Create a paper trail
Every piece of renovation work should be documented, either in formal or in casual terms, such as an email. This process should be straightforward and does not need to be labour intensive. The terms of reference should include, at minimum:
What will be done and what is expected?
As the homeowner you should write what you want do, not necessarily how it is to be done. Perhaps half a dozen bullet points for an average renovation, more for a major one. Templates are available to guide you on this. Describing what needs to be done is called a “requirement”. Documenting how it is to be done is called a “specification”. For the most part, homeowners should focus on writing “requirements” and not “specifications”.
When is the work to start and when is it expected to be finished?
Ideally a level of effort — in days of effort and not duration — should be established so that the entire process is transparent making sure that there is no perception of cash grabs or being taken advantage of.
What is the price for the job?
The full amount should include all taxes as well as any material costs. The homeowner should not have any surprises or any extra charges, for example, disposal.
Who is going to do the work?
You should insist on knowing who the work is going to be carried out by. Make sure you know their name, so you can check references. Be wary of having a master craftsman subcontract all the work to someone, possibly of a different level of expertise. You don’t want to be told, “it’s not my fault,” if the subcontractor doesn’t deliver.
How long should the paperwork be?
The entire agreement can be written on as little as two pages. While it would be nice to have the contractor write up these terms of reference, more often than not, this is not a standard business practice on their part. It may simply be easier for the homeowner to write the forms.
Remember practice makes perfect. The first few could be painful, however, with time, you will learn what to write and how best to write it. Standard clauses can be added as can excerpts from other contracts.
By Aex Beraskow