A $3 tube of caulk or a roll of drywall tape can cost you $50 in time alone if you have to travel to the store to get it. J&J Builders and General Contractors' simple remedy to this expensive scenario is its “mini Home Depot,” says Jeff Adams, president of the Waldorf, Md., company.

“You're always running into something in remodeling that you don't plan for,” Adams says. His small company has eliminated most lumberyard runs by way of a few 12-foot-high shelving units stocked with a carefully inventoried supply of inexpensive everyday items such as fasteners, painting and plumbing materials, electrical receptacles, light bulbs, and work boxes.

Crew members sign out materials on a two-page “job inventory sheet,” created in Microsoft Excel, that lists 68 items and their per-unit cost. They indicate the quantity they took and the job the materials went to.

On the rare occasions that they do need to go to the store, they save their receipts. The office manager enters all the items used or purchased into Quick-Books, which puts their costs directly into the relevant job reports, updates the inventory control, and even issues alerts when an item is running low.

As a backup, one J&J Builders employee sets aside time each month to take physical inventory of the supply. Overall, Adams says, “the savings in time is unreal. We've gone from maybe 50 receipts a month to 3 or 4.”