How expensive? How messy? How disruptive? Such are the questions that rattle the minds of remodeling prospects. HartmanBaldwin, a high-end design/build company in Claremont, Calif., answers them all with its “Home Remodeling In-Progress Workshops,” free, 90-minute programs held monthly in homes currently being remodeled.

Launched in 2005, the workshops emerged from Hartman-Baldwin's “survival” workshops, detailed of the remodeling process held in the quiet fort of the company's office. Attendees expressed interest in going to actual jobsites and talking to homeowners, says Karla Rodriguez, marketing and sales coordinator. “People like to develop a certain comfort level” before committing to remodeling, she explains. “They like to see homeowners open up,” and the company's “great clients” have been happy to oblige.

But the workshops aren't free-for-alls. Each is led by a HartmanBaldwin team that includes the project architect and the construction manager, who outline issues such as project costs, the design/build process, and project-specific decisions. The company provides refreshments and encourages attendees to take notes and pictures — but not to stray into the roped-off part of the house. “Our goal is to provide the community with information in a good, casual, positive setting,” Rodriguez says.

HartmanBaldwin also controls timing and attendance. The first few workshops featured projects that were nearly completed, but “people were a little confused” and distracted by unfinished details, Rodriguez says. Workshops are now held after the framing process, letting attendees visualize the before part of the remodeling process as well.

As for attendance, Rodriguez says that she mails postcards to homeowners in a limited radius around the project and accepts only as many as the host allows. Attendees must register, which both protects the homeowner from theft or damage and provides the remodeler with follow-up information. The workshops have “absolutely” led to jobs, she adds, and the buzz continues to build as realtors and other professional referral sources recommend the workshops to their clients.