We could write a small book on how to find, qualify, interview, reference-check and write contracts with contractors. But a lot of people already have. So we won’t re-write it all here. Rather, you can check out the sources listed in our Resources section.
Two of the best resources are:
1. The Home Owners Guide posted at the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) Web site. You can find it at www.nari.org/level2/homeowners.
2. The materials posted at the National Association of home Builders (NAHB) Web site at www.nahb.org. (Look under Resources … For Consumers … Remodeling Your Home)
For convenience—and because it is so important—we have reproduced content from the NAHB article entitled Understanding Your Remodeling Contract below:
Once you’ve picked a remodeler, no work should begin until you have reviewed and signed a written agreement or contract that spells out in detail the what, where, how, time span, and cost of your project.
What should your contract include?
- The contractor’s name, address, telephone number, and license number (if applicable).
- A visual representation – blueprint, floor plan, sketches – that shows what the remodeler will do and where.
- The timetable for the project, including a guaranteed start date and a guaranteed completion date as well as a financial remedy if they exceed their delivery date.
- The price and payment schedule.
- Detailed specifications for all products and materials. The description of each item should provide enough detail to clearly identify it, such as the brand name, model number, color, and size. This section of the contract may also describe any materials to be selected later, who will choose them, and the amount of money (called an allowance) set aside to pay for each item.
- Information on who will obtain and pay for necessary permits and other approvals.
- Insurance information.
- The procedures for handling change orders.
- Lien releases to ensure that you are not held liable for any third-party claims of nonpayment.
- Provisions for conflict resolution in the event of a contract dispute.
- Notice of your right under the FTC’s Cooling Off Rule to cancel the contract within three days if it was signed someplace other than the remodeler’s place of business.
- Details on issues like access to your home, care of the premises, phone and bathroom use, and cleanup and trash removal.
Once you have read your contract carefully, review it with your remodeler to clarify any wording that you may not understand. If you still have questions after this meeting, you should discuss them with your attorney. When all your questions have been answered, you’re ready to sign the contract. Many competent architect/designers provide estimate review services as well as consulting.