Feedback on terms of a deck construction contract?

infohound2006March 5, 2010

I'm reviewing a proposed construction contract from someone who comes recommended and seems quite honest and good. Still, some of the legalese has me stumped, and I don't know provisions are standard, and/or what I should ask to have changed. (he said he's willing to make changes).

So here are my questions:

0. What level of drawings should be in the scope of work? Construction drawing? Engineering drawing?

1. Is 24 months a good time period for a warranty on a redwood deck, protecting us against "any patent defect or other faults that may appear"... due to defects in workmanship or materials? , and with exclusions for wear & tear, misuse, neglect, negligence..]

2. What's a patent defect?

3. Should we ask for it to be spelled out what would constitute 'neglect' or 'negligence'? Are there standard meanings for this? Like lack of sealer? Improper drainage causing rot?

4. Is it reasonable for the contractor to "under no circumstanced be responsible for any consequential loss or or damage.

5. Should the contract specify how much workmen's compensation / insurance they will carry? What should it be, [in California]?

6. If the Contractor doesn't work with reasonable diligence, or doesn't complete the work by ______ date, what should we be entitled to?

7. What does this mean? "No relaxation by a party of any of its rights in terms of this agreement at any time shall prejudice or be a waiver of its rights (unless it is a written waiver) and it shall be entitled to exercise its rights hereafter as if such relaxation had not taken place."

8. And, is it assumed, or should the scope of work or contract explicitly specify that the construction will meet / exceed IRB and local code [whether or not we decide to spend the $1-2K for a structural engineering review, and $2-3K for a permit (I value inspections but it feels like highway robbery for a 9. Lastly, I've gotten wildly differing differing estimates for the cost of an engineering review. Do we simply accept the $2K fee that this contractor estimated, or see if we can get the Thanks all!

Hopefully these questions and answers will be useful to others besides me!

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If the two of you agree on most anything in a contract it is legal,sort of.

The drawing should include details of the foundation, framing,deck type and fastening system,railing and baluster placement in other words everything you want to go in the project. It dosent have to be fancy or even to scale as long as both of you agree to it. The permit store will tell you its demands.

Patent and latent defects are normaly terms used when buying homes or com propety. Patent defect means an obvious flaw Latent defects are not so obvious.

Libality insurance covers things out of the contractor's care and keeping. If the Contractor puts a board thru your bay window while building the deck it pays for the repair this sounds like consequentiel to me.But if the Customer just dosent like something about the project its not covered by Libality insur.

The state spells out workers comp requirements,I cary a million five.

If you two agree for a pentley to be paid if a time define is not met,and its not met,you have the stated pentley coming.

Not real sure at all with the relaxation thing, mabey has to do with taking too maney breaks???

The state should give you what they want in a decking project, that is what code they want you to come up to, belive me each area has its own the irb can be diferent things to diferent people. You can go to the permit store and just ask them whither or not you actually get a permit. Man that is one spendy permit!!! You should get all the info you need plus a bag of chips.

Engineering guys working on such a small project can charge what ever they want. If the Contractor handles it he is going to add 10 % or so.

If I had to pay out 2/3 thousand $ on a 700 sq ft outside deck before the work even starts I would move away.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 10:28AM
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Welcome to building in California. :-) I'm not an attorney, but have negotiated a lot of contracts in my day, and I built a deck (though it was DIY) so hopefully I can shed some light.

0. The drawing should include all the details Jon Mon mentioned. You want a set of drawings that has sufficient detail that if the contractor does something different than you were expecting, you can refer to them to decide whether or not he complied with the contract. You don't want to rely on verbal exchanges you had.

1. 24 months sounds like a solid warranty.

2. What John said.

3. Neglect and negligence are common legal terms. No worries about defining them. But it might be worth a conversation with the contractor about his recommendations on the things you should do to avoid being neglectful (that would be care & feeding). Negligent would be doing stupid things, like running a truck into the railings and breaking them.

4. Consequential loss or damage is indirect loss or damage resulting from damage caused by the contractor. For example, if, when digging footings he cuts an electrical line, he would need to repair the electric line but wouldn't have to replace the food in your freezer that thawed while the power was out. I think this is reasonable.

5. Check state law.

6. The best protection is to "underpay" as you go. In other words, have some money in reserve so he's got an incentive to finish. I'd keep final payment at 25% or more. You could build in a penalty for late completion, but you run the risk of him cutting corners to meet the deadline, so it's a fine line to walk. Plus weather and inspections could delay things beyond his control.

7. This means that if one of you agrees to skip a contractual provision once, the other party can't take that as a blanket permission to skip it in the future. As an example, if I've hired a GC to remodel my kitchen and the contract says he's got to leave the place clean at the end of each day, I might go on vacation for a week and say "you don't need to clean up daily while I'm gone" since I won't be living there. When I get back, he can't take the fact that I waived the cleaning requirement once as a precedent that he doesn't need to clean daily anymore. Or your contract might specify payment every Friday, but one Friday it's raining so he doesn't come to work and says it's ok to pay him Monday. You can't switch all your payments to Monday. This is standard stuff, and fine to have in a contract.

8. Definitely put in the verbiage that his work will meet or exceed IRC, CBC, and any local codes. But don't rely on that to ensure compliance. That just gives you teeth if you have to sue him later. It's much better to ensure that it IS compliant when built, and the best way to do that is to have it engineered and inspected. I don't know if CA requires a structural engineering review on a deck, but if they do, then do it. If they don't, and it's just for your peace of mind, a cheaper way to go would be to get to engineer you one. It's $99 and they provide footing placement and diameter, joist sizing, and even a materials list. Great deal, IMO, and I was very happy with their service. On permits/inspections, from someone who paid $100 for my permits for a similar size deck, I agree that $2-3K is highway robbery. But that's California. My company supplies modular elevators all over the country and the ones we ship to California cost ~20% more because of the extra engineering requirements they make us do. Some of it is justified because of the seismic risk, but a lot of it is just bureaucracy. That said, inspections make sure your contractor is doing what he should UP FRONT, and I've heard stories of people having difficulty selling their homes because the buyer finds unpermitted work, or local inspectors making people tear down unpermitted work. It sucks, but that's the price of living in California.

9. Again, it depends, but my company is in the process of hiring a SE in CA to do calcs on a 40 foot high welded steel structure and I estimate our total costs (at $110/hr) will be around $2000. So I'd shop it, if you can't use the option. Or get the drawings and have the SE just do the calcs, which should save some time and $$. Find someone who does a lot of decks so that they're used to them and are thus more efficient.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 9:11AM
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