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Starting a Business as a Remodeling Contractor

Using your carpentry or construction skills to help people remodel their homes could just be the perfect homebased business for you.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

No matter whether the housing industry is hot or cold, people in the remodeling business do well. That's because when home sales are hot, home sellers spend money to get their homes more salable and buyers make improvements in their new homes. In fact, a majority of new homeowners make improvements immediately-during their first year of ownership.

On the other hand, when the housing market is down, people are inclined to hold on to what they've got and spend money upgrading, enlarging, or customizing their existing homes.

If you've been in the building industry and would like to go out on your own or have trade skills you want to turn into a business, remodeling may be your ticket. Here's why:

  • Remodeling is a business predominantly populated by self-employed individuals.
  • The capital required is typically less than what's needed for new construction.
  • According to research done by the U.S. Census Bureau, most homeowners aren't do-it-yourself-ers when it comes to remodeling, but instead turn to professionals when they need some work done.

Remodeling professionals can specialize in any number of ways. First, there's the distinction between remodeling commercial structures as opposed to residences. Niches within commercial remodeling include making tenant improvements in renter-occupied buildings, adapting buildings from one type of use to another, and rehabilitating historic structures.

Residential remodelers can specialize in restoring homes damaged by fire or other insurable losses, remodeling condos and apartments, or renovating historic residences. They can also focus on specific architectural styles. Still another way of specializing is in the type of projects you choose to work on, such as kitchens, bathrooms, sunrooms, greenhouses, mother-in-law suites, and so on.

One specialty that's very much in demand in some areas is "green" remodeling: using nontoxic building materials, making spaces more energy efficient and using recycled building components.

To succeed as a remodeling contractor, you've got to have the hands-on capability to do the work itself unless you plan to hire others to do it for you. Even then, you'll need to know enough to be able to order materials, do scheduling, supervise your employees or subcontractors, assure that the work done will satisfy your clients and meet housing codes. You'll also need to be licensed through the agency in your state that licenses contractors.

The principal trade association for the remodeling industry is the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. To help you launch your business, this organization offers four different types of certification.

Satisfied clients are the key to success in remodeling because referrals from past customers and repeat business are what keep new business coming in. To get your first customers, consider subcontracting for installation work with lumberyards, building material manufacturers and distributors, and other retail suppliers. You can also develop referral relationships with home inspectors, local lenders, insurance professionals and architects. Consider listing your business in The Blue Book of Building and Construction, an online listing of regional construction directories across the United State.

Paul and Sarah Edwards are coaches and the authors of 16 books, including Best Home Businesses for the 21st Centuryand the upcoming The Best Home Businesses for People 50+. You can contact them at

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