When Vermont remodeler Gary Crowley decided to shift his pricing from a 15% markup on materials to a straight 50% markup on materials and labor eight years ago, he was afraid his closing rate would drop to nothing.

It did drop, but it quickly rebounded. Today, after much hand wringing and number crunching, Crowley, owner of Crowley Construction, is phasing in a 67% markup.

Crowley began early this year by including his new markup in the cost of a bathroom he built for a repeat customer. "I was waiting for her reaction," he says. "And she said, 'OK, when can you start?' My heart dropped." After selling that job, Crowley began marking up all jobs under $10,000 at 67%.

"To raise your markup on the small jobs, you have to have the big jobs waiting for you, as a cushion," he points out. Raising markup can be approached without worry, he says, "if I don't need the work, and if the people have the money and they're not price-conscious." In other words, if they're pre-qualified as repeat or referral customers.

Crowley says he realizes there were certain necessary prerequisites to increasing markup: a good reputation and repeat customers. It helps, he says, that he sticks to the three projects he does best -- kitchens, baths, and additions.

"Feel it out," he says. "Know your clientele, your business, and your capabilities. It's not just a matter of wanting it. It's a matter of earning it and knowing your clients are willing to pay for it. That's the position you have to work for."