Make sure you get everything you want and expect—for the price you were promised—by making a clear agreement with the contractor in writing.
Even if you have discussed your project repeatedly with the contractor, the contract must spell out every detail. Even if it takes you a couple of hours, agreeing to exactly what is included and what is not included will eliminate most surprises and disappointments as the job progresses.
- The contractor’s company name, address, telephone number and contractor’s license number.
- Your name and address, and the address of the job site if it’s different from your home.
- The estimated cost of the project.
- A payment schedule that both of you have agreed to. Include the dates payments are due and the amount of each payment, including the deposit.
- A detailed description of the job. List all work to be performed. Describe all material and equipment—including brand name and model number, and note who will provide it: you or the contractor. Include any required drawings or plans, which should be approved and signed by you and the contractor.
- What is not included. If you’re having your house painted but you don’t want to take the clothes out of your closets, for example, state in the contract that the painter should not paint closet interiors.
- Your signature and the contractor’s signature. Include the date. The completion date.
Every time you or the contractor makes a change, write it down and put both of your signatures on it. Every time you make a payment, get a written receipt. (Pay by check or credit card, never with cash.) Keep a copy of all e-mails, notes, memos and drawings.
This might seem like a lot of record-keeping, but it will come in handy if anything goes wrong on the job. A contractor who is a good businessman also will insist on signed paperwork.