Plan your Project Carefully
Consider your budget. Find pictures, styles, and products you like and write down brand names and models. Show them to your contractor. “High quality faucets” may mean something different to you and your contractor. Talk about what you like and do not like. Get accurate plans or blueprints. Study them carefully to make sure they show your project accurately. Approve the completed plans before the work begins. Since you are not the builder, ensure the builder obtains a building permit when required.
Protect Yourself with a Written Contract
Although not required, it is a good idea to have an agreement in writing. Your contractor’s understanding of what you are asking him to do may not be the same as what you want. A written contract should state clearly exactly what work needs to be accomplished, see below for a list. Specifics help you achieve what you want and limit the possibility of misunderstanding.
Basic Items to Include in a Construction Contract
- Exactly what work will be done
- A list of materials to be used (quality, quantity, color, size, model numbers and brand names).
- A list of “allowance” items and the budgeted amount. An allowance is a specific amount of money to buy something that has not yet been selected. When selections (for example, lighting/plumbing fixtures, flooring, etc.) exceed the allowance, the homeowner pays the additional amount. When they are less than the allowance, a refund is given.
- A list of permits needed and who will obtain them. (It should be the licensed contractor.)
- A project starting date and a completion date. You might add a penalty clause if the work is not completed on time.
- The total price, including tax.
- A payment schedule. Be careful about paying in full for something up front, consider partial payments upon completion of portions of the work.
- A list detailing what the contractor will and will not do, as well as any project aspect that you’ve agreed to take care of as the client.
- Warranties and guarantees of workmanship, length of warranty, and what is and is not covered.
- The contractor’s license number.
- Everything else you feel is important (specific products, complete clean-up and removal of debris, workday restrictions, special requests, etc.
Make sure you understand what the contract does and does not cover. Do not sign the contract unless you fully understand everything. Ask questions. CID cannot become involved in contractual disputes. Generally, the more detailed a contract is, the fewer the problems that will come up later.
How to Work With Your Contractor
Document Changes in Writing
People change their minds during a building project. If changes are made at the right time, the cost and length of the job may not be affected. Delay, however, can mean costly changes. For remodeling and new home projects, allow at least a 10 percent increase for changes from the contract. If changes in the plans or contract occur during the project, put them in writing as amendments to the contract, including any differences in cost. Both you and the contractor should sign the change orders. Change orders can be a major source of misunderstandings and cost overruns.
Talk to your contractor during the project. Many disputes happen because people fail to communicate at every step of the project. If in doubt, talk it out. There are no stupid questions you can ask your contractor.
Always expect a list of references, and call them to make sure you are hiring the right company. Some questions to ask:
Suggested topics when contacting references:
1. Quality of craftsmanship
2. Level of customer service
3. Our response to any problem/issues, including warranty work
4. Cleanliness of the site and respect for the client’s space
5. Our teams’ overall ability to care for the project and relationship with the client
6. Billing was as agreed in the contract, draw schedule and any change orders