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NARI CotY Awards Program Rules


  • Only NARI members in good standing are eligible to participate.
  • Only entries that have never been submitted in prior year NARI National CotY awards contests are eligible.
  • 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, 2021, through November 30, 2023.
  • The entrant company needs to be a NARI member that had complete oversight and supervisory responsibilities for the work completed (not applicable for the Architectural Design category the specialty category too).
  • Other NARI member companies that worked on the project may be included as Team Members.  There is an additional fee for each Team Member. Team members may be included in the entry at the National level and if offered at the chapter level.
  • The 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.
  • All projects entered into the CotY program 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. For example, if a project entry is a remodel of an entire house, the member can enter an Entire House category and enter a Kitchen category, an Interior category, and two Bathroom categories, etc. Keep in mind the entrant will have to break out costs for each project on each entry form.
  • Project Owner/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.
  • 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 an entry, and then save it to a PDF file. 
  • In the presentation, 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.
  • The company name or any individual’s names can't be in the presentation, or in the file name, or otherwise identify the member company or the client in any way.


  • Images and/or photos in the pdf presentation, or image upload section can't contain any recognizable individuals, logos, or any other identifying information. Note, exception of Image Upload #3 for company logo.
  • Before and after images must be included in a project presentation in .jpg, or .jpeg, format. Do not include in-progress images. These images will be used for the 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 size of 4 x 6 (1200 x 1800 pixels), and no larger than 12 MB each. Up to 20 images can be used, but we require a minimum of 10. If an entrant doesn'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.

CotY Rules Do’s and Don’ts


  • Project was completed between December 1, 2021 and November 30, 2023 and has not been submitted in a prior CotY program year.
  • Entrant company is a member in good standing and with project oversight as indicated on the Project Owner/Contractor form.
  • The presentation file is in PDF format and is a maximum of 30 pages/20MB.
  • Include all information, details, before and after pictures, floor plans, etc. in the presentation.  This is the only file the judges will see. 
  • Read the description thoroughly including requirements when selecting the correct category. 
  • Project costs include all fees; designer, subcontractor, project owner sweat equity, etc.
  • Before and after pictures are included in the presentation as well as in the Image Upload section. 
  • Client/Contractor and Photographer's release form are fully completed, signed, and included for each entry. 
  • The summary of the project is 100 words or less.
  • Include NARI members that were Team Members on the project. (Additional fees apply) 


  • Include photos containing people, logos, or any other identifying information. 
  • Forget have the Client/Contractor agreement and Photographer's release signed. 
  • Include team members that are not NARI members. 

Photo Tips

  • Good quality photos are key elements in a presentation. This can be accomplished with or without a professional photographer. 
  • Take “before” photographs before the start of every project. Making this a standard practice will prepare members to be ready when the average job turns out to be a CotY contender.  Take these shots from many angles.
  • “Before” photos are required and are best used immediately preceding ‘After’ photos.
  • Take photos for work-in-progress if it will help show the complexity of the process or the obstacles encountered.
  • 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 a project is published, it stands a better chance of being featured on a magazine cover if the editors have vertical shots to choose from.
  • Only include photos that will enhance the project entry. An entry does not need to provide 20 photos as allowed but must have at least 10. 
  • 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.  Judges reserve the right to disqualify, adjust the category, or deduct points if program rules are not followed.

NARI National Judging the National CotY Program

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.  It's possible that no winner is selected in a particular category if NARI standards are not met.  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 meets the minimum score needed, determines the regional winner for each category. The process continues until all 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 – Chapter and Regional Scoring Only

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

1.  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?

2.  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?

3.  To what degree does the project enhance the existing structure aesthetically?

Line & rhythm, continuity & repetition, texture, color & contrast, symmetry & balance, emphasis

4.  Is there evidence of superior craftsmanship?

Moldings, woodwork, stairs, cabinetry, countertops, tile, glass, marble, metal, stone, masonry, etc.

5.  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.

Residential Architectural Design will use the following criteria:

1.       To what degree were the expressed needs of the client met?      

2.       To what degree does the project enhance the existing structure functionally?                  

3.       To what degree does the project enhance the existing structure aesthetically?                         

4.       Were innovative uses of materials used in the design and/or construction?

5.       How well do the working drawings communicate the details of the design to the tradespeople and the client?

          How clear and organized are the drawings?

          Is the existing vs. Remodel project clearly defined?


Each year, NARI of Greater Chicagoland hosts the Contractor of the Year (CotY) Awards – formerly known as the Remodeling Excellence Awards – to recognize the best and brightest remodelers in Chicagoland. The CotY Awards are widely recognized across the Midwest and throughout the remodeling industry, creating a who’s-who of top remodeling firms in the region.

All projects submitted for judging must be an improvement or an addition to an existing structure in order to be considered. New construction projects are not eligible. In addition, competing projects must have been completed during a 14-month time period prior to the deadline and cannot have been submitted in prior NARI of Greater Chicagoland contests. An impartial panel of judges, who are considered experts within the industry and associated fields, select winners based on each entrant’s project presentation, including a detailed project description and “Before and After” photography. Judging is based on problem solving, functionality, aesthetics, craftsmanship, innovation, degree of difficulty, and entry presentation. To be considered, a company must be a member of NARI of Greater Chicagoland in good standing.


Project Owner Agreement

Photographer's Release Form

Contractor Release Form *Residential Architecture Design Category Only

Full Category List