When Maurice Forde, of Forde Windows & Remodeling, Northbrook, Ill., receives fan mail, letters often mention the fact that the clients' home was always clean.

"In my opinion," Forde says, "you can do a mediocre remodeling job -- not that we do -- but if you do a really good clean-up job, people will remember you much more than if you did an excellent remodeling job but failed to clean up."

Forde starts working on that good impression before the job even starts. On large jobs, the crew arrives a day early to set up plastic walls, cover hardwood floors and carpets, and spread dropcloths. "The comfort level goes up when you're there the day before to protect things," Forde says. "We do the whole traffic pattern right up to the area where we're working. We literally don't step on their floors once we start a project."

Forde estimates that somewhere from a third to a half of his clients express concerns about cleanliness before the job begins. Even if they don't raise the issue, Forde says, "we try to get it out anyway. We tell them we'll take care that the house is clean while we're working there and let them know the steps we're going to take to do that. In all the projects we work on, people are living in the home while we're working. That's why it's important." Crews clean up nightly before leaving. Trade contractor agreements specify that subs are responsible for keeping the work area clean on a daily basis.

Forde points out that daily cleaning makes end-of-the-job cleanup a snap. "It's easy if you've been doing it all along rather than trying to do it all on the last day."