit your state’s website to learn if your designer is a licensed architect:

EPA Certification for Lead Paint Renovation

On April 22, 2010, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 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. After key persons with the contractor are certified, the firm pays a $300 fee to the EPA and becomes certified. Visit the EPA website to see who is certified for this remodeling work in your area.


Verify that the firm you hire for remodeling is insured with at least $2,000,000 of general liability coverage. Companies should also carry workers’ compensation and employers’ liability. Request a certificate of insurance as evidence of their coverage, and verify that the firm carries workers’ comp insurance in the event of an injury. Even with the most professional firms and the best of intentions, there is risk.

Stay tuned for part 2, coming soon!

Learn more about choosing a remodeling company:

“ We had an outstanding experience with Wentworth Inc. From the very first stages of planning our renovation, and then throughout the process, we have been very happy with their workmanship, their professionalism and courtesy, and their real pride in their work and the outcome of the project. The architect and kitchen designer was fantastic, patient, and kind, and gave us all the guidance we wanted and needed in planning the overall design and the selection of hardware, lighting etc (down to the smallest details). In addition, the carpenters and other workmen were incredibly thoughtful of my family and made it easy to live in the house despite the presence of a significant constriction site on the first floor. They spent considerable time every day cleaning up the dust and leaving the site neat and safe. I would not hesitate to use Wentworth Inc for another home renovation project and could not recommend them more highly. ”

T.P., Washington, DC (GuildQuality)