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The Inside Outside Guys ~ Contract Basics

From The Detroit News | By Ken Calverley and Chuck Breidenstein

DETROIT, February 3, 2023 ~ Don’t sign that contract for home improvements! Not yet anyway. It is good that you are being offered a written contract since it is required by law, but we see lots of errors and mistakes in these documents and thought it might be timely to offer some tips on what to look for.

Keep in mind we are not attorneys offering legal advice. When you do consult an attorney regarding a home improvement project, do so before you commit to anything and consult with a legal advisor that knows and understands the construction industry. We have a few that we trust for referral if you ever have the need.


January 29, 2023 ~ Chuck “The Inside Guy” Breidenstein and Ken “The Outside Guy” Calverly offer the knowledge and resources you need to make the home of your dreams a reality. Catch them every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon on 760 WJR.

(CONTINUED) That being said, there are some things that you should keep in mind as you move forward with projects whether they are needed or discretionary.

Most proposals submitted are lump sum contracts, where all necessary labor and materials are included in the figure indicated. The buyer is effectively purchasing the finished product according to the terms of the written agreement. The contractor should provide all required permits and take responsibility for completion of the work according to code and law.

To begin, how did you find the contractor you are talking with? We cannot say enough about the value of a strong referral. As important as it is to have a great company with good product, keep in mind the real measure of a company is how they handle problems. Ours is a high-touch industry. People are required at every step and every person has an occasional bad day.

When that happens and some part of the work is not performed as well as it should have been, how is the company going to handle it? Who will you call and talk with regarding the issue?

Good companies will tell you and put in writing that you should call them as soon as you know or suspect there is a problem and they will personally pursue the issue to a satisfactory resolution. Good companies will encourage and initiate regular communication.

This “first person warranty,” as we call it, should be in writing, easily understood and integrated into the contract you are offered. You should not be handed off from a selling company to an installing company to a manufacturer to a warranty enforcement company.

The written agreement you sign should be very clear regarding what, exactly, the contractor will do and what they will provide. Materials that will be provided are what we call specifications or specs. You should not expect a price or quantitative breakdown on materials, but you should have an indication of the type of product proposed.

Where on the job site will materials be staged and stored? Who is responsible for delivered materials? It is typical for the contracting company to sign for all delivered product and provide safe and protected storage. It should be assumed that quantities are sufficient to fulfill the intent of the contract, but a contractor may have extra materials delivered to the jobsite. In a lump sum contract, these materials belong to the contractor, not the homeowner.

If demolition or removal of existing materials is required, is it included in the proposal along with proper disposal of debris? We have seen situations where material from a demolition was improperly disposed of, and the original owner was held accountable. Equally important, the writing should include items that are not part of the work proposed and what your obligations might include.

Who will provide needed water, electricity, parking or bathroom facilities? Will landscape items including grass and concrete be protected and returned to pre-construction condition?

Does the contract address start and stop times for work or what days of the week workers might be engaged on the project? How will workers gain access to the site and is there dedicated parking for workers?

Qualitative standards should not be assumed and they can be reduced to writing and adopted into the contract for everything from trim to foundation walls. What is an acceptable joint in that door casing – 1/8 inch gap, or 1/16 or 1/32 of an inch? The contract should say it.

The agreement should include total dollars committed and at what stage they will be dispersed. Large deposits should not be required unless special order materials unique to the job need to be ordered. Hiring a contractor can be a daunting task. Hiring the wrong contractor can be a nightmare.

Deal with people that know all of the things we have discussed here. Professionals. Like those you can find every day at InsideOutsideGuys.com.


For housing advice and more, listen to “The Inside Outside Guys” every Saturday and Sunday on 760 WJR from 10 a.m. to noon, or contact them at InsideOutsideGuys.com.