I get countless requests for free construction contract forms from both consumers and contractors. This is a topic that seems simple before a project starts but can become complex as the project gets underway, through completion and well after completion.
There is an excitement with every project project before it starts. However once a contract is signed and checks are written fantasy starts to turn into reality.
Contracts are critical for both parties. However contracts must be complete and specify the services. In every construction project things change. No matter how good and experienced the contractor there will be things that happen.
Once a contract is signed it is alive. The terms travel through the life of the project. Change orders are supposed to solve changes and will subject to the terms of the contract. Frequently a consumer does not really pay attention to the contract and can become extremely unhappy with a change order. Many customers expect contractors to perform changes for free. If not specified in the contract the contractor will perform certain tasks for free. Very important for both parties to fully understand the scope of the project.
Decorative concrete and coatings are highly visible. Hence the applicator is under the customers microscope. There will be what are perceived as imperfections. Of course that is subject to opinion.
There are laws in each state that must be followed. Violation by the contractor can result in non-payment.
So is it worth using free construction contract forms? Maybe as a starting point to understand contracts. I would highly recommend to any contractor that they have an attorney prepare a contract they can use for their business. Have change orders always on hand.
When I ran my design/build business we used AIA contracts (American Institute of Architects). They were about 20 pages long and protected both parties. Very fair. They were fine for large projects. The same contract for smaller projects are intimidating to the customer. A lengthy contract could spook the customer and jeopardize getting the business. An abbreviated contract covering the main points will frequently suffice.
Here are a few points from a contract that Decorative Concrete specialist Surface Tone uses.
1. Introduction – describes company background and training or certifications. Refers to adherance to American Concrete Institute guidelines (knows the guidelines well)
2. Limitations – describes product, for example concrete can crack, important that customer is aware. Decorative concrete and stuccos require artiistic license. Every project will be different. Colors will never match samples perfectly. Explain the product in writing.
3. Scope of Work - Contract should specify what is being provided and what is not being provided. The more detailed the scope of work the better protection to the contractor when issues arise. Issues not covered in the contract will be contractors responsibility in most cases. I might point out that the more detailed the scope of work the better for the customer too.
4. Delamination - this can be an issue with concrete flooring. I have seen projects where moisture tests have come back with favorable results. Six months later there is a moisture problem with excessively high levels. Contractor must specify that they are not liable for moisture issues. If not mentioned in the contract the contractor may be remediating the floor for free.
5 Change orders – provided the contract is detailed any changes cost money. Change orders must be dealt with quickly. They are frequently spur of the moment changes. If not dealt with at the time the contractor may be doing changes for free. Change orders must be signed on the spot.
So is it worth using free construction contract forms? Unlikely. The cost for having inadequate construction contracts will far exceed the upfront cost to prepare proper contracts.
I can’t stress enough how important contracts are. The last thing anyone wants is a legal dispute over a misunderstanding caused by a weak contract. Any time a legal issue arises everyone loses except for the lawyers.
Most contractors just want to build. However to be successful a contractor needs to become an expert with contracts. Few things are more painful than pouring heart and soul into doing a great project only to get jammed on payment because of an oversight with the contract.
The same applies to the consumer who is paying the bill. Don’t assume that because you have a great relationship with your contractor in the beginning that everything will be fine. Contracts live on through and after the project is finished. Free construction contract forms just are not worth it.