Homeowner Robin Brusman and her dad Bill Brusman shared their pointers for getting the best results while staying on budget:

• Get at least three bids from different contractors. Ask for references and call homeowners who have had work done by the contractors. Look at completed projects.

• Find a contractor you feel comfortable with, who offers creative ideas to stay within your budget and allows DIY help, if that's your plan. "Be realistic when considering help from friends and family," said Robin. "But you'd be surprised how much people are willing to help, for beer and pizza."

• Don't be afraid to ask for what you want — no matter how crazy it seems. Robin asked for a sliding barn door she'd seen online. But it wouldn't fit — so builder Steve Kruser installed pocket doors.

• Be involved, visit the site every day, and ask your architect to inspect the progress periodically.

• During the design process, set priorities and price options. New granite countertops or new cabinets?

• If you can't afford to do it now — plan for future remodeling phases.

• For guidelines on how to hire the right architect for your project, go to the AIA Minnesota website, www.aia-mn.org.