The Contract (enter Darth Vador theme here)
We're past the 2nd date, You've found your "Sheldon", you've agreed to the marriage, you've finalized the details, you've finalized the price, now it's time to put pen to paper for the pre-nup. This Blog is all about the contract itself. I will explain how I do them, as over the years, I have found my way is straight forward, yet extremely detailed, and leaves no grey areas. Not all contracts will be the same, however I believe the following information is an absolute must for both the contractor and the client to keep all on the same page.
1. Header Info: whether its letter-head or not, each page should have all contact info for the contractor: full name, business name, email, phone, and website address if applicable.
2. Work Line: a simple line dictating the area of renovation: Master Ensuite Renovation, Kitchen, Basement, etc.
3. WDO: now this is something I do that not many do, I call it the Work Detail Outline. This is the bulk of the estimate/contract that explains, step by step, each part of the renovation, right down to the brand of drywall I'm using behind a shower, for example. What I'm using as Sill Gaskets, what brand and R-Value insulation, copper lines, PEX lines, type of paint (always VOC Free for Stanleigh Renovations), fan brands, etc. This way, you know exactly what's behind your walls, and you can use this as a check-list if you'd like to make sure your contractor isn't trying to pull a fast one on you.
4. Time Estimate: using bathrooms as an example, a typical 4-piece from demo to paint is 3-4 weeks, and maybe a another week waiting for the glass or stone vanity top if you've gone custom. I've done in the area of 40 bathrooms so far, and I still can't tell you exactly how many days it takes, as every style and location creates their own timelines, so don't expect a firm time estimate from anyone, but keep on top of things, especially at the 2-week mark.
5. THE Estimate: here's your number, and aside from unforseen circumstances that are out of anyones hands, this number should remain absolutely firm from start to finish, no exceptions, especially in regards to labour costs. Time is money, if a contractor estimates 2-3 weeks, and it takes him 4 while no issues arise, then that's his problem.
Some estimates will include all materials, and some won't, and then there's Sheldon: I include all "non-variable" cost items such as framing, electrical, plumbing, trim, doors, paint, plaster, drywall, permit costs, engineering costs, labour costs, etc. "Variable" cost items are materials that have great cost ranges, things like tiles, custom glass, vanities, carpet, faucets, toilets, etc. Its impossible to figure this out as tiles, for example, range from 50 cents to $100/sq.ft. So make sure that any costs that will be your responsibility are clearly and fully detailed, and noted in the estimate. If you don't see this, inquire, however you'll never have to because you're using me anyway ;)
6. Payment Schedule: Have one, it's that simple, I don't work without them, they are just as important for me to keep the job running smoothly, as they are for you to make sure you don't give a dime until certain job milestones are met. Any job lasting over 5 days should have at least 3 payments, the number and percentage of the payment after this is dependant on the amount materials and labour required at certain points in the project, so it can vary greatly depending on the size and type of project. Here's a typical Stanleigh Renovations basement payment schedule:
First Deposit: 20% of the Estimate, due 10 business days prior to beginning the project.
2nd Payment: 20%, due upon completion of the framing and plumbing
3rd Payment: 25%, due upon completion of electrical, insulation, vapour barrier, and full passed Rough-In Inspections by the city and the ESA.
4th Payment: 25% due upon completion of the drywall installation and all plasterwork
5th Payment: 10% due upon all passed Final Occupancy Inspections, and clients full satisfaction.
(The importance and necessity of the dreaded Permits is the next Blog)
7. Warranty Information: what is covered, to what depth, and for how long? Pretty simple, make sure there's a warranty. Cosmetics such as nail-pops and seam cracks are usually only 1-2 years as they are typical in new construction and renovations in settling homes. Items such as plumbing and electrical, especially when inspected, should be at least 5 years. Personally, I give 5-10 year warranties, but I use Master tradesmen, and I know how to build to make things last.
8. Signatures: make sure the contractor and yourself print your names, give signatures, and dates. Have a PAID/DATE column that you both can initial or sign every time a payment is made.
9. Additional Info: really its miscellaneous and generally a little blip about the company itself, but here's where things that can make the client more comfortable and get to know a little deeper. For example, I list the names of all my trades and labourmen and what they do, so the client never has strangers in their house and everyday they know who is there with me.
10. And we're done! :) Stay tuned for the next one, Blog #5: Permits Are A Girls Best Friend