Friday, July 25, 2008

Home Improvement Horrors - Part Five

Once you’ve done all your homework, drawn up your plans, checked out your contractor, etc., it’s time to go to contract. You may not need an attorney to vet your agreement (although it never hurts), but make sure you have it all in writing. In fact, NY state law requires that any home improvement project valued at more than $500 have a written contract behind it. Other states have similar requirements. The law also allows you to cancel the agreement in three days if you change your mind. If your contractor says a handshake is good enough, run like the devil is after you.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) contract is pretty much the gold standard in the industry. It clarifies things like who’s responsible for paying subcontractors (read: not you) and what procedures will be followed if problems arise (go to mediation). Other items to look for, whether you’re signing the AIA form or something else, are provisions for things such as debris removal and post-project cleanup. And another word of advice: “No matter how specific your contract is, you have to have room for change orders,” kitchen designer Leona Hess says.

Written contracts are all well and good, but they can’t cover the vagaries of human nature and work habits that might seem foreign to those of us who weren’t born with a drill-driver in our hand. “These guys were crazy,” says a Waccabuc, NY, homeowner who laughs about it now but was flabbergasted when she hired a crew to put an addition on her house. “There were nails everywhere, but one guy ran around barefoot all the time. Every morning, we would be awakened by someone shouting ‘Morning, Misses,’ and opening the bedroom window to plug in an extension cord so they could have power outside.”

The worst came when the guys were working on the roof and pulled the garden hose up there so they would having drinking water during the day. “But they just left it running non-stop! All of a sudden, I found water running down into the bedroom. I ripped down a shower curtain to protect my computer, then went running outside to yell at them.”

No comments: