I pride myself on being a good listener. But the whole time my clients were describing the extensive remodel planned for their 1950s cape, I kept thinking, "If I get this job, I have to get started soon so I can take my family camping."

We'd been planning the trip for more than a year, but there was no way I could leave an extensive remodel in limbo for the two-and-a-half weeks I'd be gone — especially a job that involved ripping off the house's sloped-ceiling second floor and replacing it with a full second story. Obviously, getting the roof off and back on again as quickly as...

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