When Gary Carlson founded Carlson Homes Construction in 2001, his focus was building custom homes. That world ended in 2008 with the economic downturn, and Carlson needed to modify what he was doing to survive. “I started doing remodels and found I really liked it because it was more customer-intensive,” he says. Today, most of his business is remodeling work.

Carlson subcontracts virtually everything—he has to. From 2009 until just a few months ago, when his daughter, Taylor, joined as an apprentice, he was a company of one person. “I developed a very loyal, skilled group of trade contractors who have stuck with me,” he says. “It makes it very easy for me to manage jobs, and it makes it easier on the customer, too.”

After an initial client meeting, Carlson and the trade contractors walk through the whole house. “I’ve found that to be a very positive experience for [customers] because they know that they’re dealing with people they can trust in their home,” he says.

But there’s one thing Carlson doesn’t do: formal walk-throughs at the end of the job. “It puts the customer in the position of being an adversary,” he says. Instead, he finds that by encouraging customers to ask questions as they arise during the course of the job, he gets much more information from them about what they want and, ultimately, the end result is better and the customer happier.  


  • Gary Carlson is on every job almost every day at least once.
  • He likes to put in thoughtful touches. In bathrooms, he always installs electrical outlets inside cabinets so that homeowners can keep a plugged in blow dryer in a drawer instead of out on the counter.
  • Carlson advertises on Houzz.com. “A lot of people in my price range go there to look for ideas,” he says.
  • Customers often are looking for the lowest bid. To counter that, Carlson emphasizes that he can offer more. He stresses the importance of making remodeled spaces functional for the client and suggests design ideas that clearly improve the client’s quality of life.