Eliminate Surprises by Clearly Defining the Job
A major remodel is a big event for most families, and may be an even bigger financial investment. So it's no wonder that when it comes to getting their home remodeled, no one likes surprises. One way to avoid upset and frustration during the project is with a well-crafted contract. The contract is the document that spells out the detail and helps set expectations for both remodeler and client -- it's the roadmap that defines the destination, describes the detail of how the project will proceed, and steers everyone clear of obstructions and delays.
The contract is crafted so that it protects both remodeler and client, and clarifies everything about the job. It is organized into a number of sections, including information about the project, permits, contractor insurance, project timetables, and payment schedules.
While all of these details are important, most remodelers find that if conflicts arise during the project, they're usually caused by misunderstandings over the "who, what, and how" of the job. An effective contract works to clarify these issues.
Who makes the decisions?
This should be one person -- for instance, the husband or wife, but not both -- who will act as the remodeler's main contact for approvals, changes, and questions. Having one homeowner representative helps eliminate confusion and makes communication more efficient.
What, exactly, is the client buying?
The project description defines exactly what the homeowners will be getting for their money. The more detail the better. Most contracts accomplish this by referencing the project plans and specifications.
The plans are the visual description of the finished project, and include floor plans, drawings, and all electrical and mechanical systems. The plans should note who prepared them and when they were signed. They should also have gotten all necessary approvals -- for instance, from the building department and the zoning board.
The specifications, or "specs," are the written description of what will be done. They list all items that will be installed to complete the project. Depending on the project and scope of work, they may include specifics about carpeting, flooring, door hardware, and light fixtures; the model numbers of kitchen appliances, furnaces, and water heaters; and the brands and colors of paint and roof shingles. The project budget is based in part on the specs, so the clients should study these carefully to confirm that they understand what they are getting before signing the contract.
How will discretionary funds be allocated?
Discretionary funds include allowances and change orders. It's important that both be crystal clear.
Allowances cover parts of the job that have yet to be fully specified.
The contract should also clearly explain the remodeler's change-order policy, including what types of changes can be made at each stage of the project, who can sign off on changes (the owner and contractor reps), and the administrative cost for preparing change orders. It's in everyone's interest for even small changes to be documented in writing.
A contract that clearly defines the details goes a long way toward steering the project clear of the most common minefields. This will help ensure that the homeowners get the result they want, on the timetable and for the price they were expecting.
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