More than half of the respondents for this Reader Panel have been in the remodeling business for over 16 years. They have seen a lot of changes, some incremental but others revolutionary in ways that led them to alter their business strategies. Projects have become bigger as well — whole house remodels, for example, now make up more than 30% of the most commonly done projects, up from 15% in the 1980s. Most remodelers believe this upswing is a reflection not just of the economy, but of people's desires to remain in their homes longer. Respondents also named computers, insurance rates, and rising materials costs as factors that have had the biggest effects on remodeling companies. As a side note, it's a welcome accolade that 54% felt that trade magazines like REMODELING have had a big effect on their companies. (Some of the following surveys may total over 100% due to rounding.)

What is the biggest difference between the current remodeling boom and the boom of the late 1980s?

“Work is more complex, larger in scale, more costly, and there's greater client involvement than in the '80s.”
—Tom Luce, Luce Custom Remodeling & Design, Melbourne, Fla.

“Young homes are being torn down or completely refurbished.”
—Ric Johnson, R L Johnson Construction Services, Waynesfield, Ohio

“Things are not as robust as they were. It has slowed in the Atlanta area. Anywhere you went in the '80s there was hammering and sawing in the neighborhoods. Now people are more reserved in their spending and it is affecting the upgrades people do to their homes. Now it seems I'm performing more maintenance.”
—John Janowicz, Home Maintenance Service, Atlanta, Ga.

“It's harder to find clients willing to pay for top-quality workmanship; the ‘home center' mentality is hard to fight. We do get a lot of jobs like crown molding or electrical improvements that homeowners have started with ‘coaching' from big-box employees. But they do pay top dollar to have the job finished right.”
—Gary Line, Custom Finish Carpentry & Electrical Services, Crystal Lake, Ill.

“People want things faster, hire me later in the process, and won't wait for my schedule to open up.”
—Christopher Dolan, Rose City Builders, Boulder, Colo.

What was your most common remodeling project?

Since you have been in business, which of the following is the single most important computer-based system you've implemented?

Since you have been in business, which of the following is the single most important personnel decision you've made?

Since you have been in business, which of the following is the single most important business system you've implemented?

Is each of the following employee characteristics more true, less true, or the same since you have been in business?

Knowledgeable about construction

Loyal to company

Able to communicate well with customers

Motivated by wages (vs. benefits)

Motivated by benefits (vs. wages)

Interested in training