Close to signing construction agreement. What do I need to know?

revjulieAugust 19, 2014

We have been fine-tuning the plan with our contractor, but I am sure there are things we haven't thought of. What do you wish you had worked out before signing on the dotted line? What do I need to ask before we hand over the first check?

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On my kitchen remodel, I made a lot of mistakes. I wish I had worked out the following:
1) I wish I had insisted that the plans go through the city for permits - that would have prevented problem #2 below

2) I wish I had asked the knucklehead who did the work to show me paperwork with his contractor's license number on it. I think the only license he had was to drive a truck. He was recommended by the Kitchen Designer and I thought he worked for the KD company - not so.

3) The first check should be for no more than 20% deposit.

4) I wish I had asked the KD more questions about the cabinets I was ordering. I thought they were custom-made cabinets, all wood, and built locally. Only the cabinet doors were wood and they were built at a factory in Canada, over 1000 miles away. I could have had custom-built, wood cabinets made locally, for the same price.

5) I wish I had been presented with a 3-D representation of my kitchen plans - then I would have realized that the placement of the refrigerator partially blocked the natural light coming in from one window.

6) I wish I'd had a firm schedule, showing when construction would start, when appliances needed to be delivered, when countertops needed to be selected, and when construction would be competed. My demo was started July 20, 2012. Cabinets were delivered August 18. Countertops were installed Sept 5. Appliances were delivered Sept 24. I spent Oct - Dec hiring people to fix the things the knucklehead had messed up.

7) I wish I'd had a commitment that once work started on my project, that the work would continue at a steady pace, not a few hours here and there.

8) I wish I'd had clear communication on how mistakes would be corrected. For example, the pantry cabinet had a huge gouge in the back. The knucklehead said he wasn't sure if it had been delivered that way, or if he had damaged it when removing it from the cardboard container. Instead of sending it back to Canada, he choose to "repair it," knowing it would be another 12 weeks before a new cabinet could be delivered. Another example is that the KD and knucklehead disagreed on why the cabinets next to the sink were off-center - knucklehead said he was following the plans the KD drew - KD said knucklehead was supposed to adjust when he installed the cabinets, even if she measured wrong.

9) I wish I had given myself two weeks extra to look at the plans before signing off - I wanted the work finished by Thanksgiving (I started plans in April). I was driven by an artificial date - which was not met.

  1. I wish I had asked more questions about windows and recessed lighting. For example, I wish I had changed the garden window over my sink to a better quality window. KD said to leave it as is. It's fine - but could have been better - would be more costly to change it now.

I'm about to embark on another major remodel in same home - hope I can follow my own advice.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 10:43PM
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Not sure where you are, but In California the maximum down payment is $1000.00, or 10% of the total contract price, whichever is less.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 11:12PM
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Given what the author describes and others in this forum have experienced, does anyone know where you can find a good example for a kitchen remodel contract?

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 11:56PM
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Define the scope of the project in detail.
Write out all that you want included-demo, installing cabinets, hardware, electrical, plumbing, flooring, painting, finishing touches.
For instance-Are you taking down walls?-then have them include moving electrical and plumbing that is on the wall. It seems obvious-We thought it was included but were surprised when it was not. Installing light fixtures-make sure you define what, where, how many. If you have new room doors being put in, find out if they supply the hardware or you do. Painting the areas of construction-some contractors just specify spackle, tape and prime and leave the painting to HOs. Specify all the materials you have to/or want to provide.
Just include as much detail as you can. We thought we did but obviously there were gaps-especially in the electrical stuff.
Good Luck!

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 12:35PM
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Yes, I have to reinforce that something that may seem obviously part of the job to you, may not be so to the contractor, especially if it costs him time or money for materials! So if you are having him install the new stove, for example, will you supply the new gas supply line or will he? or the new line for the frig's icemaker?

Permits to be pulled, work to be done by licensed person (sometimes the GC will have 'jacks-of-all-trades' do the work under his license, which might be okay if he is physically there supervising). Of course, this requirement adds to the bottom line.

Definitely have a line item for each component of the job, as specific as you can be. How many GFCIs and where? Multiple switches for the lights or only one? Will there be a phone outlet, where and sited near an electrical outlet, spaced how far from it? Will your old exterior hood vent be reused or a new one installed? Will there be some insulation or sealant around openings in the walls and what kind? (my GC didn't put anything behind the new hood, or around the windows and, and I had to address the very noticeable cold drafts). What style trim around the windows? What style baseboard, quarter round or not; are you removing layers of flooring so that the old door casings/trim will need to be restored or replaced? Who will remove the wallpaper? Who will purchase the fixtures/flooring/paint?

How will dust be controlled from demo and sanding, and who will be responsible for cleanup.

Smoking on the premises.

Try to decide and inform the GC in writing about other small details, such as the color and style of switches and outlets or where you want the undercabinet lights (front or rear) and the orientation of the outlets. If the style that you want isn't cost neutral to the GC you will have to plan for it in advance.

Just know that with that level of detail, any changes may be a problem.

So try to address in advance with the GC how changes will be handled; for example if you decide that another light is needed or some specified work item is going to be deleted. GC's will generally address additions but not subtractions.

If he is using any subcontractors, for example for granite installation, the standard of the install that you want to be met -- seam, gaps, caulking, how is sink secured.

Oh, and make sure that any drawings that you have given him are exactly how you want things: I was surprised to learn that the crew was using the cabinet placement sketch as a guide to placement of handles which were (I thought) just there for effect and not how I wanted them!

I have given some odd examples, but these were all small to larger issues that came up in my remodel. I was lucky in that my GC was pretty reasonable, but some things were left to me to handle that I didn't expect.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 1:42PM
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