Quantifying Property Restoration Mastery

Most restorers that we meet with have a great sense of pride in their work. Many of these hardworking professionals are committed to developing their mastery in the science and service of property restoration. Mastery is an aspiration for the individual restorer that has been facilitated by hours and dollars donated by pioneers through the years. By learning from our rich, and not-so-long-ago past, the modern restorer can better quantify what mastery means for the property restoration professional.

The industry is in the middle of a journey to define the profession through the development of two essential elements government and industry use to qualify a profession,” said Global Restoration Watchdog Pete Consigli, while writing on the passing of industry founding father Martin (Marty) King in 2015. “First, does the industry have a consensus-based body of knowledge, and second, is there an academic degree from an institution of higher learning an individual can obtain to practice the profession? The answers are soon and hopefully!”

We will take some time in this article to focus on the efforts of several contributors who have helped dig and fill the deep wells of knowledge that are now accessible to intentional restorers.

What Is A Body of Knowledge? 

According to Purdue University professor Dr. Randy Rapp, “A professional body of knowledge defines what members of a profession should know. If people doing similar work can generally agree about what they must know in order to perform well, then they begin to define the subject matter of a profession.”

For the disaster response and restoration industry, this formal collection of expertise was bolstered by Dr. Rapp and doctoral candidate Jing Pan. The duo started their process with a survey of 275 Certified Restorers (CR) that was co-funded by the Restoration Industry Association (RIA). The findings were presented for the 2009 Fall Conference in St. Louis, confirming the data collected represented consensus-based mastery-level principles in the industry.

“People engaged in the disaster repair industry began meeting together to share information in the early 1970s,” Cliff Zlotnik said, adding to the historical perspective and significance of the efforts leading to the BoK in Episode 200 of IAQ Radio. “For over four decades, practitioners of the trade of disaster damage repair often felt that they haven’t gotten the respect that the trade deserves, that has changed. Now the art and science of disaster repair can be studied at the collegiate level at Purdue University.”

You Cannot Outperform Your Knowledge

Dr. Randy Rapp was selected as the man with primary responsibility for developing, coordinating, and delivering Purdue Universities Disaster Restoration and Reconstruction Management Concentration (DRR). Randy quoted his friend and industry veteran Bob Bonwell, in saying, “You cannot outperform your knowledge.” This motto inspired the two colleagues and many others who devoted countless hours to the refinement of the Body of Knowledge. They saw its development as contributing to the legacy endeavors for elevating the status of the property damage restoration profession.

Randy shares on Episode 85 of The DYOJO Podcast that when he was hired at Purdue, he immediately sought the input of Mr. Bonwell. Bob was an innovator and educator at heart, he funneled his career experiences into becoming what Mr. Zlotnik describes as, “A purveyor of cleaning equipment in Indianapolis [and several surrounding states].” If you can take a step back in time, or even imagine a similar undertaking, the Z Man asks the reader to,

“Imagine how hard it would be for you to plead with one of your business associates or peers to write a check for $15,000 as a donation to a cause? Then make it ten times harder by pleading with ten people to do it? Then make it ten times harder by getting each of the donors to agree to donating $15,000 per year for ten consecutive years. Then complicate it by having the donors to agree to sign legally binding contract to do it.”

According to Dr. Rapp, Bob started laying this foundation and churning the wheels of collaboration as early as 1996. Cliff recalls, “Bob didn’t just conceive the idea; he chose and organized a group of nine other individuals or firms from within the disaster restoration field to each commit to endowing $150,000 the necessary amount to Purdue to qualify to receive matching funds from a university benefactor.” In retrospect, the enormity of what Bob Bonwell accomplished is amazing.

Resources for Restoration Mastery 

For those modern restorers pursuing technical and leadership mastery, the BoK provides an outline for three levels of knowledge, all of which are color-coded throughout the document,

  • Mastery: Without reference material, promptly and correctly apply subject knowledge and skills to solve typical problems or address detailed issues in the subject.

  • Working knowledge: With proper reference material, promptly and correctly apply subject knowledge and skills to solve typical problems or address detailed issues in the subject.

  • Familiarity: Comprehend industry-specific terminology and general relationships among activities or processes pertaining to the subject, without promptly and correctly applying knowledge and skills to solve typical problems or address detailed issues in the subject, even with proper reference material.

The body of knowledge was released in 2017 in coordination with the redevelopment of the Certified Restorer (CR) capstone designation which was initially formulated by Marty King. “Marty’s life’s work was to see the business of damage repair evolve into a profession,” recalls Pete Consigli. “Fifty years after Marty had that dream, the legacy of the restoration industry is in the hands of those he influenced and many of those people are preparing to pass on the stewardship of the industry to the next generation.”

One person can be a spark, “Bob Bonwell led by example,” remarks Zlotnik, “He was the first to write a check and then convinced, cajoled, or pleaded with nine others to do the same.” As those involved in these efforts echo, Pete calls modern restorers to carry the torch of pursuing and developing property restoration mastery. He says, “It is the hope of many that the next generation will take the industry to a place never imagined by the industry’s founders.”


* This article was written with input and peer review by Dr. Randy Rapp, Cliff Zlotnik, CR, and Pete Consigli, CR, we hope reading this will fuel your fires for personal and professional improvement. The BoK can be downloaded for FREE by all Restoration Industry Association members. Hear more about the development of the Body of Knowledge, Dr. Randy Rapp’s project management book, and elevating your property restoration mastery on Episode 85 of The DYOJO Podcast

Jon Isaacson

Jon Isaacson, The Intentional Restorer, is a contractor, author, and host of The DYOJO Podcast. The goal of The DYOJO is to help growth-minded restoration professionals shorten their DANG learning curve for personal and professional development. You can watch The DYOJO Podcast on YouTube on Thursdays at 9am PST or listen on your favorite podcast platform.

Jon recently released, So, You Want To Be A Project Manager? written to help restorers develop the mindset and habits for success with project management. This is the third book in the Be Intentional series. Previous titles address the topics of Insurance Claims Estimating and Workplace Culture.

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