How to Write a Contract for a Home Renovation

Verbal contracts seldom hold up in court, so if you're planning a home renovation, even if it's with a contractor who is personally known to you, you should always make a written agreement. You'll want to specify, in writing, the exact work to be performed, the amount of time it will take to complete it and the amount of money you'll pay for the contractor's services.

  1. Create a detailed description of the work to be performed on your home, and include blueprints (if you have any). You must also be sure to specify what building materials are to be used, and write in a provision that assures the building materials are of appropriate quality.

  2. Agree, in writing, on which party is responsible for procuring any necessary work permits to perform the job--you or the contractor. Exterior additions will need to be approved by local building inspectors, and you, as the homeowner, are the party who is responsible for ensuring that no work begins before the necessary permits are secured. That said, some contractors will agree to get the permits on your behalf.

  3. State, in writing in the body of the contract, that the contractor agrees to adhere to all local laws and codes regarding workplace safety and building regulations.

  4. Write in a clause that states that the contractor is responsible for cleaning refuse and debris off your property after the completion of any construction or renovation work that is done. You shouldn't have to be the one to pick up the mess after the job is done.

  5. Itemize the costs of all work to be done, and include a very clear and specific payment schedule. Avoid contractors who demand large up-front payments, even if they're willing to create a written agreement with you.

  6. Hire a contractor who includes work warranties, and explicitly state what is covered under warranty, the duration of the warranty and the action the contractor agrees to take if any problems arise with the work.

  7. Include statements that deal with cancellation rights, the contractor's certification information (such as a board license number) and certification of the contractor's insurance coverage.

  8. Write a performance bond into the contract, if a sizable job (and a sizable amount of money) is at stake. Contractors sometimes fail to complete a job as scheduled, and a performance bond will protect you from any and all potential financial losses in such an event.

  9. Check out the contractor's work history before signing off on the contract. Get in touch with satisfied former customers, which a contractor should happily provide for you. You can also determine whether any outstanding complaints against the contractor are on file by checking with the Better Business Bureau (see Resources below).


  • Never allow work to begin before a contract is signed. Handshake agreements will not suffice.