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National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) Minnesota

2021 Contractor of the Year Awards Guide

 Welcome to the 25th Annual NARI of MN CotY Awards

Review the MN rules below (also on the NARI MN website), then the National rules at https://www.nari.org/Recognition-Center/CotY/How-to-Apply


You are invited to compete for the 2021 NARI Minnesota Contractor of the Year (CotY) Awards. The CotY Awards recognize excellence in remodeling.

Companies from one-person shops to the largest remodeling firms have reported that winning this award is a major factor in enhancing their image within the industry and with prospective customers and is a major morale booster for their employees. These guidelines will help you understand the categories for entry into the CotY competition, the judging procedure and the criteria on which entries will be reviewed.

Remodeling project entries are judged on five criteria: meeting clients’ objectives, functionality, aesthetics, craftsmanship, and innovation. New this year; the criterion of overcoming obstacles has been removed.

Entries can be resubmitted if the entries have never won in any capacity in the Minnesota competition, including Silver, and they still fall within the project completion guidelines for that year.

Whether you are a seasoned participant or a first-time entrant, thoroughly read these easy steps for submitting an entry to the NARI MN Contractor of the Year Awards competition.

The project finish date must be between December 1, 2018 and September 10, 2021. (This range is different from the National/Regional entries range.) The submission date range has been extended to support entries during COVID.

Important to know for local entrants in 2021:

⮚      Only NARI contractor members in good standing are eligible to enter. Entries must be submitted on or before September 10, 2021. All entrants’ membership records will be checked to verify their classification as a contractor member. Projects not meeting this requirement may be brought to the CotY Committee for submission approval. Projects can only be from Minnesota or a border state. Therefore, only projects from MN, WI, IA, ND, and SD will be accepted. The fee for the first entry purchased is $175. The fee for additional entries is discounted to $150 per entry. Fees are non-refundable, non-transferable, and cannot be carried over to subsequent years.

⮚      Eligible contractors submitting their first entry or first entry in more than five years - the entry fee will be waived for the first entry.

⮚      Single Entrant Winner – A single entrant in a category may receive an award based on the overall average scores for the year’s submissions.

⮚      A contractor member company may enter multiple projects in multiple categories and may enter a maximum of two projects in the same category. If applicable, a project may be entered in multiple categories.

⮚      If you have a large, multi-area project, and would like to enter just a portion of it, you may break it out and/or enter the entire project. For example, if your project included the remodel of a kitchen, family room, and two baths, you could enter a kitchen category, an interior category, two bathroom categories, and/or a whole house category. This is true for National submissions as well.

⮚      Include information on your trade associate partners in the Other categories in the submission process. These partners will be considered eligible for the Pillar Award, the companion award for trade partners.

⮚      Pictures submitted as part of the submission become the property of NARI MN.

⮚      Submissions become the property of NARI of MN.

Updates for 2021 for local entrants:

This year, local categories will be different from national categories, in that some local categories will now be combined. You will see the combined categories only on this rules page and the NARI MN website. See below for the Minnesota Categories.

●        NARI of MN does not offer a team option. Please follow the National Team Member process for your local entry if you are planning to roll up any of your local entries to National. Call the NARI National office with questions about team entrants – 847-298-9200.

●        Please be aware the time frame for project completion is different from NARI National. See NARI National rules, website, https://www.nari.org/Recognition-Center/CotY/How-to-Apply

The “Summary of Project Section” in the online submission is where you can add language for your Master of Ceremonies Script to be read at the CotY Awards Banquet – In the event your project is chosen as a winner, the Master of Ceremonies will read a brief description of your project to the audience. Please provide a description of your project in 100 words or less. Descriptions may be edited without your approvalYou are encouraged to include information about critical staff or business associates that contributed to the success of your project. Please include a pronunciation key for all names, products, and companies mentioned in your MC script. DO NOT ADD THIS LANGUAGE TO YOUR PDF submission.

NARI of MN – Local Categories:

The NARI of MN Chapter/Local awards is using the National platform for 2021 but may combine categories. For example,

●        All Commercial projects will be considered under one Commercial category.

●        Please be aware that if you intend to enter the Regional/National competition these two Additional Categories will be separate. Please contact the NARI of MN office with any questions – 612-332-6274.


Category 1:  Residential Kitchen Under $30,000

Category 2:  Residential Kitchen: $30,000 to $60,000

Category 3:  Residential Kitchen $60,001 to $100,000

Category 4:  Residential Kitchen $100,001 to $150,000

Category 5:  Residential Kitchen Over $150,000

Category 6:  Residential Bath Under $25,000

Category 7:  Residential Bath $25,000 to $50,000

Category 8:  Residential Bath $50,001 to $75,000

Category 9:  Residential Bath $75,001 to $100,000

Category 10: Residential Bath Over $100,000

Category 11: Residential Interior Under $100,000

Category 12: Residential Interior $100,001 to $250,000

Category 13: Residential Interior $250,001 to $500,000

Category 14: Residential Interior Over $500,000

Category 15: Residential Interior Element under $30,000

Category 16: Residential Interior Element $30,000 and Over

Category 17: Residential Addition Under $100,00

Category 18: Residential Addition $100,000 to $250,000

Category 19: Residential Addition Over $250,000

Category 20: Residential Exterior Under $50,000

Category 21: Residential Exterior $50,000 to $100,000

Category 22: Residential Exterior $100,001 to $200,000

Category 23: Residential Exterior Over $200,000

Category 24: Residential Detached Structure

Category 25: Entire House Under $250,000

Category 26:

  • Entire House $250,000 to $500,000
  • Entire House $500,001 to $750,000

Categore 27

  • Entire House $750,001 to $1,000,000
  • Entire House Over $1,000,000

Category 28: Residential Historical Renovation/Restoration under $250,000

Category 29: Residential Historical Renovation/Restoration $250,000 and Over

Category 30:

  • Commerical Interior
  • Commercial Exterior
  • Commercial Specialty

Category 31: Landscape Design/Outdoor Living Under $50,000 (under Local Only category)

Category 32: Landscape Design/Outdoor Living $50,000 to $100,000

Category 33: Landscape Design/Outdoor Living $100,001 to $250,000

Category 34: Landscape Design/Outdoor Living Over $250,000

Category 35: Basement Under $100,000

Category 36: Basement $100,001 to $250,000

Category 37: Basement Over $250,00

Category 38:

  • Green - Residential Interiors
  • Green - Residential Exteriors
  • Green - Entire House/Addition Projects

Category 39:

  • Universal Design - Kitchen
  • Universal Design - Bath
  • Universal Design - Interiors
  • Universal Design - Exteriors
  • Universal Design - Entire House

Category 40:

            Residential Project under $25,000 (under Local Only category)

            Description: Best residential project with a TOTAL project cost under $25K.

Category 41:

Associate of the Year (contact the NARI of MN office to receive the application. This is not part of the online submission process).



NARI Awards Program Rules

CotY Rules Do’s and Don’ts (See full rules as detailed below)

  • The entrant must be a NARI Member in good standing.
  • The entrant company needs to be the NARI member that had complete oversight of the project.
  • Team Members (additional fees apply) are other NARI Member companies that participated in the project and are not entrant employees.
  • Project completion date range for National must be between December 1, 2020 and November 30, 2022.
  • Project costs must include ALL fees; designer, subcontractor, etc., as described below.
  • Must select correct category for the project – read description thoroughly and follow corresponding requirements.
  • Only entries that have never been submitted in prior NARI National CotY awards contests are eligible.
  • Client/Contractor and Photographer’s release forms must be fully completed, signed and included for each entry.
  • The presentation file must be submitted in PDF format and the maximum is 30 pages/20MB.
  • The pdf presentation is the only file the judges will view for scoring. Include all information, details, pictures, floor plans, etc. in the presentation.
  • The pdf presentation must contain before and after pictures.
  • The pdf presentation must not identify the entrant or client in any way; no names on any slide, diagram or in the file name.
  • The entry must include both Before and After pictures in the Image Upload section.
  • The entry must include a separate summary, 100 words or less, of the project.
  • Images and photos should not contain any recognizable individuals, logos, or any other identifying information.
  • Judges reserve the right to disqualify, adjust the category, or deduct points if these rules are not followed.

CotY Rules

Only NARI members in good standing are eligible to participate.

  • The entrant company needs to be the NARI member that had complete oversight and supervisory responsibilities for the work completed (not applicable for specialty entries). Other NARI member companies that worked on the project may be included as Team Members (see below).
  • There is a separate additional fee for each Team Member.
  • The project finish date range varies by program. Refer to the chapter or National awards program homepage. The National program project finish date range is December 1, 2020, through November 30, 2022.
  • The project cost is defined as contract price, all extras, change orders, fees for all professional services (including, but not limited to, design work, architectural and engineering services, etc.), permit and application fees, and the fair market value of materials and products that were purchased, sweat-equity and in-kind services provided, and/or any subcontract work. The cost of all homeowner provided products, services, third-party professional services, or labor should be included in this cost. All markups and profit should be included in the cost provided. For member-owned projects, costs should include normal markups as if the project was contracted to an outside client.
  • Only entries that have never been submitted in prior NARI National CotY awards contests are eligible.
  • Client/Contractor and Photographer’s release forms must be completed and returned for each entry. These forms will not be seen by the judges and are the only area where the member’s identity (or anyone involved with the project) can be revealed. Forms are available during the entry process.
  • Entrants are required to provide a project summary, 100 words or less, in addition to their presentation. This summary will be collected via the online form and will be used to describe winning projects after winners are announced. Although the Judges will not see the summary included in this field, this information may be repeated in the presentation.
  • Team members may be included in the entry at the National level and if offered at the chapter level. Team members are other NARI member companies that also worked on the project. Team member details will be collected during the entry process.
  • The presentation must be submitted in PDF format and can be up to 30 pages long. The file can be up to 20MB. This presentation is the only file the judges will see. We suggest using PowerPoint, Publisher, Word, InDesign, or similar program to build your entry, and then save to a PDF file. If you don’t have a PDF creator on your computer you can search for a free version, which will convert any printable file to a PDF file.
  • Be sure to include a project statement, drawings, images, before and after pictures, and any descriptive text or captions that will help the judges understand the details of the transformation.
  • Don’t include the company name or any individual’s names in your presentation, or in the file name, or otherwise identify yourself or the client in any way.
  • Don’t use images and/or photos in the pdf presentation, or image upload section, that contains any recognizable individuals, logos or any other identifying information. Note, exception of Image Upload #3 for company logo.
  • We’ll also need the before and after images you included in your project presentation in .jpg, or .jpeg, format. Do not include in-progress images. These images will be used for our presentation and promotion purposes and the judges will not view these. Each image must be a high-quality resolution of at least 300 dpi, a minimum of size of 4 x 6 (1200 x 1800 pixels), and no larger than 12 MB each. You can upload up to 20 images, but we require a minimum of 10. If you don’t have 10 photos from the project, repeat one of the images to meet the requirements.
  • Any photo enhancement is limited to brightness, contrast, or sharpness. No items may be added or removed through photo enhancement techniques. Do not add or subtract items, or change the image in a way that may increase or decrease the value of the project.
  • All projects entered in CotY categories must be an improvement or addition to an existing structure. Entries for new structures will not be accepted except where specifically noted in the category description.
  • The same project may be entered in one category or in multiple categories with additional fees. If you have a large, multi-area project, and would like to enter just a portion of it, it’s fine to break it down. For example, if your project included the remodel of an entire house, you can enter an Entire House category and enter a Kitchen category, an Interior category, and two Bathroom categories, etc. Keep in mind you will have to break out costs for each project on each entry form.
  • The Awards Committee and Judges reserve the right to disqualify, adjust the category, or deduct points from any entry that does not follow these rules and guidelines, without prior notice.
  • All fees are nonrefundable, non-transferable, and cannot be carried over to subsequent years.

Photo Tips

  • Since your project cannot be judged in person, good quality photos are key elements in your presentation. Whether or not you use a professional photographer, please keep the following in mind:
  • Take “before” photographs before the start of every project. If you make this a standard practice, you will be ready when the job you anticipated to be an average remodel turns out to be a CotY contender.  Take these shots from many angles.
  • Take photos for work-in-progress if it will help show the complexity of the process or the obstacles encountered.
  • “Before” photos are required and are best used immediately preceding ‘After’ photos.
  • Take the “after” shots from the same angles as the before photos whenever possible. This helps give the judges a good perspective of the transformation and it’s helpful if the judges can see these photos consecutively.
  • Include both vertical and horizontal photos. If your project is published, it stands a better chance of being featured on a magazine cover if the editors have vertical shots from which to choose.
  • Only include photos that will enhance the project entry. Although you have 30 pages to display the project, you don’t need to use them all.
  • Don’t use photos with people in them.

The Judging Process

Winners are selected by an impartial panel of judges who are experts from within the industry. The evaluation process is done without revealing company names. A CotY Award winner is an entry that demonstrates remodeling excellence. Entries are judged on functionality, problem-solving, aesthetics, craftsmanship, innovation, the degree of difficulty, and entry presentation.

NARI National Judging

All entries are judged against other submissions from the same region in the same category to select regional winners. All regional winning entries are then re-judged to select the national winner in each category.  On rare occasions, no winner is selected in a particular category if NARI standards are not met, and the decision of the judges is final.

Regional Judging-(National Program Only)

Judges begin by individually reviewing all the entries in a category within a region. They may take a preliminary review of that group of entries, and then score the entries one by one. They do not discuss the entries with each other during this phase of the process, and they do not see other judge’s scores. Once a category within a region is completed, a regional score for each entry is obtained by averaging the judge’s scores. The highest average score obtained, providing the project represents at least a “better than average approach or result,” determines the regional winner for each category. The process continues until all of the categories are judged on the regional level.

National Judging-(National Program Only)

The judges will look at each of the regional winners within a category to determine a national winner. During this phase of the process, no score sheets are used, and the previous score sheets are not made available for reference. The judges discuss the projects, each of them sharing their opinions.  As a group, they decide on the National winner for each category

Judges Scoring Criteria – All programs

CotY judges will consider the following questions when reviewing the entries. Be sure your presentation addresses these points when applicable.    Points will be awarded on a scale from 1-15. Scores will be made available to entrants after National Winner announcements are made.

  • To what degree were the expressed needs of the client met?
    • Did the entry describe the client’s needs and desires?
    • Did the contractor show that those needs were met?
  • To what degree does the project enhance the existing structures functionally?
    • Do the room’s new floor plans function well?
    • Is the counter space or work area adequate to perform necessary tasks?
    • Is there good traffic flow?
    • Is safety addressed adequately?
    • Are the materials functional?
    • Is lighting addressed – both general & task?
  • To what degree does the project enhance the existing structure aesthetically?
    • Line & rhythm, continuity & repetition, texture, color & contrast, symmetry & balance, emphasis
  • Is there evidence of superior craftsmanship?
    • Moldings, woodwork, stairs, cabinetry, countertops, tile, glass, marble, metal, stone, masonry, etc.
  • Were innovative uses of material and/or methods of construction used in the project?
    • Are innovative uses evident, or were any described and noted?
    • Were difficult obstacles encountered and overcome, or were any described and noted?

Residential Historic Renovation/Restoration will also consider the following:

  • Were original uses of materials duplicated in the project?
  • Were methods of application used to improve or enhance the original style of the structure.