Remodeler Mike Owings no longer has to worry about helping his clients select plumbing products. Consultant Robin Barker works with the clients of Owings Brothers Contracting, Eldersburg, Md., to choose faucets and fittings. She orders the products and has them ready for Owings' plumbing subcontractor.

Barker, owner of Robin Barker Design Consulting, Cockeysville, Md., is an independent consultant who works for Owings and a few other remodelers, plumbers, and architects. The former plumbing supply salesperson has 25 years of experience in sales and purchasing.

"She has alleviated one of the points that was bogging jobs down," Owings says. His bookkeeping staff has less paperwork. She works well with clients and steers them to faucets, vanities, countertops, and shower doors within their budget. As an independent consultant, Barker can purchase materials from any manufacturer -- vs. the one or two lines a supplier carries -- so that clients have a large selection. "I might have four or five vendors for one house, but Owings only writes a check to me," Barker says.

Barker finalizes the list of fixtures and purchases them through showrooms and supply houses. She sells products to Owings at a markup and adds a small percentage for Owings Brothers. The remodeling company previously sold fixtures at cost.

About 60% of her work comes from Owings. Barker will also work with clients on less-involved projects. For example, a builder client sends her a list of products chosen by his client and an interior designer. Barker reviews and revises that list. "I spot the mistakes and add missing model numbers or parts," Barker says. "I order materials and have them shipped."