Renovation contracts: the painful “extras”
Renovation work often produces many annoyances. The dust, noise and the dizzying comings and goings of strangers is often added to the discovery of unforeseen problems and occasional delays in executing work.
Once the work is over, you may think you’re at the end of your misery. But the arrival of a bill exceeding the estimated cost always creates a brutal shock, even if the contractor is able to justify every last dollar leading to the discrepancy.
Could things go differently? Perhaps. Even if nothing can be done to prevent bad luck, it is possible to avoid any number of nasty surprises by not leaving everything to chance through the proper negotiation of your renovation contract.
Not included, poorly planned, hidden…
It should first be understood that the “extras,” a common term for work not initially set out in the renovation contract, result from various situations that are more or less controllable. These result from factors such as:
- work added while the job is in progress;
- faults that were not apparent and could not be detected without destructive testing, even by an experienced professional (for example, rot affecting parts of the framing in an enclosed area);
- a misunderstanding about the scope of the job (e.g., whether it included replacing woodworkAny joinery work or wooden lining, in particular on the walls. damaged when replacing windows) or on the very nature of the job (e.g., imported faucets that were tougher to install than common products);
- poor planning (forgotten items);
- deliberately incomplete specifications in order to submit a lower bid and grab the contract (the contractor) or to obtain a lower price (the client).
In some of these cases, more detail in the discussions that precede the awarding of the contract and closer monitoring of the job as it proceeds may help eliminate many of the unknown factors likely to cause disappointment, dissatisfaction or even legal action.
The key: foreseeing the unforeseeable
In addition to the traditional recommendation of adding about 15% to the initial budget, there are several ways to protect yourself within renovation contracts against the almost inevitable unforeseen costs and to get a clearer idea of the final bill.
Before the start of work:
- Request detailed bids so that you can see what is covered by one contractor or another; remember that an absence of detail is often the weak link in a contract;
- Specify what you expect regarding even the smallest aspects of the work to be done;
- Insist that the work and the quality of the proposed materials (paint, woodworkAny joinery work or wooden lining, in particular on the walls., locks, etc.) be set out clearly in the contract; you must know and understand what will be done and get a guarantee that the contractor will meet your expectations;
- Demand a clause in the contract stipulating that any modification in the plans and specifications or any additional (extra) work must be authorized in writing by the owner (or a representative); if need be, the terms of invoicing must also be specified;
- If the job is substantial, consult an experienced person before giving the go-ahead.
During the work:
- Follow the progress of the work closely but diplomatically: ask questions such as, “Is everything going as expected?” or “No nasty surprises up to now?”;
- Keep things under control: make sure that any extra hours worked or any surplus material used is approved systematically with a signature, on a daily basis, using a separate statement; the hourly rate or the unit price (e.g., $2.50 per square foot) for these overruns should be specified on this work statement if it has not already been done in the contract.