The Biggest Mistake You Will Make in a Renovation Contract

Negotiating a fair renovation contract can minimize the stress of your project. Even the smoothest, speediest projects disrupt your daily life. Protect yourself with a solid contract. The biggest mistake I see made over and over is when FINAL construction documents are not included as part of the contract.

Your construction contract will reference the drawings as an attachment or addendum. Make sure the FINAL construction documents are the ones referenced. One easy way to define the correct set of plans is to reference the issue date.

Why this is important?

Most times in a project we get contractors involved prior to final drawings being complete. We do this on purpose because we want to have a check on price. Nobody (especially a good architect) wants to get through the entire design process only to find they are way over budget. An easy way to head this off is to ask a trusted contractor to take a look and give you a ball park price. Easy, right?

The problem is your contractor -- who is just trying to be thorough -- passes out the preliminary drawings to his sub contractors. At first, this sounds great and you get a good solid ball park price. You proceed, finish the construction documents and hire that same contractor.

Here’s the catch: The contract is written based on the price quoted from the preliminary drawings. If the newly issued FINAL construction documents are not re-bid to the sub contractors, you are hiring the contractor based on old drawings.

Change Orders

If your FINAL construction documents are not part of your contract and the contract is based on preliminary design, all of the time, money, hard decisions and revisions you made with your architect in the final push of construction documents goes up in smoke. Each change from the preliminary drawings the contractor based his price on becomes a change order. Those cost you money and heartache. I’ve seen it. You don’t want that.

Bonus Tip

Don’t let your construction contract be one-sided. If it is important to you, put it in the contract and make it the contractor’s responsibility. Want the new floor level to match existing? Write it down. Want new materials to match existing? Write it down. You are not a jerk for stating these things. Assuming is NOT safe. Write it all down. There may come a day when you are happy you did.

What kind of renovation experiences have you had? Share your story so others can duplicate your success or learn from your mistakes!

- Sheri

As Founder and Principal Architect of Springhouse Architects, Sheri’s mission is to lead Clients through the building process with the Clients in control and Springhouse as their guide, advocate and ally.  With over twenty years experience in Residential Architecture, Sheri brings knowledge and confidence to your custom home project.

Lisa Saldivar