"We actually increased our business with the downturn."– Zak Fleming, Fleming Construction LLC
"We actually increased our business with the downturn."
– Zak Fleming, Fleming Construction LLC

When it comes, let the home building boom begin without him.

Zak Fleming is a master electrician who decided 11 years ago to start a home remodeling business.

Fleming Construction LLC has prospered through the recession and continues to do a steady business, keeping four employees and another 20 subcontractors busy on jobs ranging from a total overhaul to a bathroom remodel.

Not bad for someone who learned the remodeling trade on the fly.

“I had some building experience, but this was my first experience at running a construction business,” he said.

He has noticed that more people are entering the remodeling segment, but Fleming and Creighton Cox, executive director of the Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines, have words of caution for home builders who think they might want to fend off the chill of a slow recovery by dabbling in renovations.

“The business plans of each are vastly different,” Cox said. “A builder might underbid a remodel; a remodeler might underbid a new construction.”

Fleming noted that all of his subcontractors also specialize in remodeling.

“A lot of remodelers are dedicated to the industry,” he said. “The margins are different; it’s just a different industry. … Although I’m sure my guys could build houses.”

The key change that Fleming has noticed over the years is that clients are becoming more cost conscious.

“I spend a lot of time meeting with clients, making sure they understand the budget, can stay within budget and know what they want,” Fleming said. “If not, people would rack up huge amounts of change orders. People are more realistic; we don’t go crazy with budgets.”

A bathroom remodel can cost $8,000 to $12,000. A kitchen can run from $25,000 to $125,000. The average job costs around $50,000.

And the recession and recovery have not caused a slowdown.

Fleming said he has sharpened his pencil a little when bidding a job, but, he added, “We actually increased our business with the downturn.”