What should I look for in a remodeling contract? Legally, what should it contain?
The contents of the contract package you receive could make the difference between a pleasant remodeling experience and a nightmare. All remodeling contracts should contain the obvious: the contract page (where you sign), plans (if applicable), and specifications (description of work to be done). Many contractors also attach their “terms and conditions” of the contract, which really get down to specific details pertaining to the contracting business. And yes, there are also some legalities which by law must be communicated to you through the contract.
The contract page (usually the front page) should list the contractors name, your name & address, a reference to the fact that it is in conjunction with the plans and/or specifications, the lien law paragraph, the price, and a place for all parties to sign and date. The plans should be professional in appearance including a floor plan, and drawings of the exterior (if applicable), and in some cases the interior (such as a cabinet layout), so you will get some idea of how the project will look when completed. The specifications should be very detailed and spell out all materials and labor you will receive. All plumbing fixtures, windows, roofing, cabinetry, light fixtures, Etc., should be listed by name brand and model. This is the only way you will know exactly what you are getting. If you (the owner) will be performing any of the work, the specs should also list those areas in detail.
The terms and conditions are probably the most complex portion of a remodeling contract, and also the hardest for the consumer to read and understand. But they are as important as the front page. Because of the lengthy description it would take to describe terms and conditions, I will leave that for another column. Legally, the contractor must notify you of their lien rights on the front page of the contract in no smaller than 8 point bold capital type.
The contractor should also attach a current certificate of insurance to the contract with the homeowners name on it. This document discloses the contractors insurance coverage’s. At a minimum, It should list their liability policy, and if the contractor has any employees, their workers compensation policy.
Many larger contractors also have an “umbrella” policy which would provide additional funds in the event of a catastrophic loss. Your remodeling contract is the most important step in assuring that you know who you are dealing with and what you are paying for. The more detailed, the better.
If your remodeling contract is poorly written with little attention to detail, chances are that description will also fit the finished product.
Answered by: Patrick Benkowski, CR
President – Roadrunner Custom Remodeling Inc.