Before starting any project, you will need make sure that you and your contractor are on the same page. We will discuss the questions you should ask and which answers are a must to get in writing.
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When signing a contract for a remodeling project, there are a number of details that are sometimes forgotten. Make sure to ask these questions and make sure they are included in your contract to avoid miscommunication and potential liability. Read more questions to ask your contractor during the interview process here.
- What is my total project cost and what does this include? -Your contract should spell out exactly what work is being completed and where. It also should list what materials are and are not included in this price. Don’t expect your kitchen cabinets, appliances, and hardware to be included in your labor costs, for example. It is common, however, for labor to include basic supplies, such as caulking and screws. If major items are included, make sure that the brand, model, finish and size are specified. You wouldn’t want to end up with a budget faucet instead of the name brand you were expecting. Read more about budgeting and what it entails, here. Which brings us to our next question:
- Does my project total include a contingency fund and how will it be dispersed?– Is there already an amount set aside for the unexpected or for additional materials (think an extra bag of grout, not a sink)? If not, how much should be set aside and how will your contractor have access to these funds? Will you set up an account he or she will have access to at the local hardware store? (A trustworthy contractor should be more than willing to give you a heads up if they need to exceed a pre-specified amount.) Will you need to reimburse your contractor after the fact? In all cases, get receipts and don’t be afraid to ask questions as to where or how items were used. Most project bids will include a small material contingency fund to avoid the homeowner needing to be involved if they need to run out for an additional stick of trim.
- What labor is NOT included in my project? -There may be some parts of the project that were discussed, but ultimately were decided to hold off until a later time. There also may be exceptions to parts of the project. Make sure these are part of your contract to avoid confusion later. For example: Wall board to be replaced on west wall of kitchen, all other walls to be patched only.
- Is there a payment schedule?– Your contract should spell out exactly what amounts should be paid and when. It is common on larger projects to pay in stages throughout the project. For example: X amount to be paid within 48 hours of rough plumbing and electrical completion. Never agree to a payment schedule that wants the final payment before the job is completed. Check local laws as there may be limits to be followed.
- Is there a cancellation fee?– Emergencies do come up. Make sure you are clear in advance what fees will be accessed. In most states, you are legally required three business days to cancel your contract without penalty. Check your state laws and make sure this right is stated in your contract. There should also be language listing when either party may cancel the contract without fees. An example would be if the contractor fails to complete the job within the timeline without reasonable cause or if you fail to make your payments to the schedule.
- When will the project start and when is the estimated completion date?– You should receive a firm start date for your project as well as an estimated timeline for each stage of completion. Keep in mind that with any project, things can and will come up. Your contractor should be willing to give you daily project progress updates and legitimate reasons if delays occur.
- Will I have final say over my project plans and who is responsible for accuracy? -You should expect to be able to have say over the final plans and details of your project. That being said, you are not the professional and it is perfectly reasonable to expect your contractor to be responsible for final accuracy. This should also include financial responsibility to correct any mistakes. You should not have to pay for another cabinet if the size was specified and ordered incorrectly by the contractor.
- Who will have access to my home and when?– Make sure your contract states the agreed upon time of day in which work will be completed as well as how the job site will be accessed. Will you meet with the job foreperson at every morning to give access and again at lunch and end of day? Will the foreperson have a key to your home so that they can leave and secure the property as needed? Will they be on site at all times that work is being completed to supervise workers and subcontractors? You should also consider a daily, not to exceed, ending time as well as if work is expected or allowed on weekends. For example: Work not to exceed the hours of 7 am to 7 pm, Monday through Friday.
- In what condition will the job site be left on a daily basis and at the end of the project?– It is unreasonable to expect a total cleaning every evening, this is a job site after all. It is important to spell out though, if you would like areas outside of the main work zone, such as the yard to be picked up each evening. At the end of your project will they do a thorough deep cleaning of the space, or just a sweep and a quick wipe down?
- How will debris removal be handled?-Will there be a dumpster parked in your driveway? If so, for how long and how often will it be emptied?
- Who will be responsible for getting permits and any needed inspections?– Your contractor should be the one responsible for these things. Get it in writing as it could be a red flag if they refuse.
- How will changes to the contract be handled?– It is a good idea to require any changes to be written and signed. Be prepared for material and labor costs, and possibly your timeline to change. This is especially true if you keep making changes to the project after it begins. Ideally these change orders should be kept to a minimum and only used if the unforeseen should arise.
- How will any disagreements be handled?– It is a good idea to include an arbitration agreement in your contract to be able to avoid costly court fees if the need arises. If your contractor specifies a particular arbitrator in their contract, make sure to do your homework before signing.
- What warranty do I have on the work?– You should have at least a year warranty on any labor and materials provided under the contract. Make sure the amount of time is specified as well as the name, address, and phone number of the person or company who will uphold the warranty. Make sure to read the fine print and all stipulations. Do not sign anything that has unreasonable limits.
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These are items that, while can be included in your contract, are not usually necessary. They are however, important discussions to have so that everyone is on the same page.
- Who can I contact for updates or emergencies?– You should be provided with a daily contact person as well as an emergency contact if you happen to get a water is leak in the middle of the night.
- Who will be on site overseeing daily operations?– You should have the contact information for this person and they should be reasonably available during normal work hours.
- What facilities will your work crew need?-Will they need an outdoor area, garage space, or an adjacent room to work? Access to a garden hose? Will a restroom need to be available or will there be a port-o-potty brought on site?
- Will they need special parking access?– There may be instances that they may need to have close parking available for deliveries, etc.. How will this be handled? It is a good idea to discuss parking in general especially if your neighborhood has limited availability, restrictions, or requires permits.
- How will the rest of your home be protected during construction?– Have your contractor explain how and when the work areas will be sealed off to protect the rest of your home. Dust is very hard to escape during remodeling. Your contractor should be sealing off vents and doorways in the work space. It is a good idea to turn off any ventilation systems, if possible, during construction. Be prepared to change your air filter more often during, and the months following, your project. Even if the space is properly sealed, be prepared for an unusual amount of dust in your home, especially in adjoining rooms.
- What else will you need or should I be aware of?– This is a great question to ask to make sure there isn’t anything you are overlooking. Even if you are not a stranger to a large remodel project, there may be something specific to your particular project that is unusual.
As you can see, there are a number of discussions that need to be had before your project even begins. By making sure that everyone involved is on the same page and is protected under the contract, you are more likely to insure the success of your project.