Excited to see an unexpected set of plans in the mail, I ignored the accompanying cover letter and took a quick look. The plans showed a nearly round addition to an elegant 1888 Victorian that would enclose a new window-filled dining area. They also called for a gut and remodel of the kitchen and adjoining bath downstairs, and a new master bathroom upstairs.

After reading the accompanying project documents more carefully, I realized that there were a lot of details that would make bidding difficult — but my main concern was the dining room. Could we build it without losing our shirts in the process? Eager to get this interesting project, my partner and lead carpenter Danny DoCouto pointed out that...

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