Requirements for a Home Improvement Contract

As we have posted before, when you undertake a home improvement project — a renovation, an addition, finishing a basement — the contract between the homeowner and the contractor is likely covered by Chapter 142A.  Chapter 142A has some specific requirements for contracts.  In this post, we are going to focus on the requirement that the contract include a detailed description of the work to be performed and the materials to be used.

What does that mean?  It means that the contractor must tell you exactly what materials he or she plans to use.  For example, the contract should specify the brand of paint and the specific product line – Benjamin Moore paint, Aura line or Sherwin Williams paint, ProMar 200 line (the listing of any product or brand is not an endorsement, merely exemplary).   The contract should not just specify the finishes, but also the materials that you won’t see, like insulation. You should know the R value — the higher the R value the better an insulator — of the insulation, whether a water/vapor barrier, like Tyvek is being used on your project.  When a contract complies with this statutory requirement, the contractor can properly estimate the cost and the homeowner can understand exactly what they are getting.  If the contract specifies American Standard bathroom fixtures, then there will not be a misunderstanding about what type of faucet was installed. If the homeowner wants Kohler faucets, they must speak up and work out any price differential with the contractor.  At the same time, the contractor can provide an allowance based on that specification and kept its costs managed.  In short – the more detail the better.  It minimizes misunderstandings about what is being done and used on the project.

The detail required for the scope of the work is no different.  The requirement is for the benefit of both sides. The homeowner should know, for example, whether interior walls are being insulated. If they are, then the contractor must calculate that into its costs as it prices the job.  If the scope of work does not include such an entry, then the homeowner can ask about it and tell the contractor that they want the insulation to reduce noise.

The lack of details and hence, misunderstanding from the start of the job.  By complying with the law, both sides are protected and understand what is being provided.