Let's talk about Certifications

restoration staffing startup Nov 08, 2022

Let’s have a conversation about certifications. 

The restoration industry loves education. They love all the certifications. Many people chase the prestigious title of “Triple Master”.

Certifications are very popular and some may say pertinent to have to build a strong restoration company.

In our discussion, we will cover some of the following topics:

  • Required vs Recommended
  • Should vs Shall
  • Basic vs advanced
  • Certification vs Education
  • Licensing
  • Specialty Certifications

I want to start by saying that education, knowledge and accuracy on the processes in which you perform restoration and especially mitigation are incredibly important.
Important from a liability standpoint for sure. Improper structural drying, faulty cleaning and skipped steps in the terms of safety, can open you and your entire company up to liability.

Molds, toxins, bacteria, hazards and biological exposures can impact the health of your staff, your client and the surrounding environment. 

Many of the exposures we deal with are partially invisible and very misunderstood.
So approaching your work by protecting your staff and companies liability will help ensure that you not only harm people, but keep your community and financial standings in pristine order.
In this industry, like many others there is a huge delta between professionals and amateurs. 

You certainly want to gain a reputation for the latter. 

Other areas of importance of being properly trained and having a professional reputation will be a huge asset in your ability to separate yourself from the rest of your market and charge a premium rate for your work.

I wish I didn’t have to tell you that an alarmingly small percentage of our industry actually deserves the title or reputation to be labeled as  professional

That is not meant to be a direct insult, but more to the fact that enforcement (lack of) and accountability (shortage of)  coupled with the seemingly high profit margins attract a huge unsavory population.

The reason certifications and education are so important is to help raise the bar in our industry and create more public awareness and trust in the incredible specialty nature and benefit of contracting with a professional restoration company instead of an amateur or a contractor that has no specialty in this space and would likely be CHEAPER.
You will constantly have to be selling against that, so get ready !!

As you grow your company, your path for mastery will become more and more important. One often overlooked and incredible path you will take is your network. 

Your peers. 

Locally and nationally. 
Your professionalism and industry education path will be critical in forming these relationships. These relationships, when cultivated, will produce amazing results. We have an entire section on this in the coming weeks.


Required vs Recommended

This is a big one and one that if not clearly discussed can definitely ruffle feathers. So I want to be understood. 
Our industry has been strongly driven by the IICRC. Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification. 

The IICRC is a non profit entity  that provides education around standards. They provide access to certified instructors worldwide that teach the approved courses required to obtain and renew certifications.
They are the issuing body for standards that are created by ANSI (American National Standards Institute). ANSI creates and provides conformance to multiple trades and industries throughout the United States. 

There are standards for many of the services we provide as part of our industry. They are currently and always developing new standards as well as updating the current ones as we learn more and new best practices are developed.
The consensus board around much of what they do is made up of industry volunteers. 

OK, now that we have that out of the way, let me tell you that:

Certifications are NOT generally required to open a company and perform restoration and mitigation services. 

You will find many people (myself included) that are in favor of making this a requirement or have better regulation around who can claim to be a professional in this field.
We already discussed the liabilities and exposures and this plays heavily into that conversation. 

Thankfully, the industry has done a relatively good job of creating an almost self-policing that urges and almost admonishes anyone that skips the proper certifications. But some still slip through and it shows. It also theoretically harms us all.

There are certifications for Water, Mold, Fire, Drying, Trauma,and many others.
Some of these are able to be taken online, while others have a hands-on component that requires live and in person participation.
The locations, cost and schedule of these are available online at iicrc.org.  

Based on what segment you plan to launch into and services you will provide, you are strongly urged to pursue these cursory courses as a baseline for understanding.

These fall within recommended and not required. 


Should vs Shall
When you begin your Certifications journey, you will receive written or digital standards and references to return to for guidance when performing the work. 

You will see terminology that mentions should and shall. It is important as we discuss certifications, what these mean and how they relate to your certification. 

I will start by saying that once you agree to pursue certifications (which you should) in any industry, you are agreeing to and accepting that training and the associated information as a standard. You have INHERITED an expectation that you are now liable for adhering to that standard and any deviation is in direct non compliance and could subject you to willful and wrongful behavior.


In short, you are held to a higher standard and judgment of your knowledge comes into play.

Example: a doctor cannot pretend or preclude themselves from the correct actions if they agree to performing a surgery.

You cannot accept and contract a sewage cleaning project, have taken the appropriate certification and present yourself as a professional, then skip all the steps of said standard. You would be deemed negligent and likely to be held responsible for any damages.

In the standard, you will come across the word SHALL. Shall denotes a REQUIREMENT and binds you to its definition and action as it applies to that step or section.

Should on the other hand is a recommendation in simple terms. It is strongly suggested, but is not harmful enough that deviation will cause negative consequences or known harm. 
The standards have built in solid fundamentals but leave space for user or technical modification in areas where best judgement and responsible alternatives are considered.
This is what I call the GREY AREA. 

A place that can be useful but also dangerous. So make sure you have a very good understanding and honestly an internal beacon of what you are and are not willing to do.

EXAMPLE: perform work on a category three, but skip or bypass many of the standards and steps that could cause harm.

Shall and Should are good directives, but interpretation can really cause some confusing results or scenarios. Make sure you and your organization fully find where you lie in as many of these situations as possible. 


Basic vs Advanced

This is simply my point to share that there are pretty distinct lines where the basics are and when and where you start seeing advanced.

Within the IICRC (the standards) while some may call them basics, they each have their own path and provide critical information and guidance in different segments. 
WRT-Water Damage Restoration Technician

ASD- Applied Structural Drying Drying Technician

AMRT- Applied Microbial Restoration Technician

FSRT-Fire and Smoke Restoration Technician

CCT- Carpet Cleaning Technician

There are more than a dozen. They may not all apply to your services.
They are a large investment of money and time.

The IICRC has several designations such as journeyman and master. Many find pursuit of these designations very rewarding. Those paths can be found on the website along with many other resources. 

There are options available that fall into what some might call ADVANCED.

There are more intensive certifications available from the RIA (Restoration Industry Association).
These are far more into the realm of education and are certainly a larger investment and require some prerequisites.

It is important to point out that certifications can be issued to not only individuals, but firms as well. There are requirements that a company can meet to be deemed a certified firm. 

This will be a very valuable asset in your marketing, your recruiting and how the community views your company and awards authority. 

You will quickly develop employee systems around their levels that include their training and certifications.

There are other advanced certifications and education such as ICRA, OSHA and others. 

There are several that are in more niche services such as infection control, trauma and others.

So as you build out the roadmap for your career path, you will have several short term and long term options. 

Certification vs Educations

I won’t spend too much time on this one, but it is one that I often share in our coaching but also in my live seminars and educational panels.

While there is a place for both, they are not the same. 

A certification is a guideline course that issues an accreditation that validates that you have pursued and excelled at that particular area. These will seldom be required and even rarely shown.



There are currently no states or territories that REQUIRE a license for basic water mitigation.

This said, some states require a GC License. I urge you to look and find these requirements for your state, county and even sometimes your city.
This is usually surrounding doing demolition of building materials. Some have thresholds of the dollar value of the contract.
Again, look those up and don’t get stuck not being compliant. 

There are 4 states (Texas, Florida, Louisiana and Maryland) that require a license and/ or an assessor for mold remediation to be licensed by that state.
These often require a strong education path and again time that can be proven in the industry.
It is important to note that not only in these states, but most all states it is illegal or sometimes strongly frowned upon to be an assessor and remediation contractor on the same job.

Many states require state licensing for asbestos abatement and for asbestos sampling.
This is a very important part of remediation and learning these licensing guidelines will be important in your workflow and how this is handled.


Specialty Certifications 

We have already mentioned some of the more specialized certifications and licenses that might be required or recommended for specialty work.

Those may include:

  • Asbestos
  • Infection Control (hospital/ medical)
  • Commercial/ Large Loss
  • Advance Drying
  • Trauma

Each brings their own value and should be part of your medium and long term plan. These often fall into more expansion ventures. 

As you can see, this is a very big subject and we by no means covered everything.
As stewards of our industry, all members of this industry owe their efforts to be guides to all peers, to improve the overall average, provide excellent service and build the standard for best practices.

We recommend that you make sure you have joined our community and have discussions with us and others around this subject. Our experience and others might direct you better.

A strong restoration company is built on a sound education and the team's implementation of that education. 

Did you enjoy this? This is a excerpt from the script of our signature e-course “60 Days to Build a Strong Restoration Company”.

If you enjoyed it, check out the e-course and consider purchasing to get more restoration specific business knowledge to help you and your team build a strong restoration company. 

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