You have planned and budgeting for a great home improvement project. You are excited for your new kitchen, bathroom or deck. But you are not looking forward to finding, hiring and managing a contractor to do the work. Once you hire a local Anchorage contractor, a good contract will help keep your project on track and help you make sure you are getting the work you pay for:
The most important component of any contract with an Anchorage builder, remodeler or handyman is a budget that both parties understand and agree to. Ask your contractor to list labor and materials charges separately, so you know exactly what you are paying. Some contractors will allow you to purchase your own materials, which will often save you at least 10% or more. Be sure the contractor is charging you by the task, not by the day or hour. Contractors who charge based on time usually end up costing 20-25% more than those who charge by the project. You end up paying for multiple trips to the hardware store, travel time, breaks and unexpected delays. Paying based on the task rather than time gives you a more solid expectation of cost and doesn’t leave you at the mercy of the contractor’s speed of completion. While some deposit or advance for materials is normal, never pay 100% of the cost up front. Instead, set benchmarks for payment, usually at 25%, 50%, 75% and final completion. Hold back at least 10% of the payment until the project is completely finished and all debris is removed. Once you make the final payment, you’ll have no leverage to compel your contractor to finish the project, so don’t make final payment until you are 100% satisfied.
Before signing any contract, make sure it accurately and completely outlines the scope of work your contractor is supposed to complete. This scope of work description should include a general description of the project. For example, the goal might be to “build a new screened porch and deck on the back of the house.” Within that project, you also want to be specific about the new screened porch and deck, including dimensions, types of materials used, design and color. Be sure the contract also includes a clean-up protocol. Are you responsible for providing a dumpster or cleaning up debris or will your contractor remove all materials when the project is completed? A detailed scope of work will minimize confusion or disagreements about your expectations as the project progresses. It will also help you measure your contractor’s completion.
Every contract should also have a “change” clause, which outlines how changes to the scope of work can be made. The most important part of a change clause is the requirement that any changes to the scope of work, cost or other contract elements must be written and both parties must sign and date the changes. If your contractor verbally says he can change a component for just an extra $50, write or type out that change, include the full revised budget and sign the change before allowing your contractor to change the work plan. A verbal change in the scope of work almost always ends up costing the homeowner more than the verbal agreement. To protect yourself, make sure any changes in the project are in writing and signed by your contractor.
Anyone who has had a project drag on for months knows the importance of a timeline and project end date. Most contractors hate deadlines because they are often working on multiple projects at the same time. But, you absolutely have the right to include a timeline and project end date in your contract. Be reasonable when establishing the timeline, allowing delays for material delivery, unexpected problems and weather if the project is outside. You may want to also include bonuses if your contractor finishes on time or before the project end date and/or penalties if your contractor goes past the project end date.
This last element is one of the most overlooked elements in a contract: your contractor’s full name, physical address, phone number, email, contractor license number, and any other contact details. So many people sign a contract with someone who only provides a name and email. If the agreement is breached and the contractor runs off with your money, you need a physical address and several contact options to track down your money and materials. Never sign a contract with anyone who won’t give you proof of a physical address (driver’s license, contractor’s license, etc).
A home improvement project can be an exciting endeavor for a homeowner. But, hiring and managing a contractor can be a nightmare. With a solid contract, you can mitigate many of the problems that arise when your contractor doesn’t perform up to standard.
Be Happy Property Services provides Anchorage Alaska Handyman Services, General Contractor, Landscaping and Lawn Care Service and Excavation Services in Anchorage, Alaska. We are happy to provide you a cost estimate on your next project. We are proud Alaskans and our work shows the value we have in our community. Give us a call today to discuss your next project. 907.336.7434 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.