It's no secret that remodelers and architects have endured a historically adversarial relationship. Many remodelers feel that architects simply don't have enough field experience to produce truly buildable,practical designs - a sentiment reflected by the 82% of respondents who named unrealistic construction budgets as their biggest complaint about working with architects.

But many remodelers are finding it possible - and beneficial - to build successful professional relationships with independent architects. The key, however, is finding a designer who fits well with your company, and then nurturing that relationship. In fact, 62% of panelists reported using no more than two outside architects for design, a trend that speaks to the importance of finding reliable business partners and sticking with them.

Panelists who use outside designers pointed to two major benefits of doing so: more perceived professionalism in the eyes of the homeowner, and more time to focus on other aspects of the business. The latter seems to have a measurable effect for many of our respondents - 46% reported an increase in average job size since they began outsourcing design. -- C.K.

TOOL WINNER: Randy Bailey, BW Construction of Boulder, in Boulder, Colo., won a DeWalt DC988B Cordless 3-Speed Hammer Drill for participating in this month's Reader Panel. "I think the Reader Panel is very helpful to all of us in learning our peers' opinions on important issues affecting the industry," Bailey says.