My daughter-in-law, Lisa, is always trying to get me to try yoga with her. She says it’s good for your muscles and increases your flexibility. My answer for her is: I’m a contractor — and believe me, that makes me plenty flexible. Now, I may not be able to touch my toes like I used to, but in this line of work, I’m familiar with the scope of a renovation changing mid-project and having to make accommodations for homeowners.
Any good contractor should be prepared to make contingencies for a project, but do you know what that means as a homeowner? The scope of work during a renovation can change. Sometimes this is homeowner-driven, while other times it can be due to unforeseen issues found during construction.
When it comes to a renovation, it can be difficult to determine from the outset the exact scope of work. So when you’re planning, here are some terms to know — and extra costs to plan for just in case.
THE INITIAL CONTRACT
Any good contractor worth their hammer will insist on a written contract. As a homeowner, you should, too.
What does your contract need to include? Your contractor’s name, company name, and contact information is a good place to start. It also needs a complete description of the work to be done and include the materials needed. You’ll also want a list of the subtrades that will be contracted for work (and who’s responsible for paying them).
There should be a proposed timeline to the project and a payment schedule. Keep in mind, though, that timelines can easily change (more on that later) — that’s why your payment schedule should never be tied to project dates. Instead, build a payment schedule based on project timelines.
Finally, have your contractor include a clause in your contract that shows a proof of insurance. You want to know that should an accident happen, the contractor and accompanying team are covered.
If a contractor gives you a hard time about adding any of these things, it’s a red flag that they may not be easy to deal with in the future. Trust your gut, and find another contractor.
You might think that once the contract is inked, your project is set in stone, right? So what happens if, say, you decide, while you’re replacing your dining room floor, to extend that all the way throughout the rest of your home?
You go back to your initial contract and make a change order. A change order is a written amendment to your contract and it should include what change in the work is proposed, an updated budget and an updated timeline to include the new scope of work. Remember, if you have any work that needs to be changed during a renovation, it should be signed off by both you and your contractor.
CONTINGENCIES AND HIDDEN ISSUES
One piece of advice I always like to give homeowners when planning a renovation is to set aside 20 per cent of your total budget for things that come up during construction. Sometimes a contractor won’t be able to properly determine the scope of work needed until it gets started, which is why it’s important not to use your entire budget up front.
For example, if you’re replacing your shingles, you may not realize the sheathing needs to be replaced until you pull up the old material. That’s an extra cost you’ll need to deal with, which will be set out in a change order. This is why I said earlier that timelines can change — when an unforeseen issue arises, it can place a pretty big delay on your renovation schedule. The change order will reflect the new timeline, but this is why you don’t want to tie payment to dates instead of milestones.
Especially with larger renovations, dealing with change orders becomes a lot more common. If they come up in your project, make sure you get everything properly documented in writing. And keep that 20 per cent handy, just in case. A good contractor will be clear about contingencies and hidden deficiencies, and should be prepared to walk you through them.
Like I said, good contractors are flexible.