Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Terms of a Contract

Talking with another couple about their house renovation they expressed concern over their contractor and how he has too much of their money and has not been working diligently. While that has happened to me, I certainly have experience on things going wrong with someone working in your home.

Here are some of my tips for setting a contract for home repair/renovation/improvement/etc:

Have each item to be done written on a separate line so everything you discussed is in the contract
I've had a "contract" given to me that says something like "600 feet of flooring to be resurfaced". That doesn't cut it. You need exactly what it to be done explicitly spelled out. So, in the case of the floors being redone you would need to write out the number or square feet, the stain to be used, number of coats of finish, and any other extras like the quarter round etc. This way both of you know exactly how the job will go.

Create a time line (it can be flexible and given a few days/weeks cushion time)
This is a little tricky. But, you want something in there saying it will take X number of days or weeks. You can add a line saying "any additions to the project will extend the length of time to complete" to make sure that you have some wiggly room. But, the idea is that you and the person you hire know when the project should be completed.

Draw a diagram if the work involves building
For our kitchen, I included the diagrams I made using the IKEA software. This shows exactly where all the cabinets needed to go. But, for the fireplace reframing I included pictures of what we wanted it to look like as well as some dimensions. Since you probably won't be hanging around every second while they are working, it helps to have a reference point.

Manage your money
Typically, I do a 1/4 of the total price to start, 1/4 when it's halfway done, 1/4 when it's 3/4 done and I give the last 1/4 after I have done thorough inspection of the project. The exception to this rule is if you need to buy the materials. But, make sure the materials are delivered to your home and stay in your home. This way, if the contractor walks off the job - you still have the items you paid for.

What are your tips for writing a contract?


Anonymous said...

This is really great advice - thank you! We may be starting on a big reno in the next few months so I need all the guidance I can get!

Benny said...


Good luck!


Anonymous said...

I haven't done any reno but reading your suggestions makes me wonder how many people really don't do these types of things? I know based on some past things involving contracts that spelling out everything, clearly protects everyone in the end no matter what type of work it is. Great advice!

Janean said...

Great advice. If you're dealing with an honest contractor, he'll be happy you did that much work & a dishonest guy won't be as quick to do business with you.

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