From first client meeting to final walk-through, Jack Whealan videotapes projects at different stages of the remodeling process. The owner of SkyTop Builders, in Asheville, N.C., says footage from the initial client meeting is especially helpful for estimates. “I learn things spatially,” he says, “that’s how I absorb information. I’m amazed at how much more I pick up [from the videos] versus what I write in my notes and gather with standard photos.”

For Whealan, video is more useful than photographs because he can speak while he tapes, providing commentary. He takes measurements before he videotapes the project and then repeats those figures aloud while he is taping.

On the Record

Panning the camera over a wall or through a room, Whealan says, captures the location of heat ducts, the design of the baseboards, specific wall treatments, and trim details. On one project, while reviewing the video in his office, Whealan realized that one room had larger baseboards than any of the home’s other rooms. “I went back and looked at it, and that baseboard was put in to cover up a sagging slab,” he says.

He filmed a walk-through with the clients of a $350,000 project, telling them, “I’m filming it for your benefit and mine. I’m going to talk a lot of construction-ese, which might go over your head. You can call me about things you don’t understand.” On the video, Whealan described items that would and would not be included in the scope of the project.

Upon completion, those clients added items to the punch list that they thought were SkyTop Builders’ responsibility. Whealan asked them to review the copy of the video he had given them. “They reviewed the tape, and I tore up that extra punch list,” he says. The videos are also helpful to keep out-of-town clients updated on project progress.

Simple Setup

Most of the videotaping equipment that Whealan uses was purchased when he became a father — to take videos of his children. His only additional expense has been for a wide-angle camera lens. When videotaping existing conditions for the estimate, Whealan hand-holds the camera, which results in rather rough, shaky video. At most points afterward, he uses a tripod.

To promote projects, Whealan recently began putting the videos on his website. “In the age of YouTube,” he points out, “people don’t want to read. They want quick sound bites and want to be entertained.”

He is working on improving his taping techniques so he can use the videos to market to website visitors. He points out that even raw footage provides a lot of exposure. “Every time I put [a video] out there and put links in my newsletter, my site traffic doubles,” he says.

—Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.

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