Shortly after Mark Wysinger finished paying off the 15-year mortgage on his North Philadelphia row house, the house burned down. Unfortunately for Wysinger, a laborer employed by the design/build remodeling company Gardner/Fox, Bryn Mawr, Pa., he'd also stopped making payments on his homeowners insurance. For seven years the house sat, a charred wreck. Then one of Mark's fellow workers at Gardner/Fox suggested rebuilding it. "This thing was a complete gut and rehab," says Mark Pennington, the company's secretary/treasurer. "It wasn't even a shell."

With company suppliers donating materials, subs donating work, and Gardner/Fox employees donating their Saturdays, rebuilding got under way this past spring. Some 80% of the company's 32 field employees participated. Subs, alerted by the company's project manager, donated plumbing, electrical, and HVAC work.

Pennington says the experience was a great morale booster. Gardner/Fox field crews are spread over many projects. Working on Wysinger's house became almost a competition. Employees wanted to show what they could do.

"I could've brought in a hundred consultants with different ideas about bringing the group together," Pennington says. "Rock climbing. A company picnic. This far exceeded anything we could've done along those lines."

Tax expert Mark Battersby of Ardmore, Pa., says because the materials and labor were donated, the project was a "gift" and not taxable. "If everything is donated, the book value of the house will be the same as it was before the fire," he says, "so it's not a taxable transaction now and won't be reflected later."