In his 10 years working in residential construction, Wichita, Kan., structural engineer Ken Schoenwald has learned a lot about the remodeling industry.

For one, Schoenwald likes to be called in early on in a project. "With remodeling, you don't know what you're getting into until further on in the project," he says. "Maybe we can take a look and be prepared for what is coming up."

Schoenwald also suggests remodelers introduce their engineers to the homeowners. That allows an engineer to address a homeowner's needs directly, without the remodeler relaying the options. "With structural issues, there's a cost-to-benefit ratio. We can always find a solution, but homeowners might not want to spend the money to make something 8 feet wide when they could have a 7-foot-wide opening for only a few hundred dollars," Schoenwald explains. The meeting expedites the process and makes it clearer to the homeowner.

Another benefit of meeting the owners is that it validates the remodeler's professionalism, Schoenwald says, which increases the homeowners' confidence in the company's work.

Before turning to residential construction, Schoenwald specialized in commercial work. He prefers the hands-on work offered by small builders and remodelers.