Rotten framing and other unexpected discoveries behind old walls can derail schedules, add to time-and-materials costs, and cause some homeowners to question your credibility. Short of X-ray vision, your best defense against these finds is a digital camera. Jud Motsenbocker says every member of your crew should carry one and use it routinely.

“We're in the remodeling business, not the home-building business,” says Motsenbocker, owner of Jud Construction, in Muncie, Ind. His company owns at least 10 digital cameras, and whenever an employee runs into a surprise, he or she snaps a few photos to document it, then contacts either the salesperson or the production manager and describes the problem, and they develop a plan to quickly resolve it.

If the problem is a rusted vent pipe, for instance, Motsenbocker's production manager will call a plumber and ask for a price and time frame for replacing it. The homeowner is notified, the solution presented, and the problem fixed. If the client wants to see the evidence, it's in the record — stored on a disk kept in the job file, and available for e-mailing upon request.

A note about Jud Construction's digital cameras: They're relatively big Sony Mavica MVC FD200s, and they actually use floppy disks. “You can stick the disks in any computer, and they store flat in a job folder,” Motsenbocker says. “They also take halfway decent pictures,” so his salespeople use the Sony cameras to shoot projects in their “before” condition. That ensures a contrast for the professionally shot “after” photos to come.