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Reviewing Contract for Historic House Rehabilitation Projects | Wisconsin Historical Society

General Information

Reviewing Work Contracts for Your Historic Building Rehabilitation Project

Reviewing Contract for Historic House Rehabilitation Projects | Wisconsin Historical Society

If you want your historic house or building project to be a success, you must have a “meeting of the minds” with the contractor you plan to hire. It is essential that you receive a written contract describing all the work your contractor will be doing. Don’t rely on a verbal agreement — that would be a prescription for disaster! You should get all the work details in writing.

Don’t Mistake a Bid for a Contract

During your interactions with your contractor, don’t make the common mistake of assuming that the contractor’s written bid is a work contract. The bid is only one component of your contract. The bid might be attached to your contract as (for example) "Exhibit A." But your work contract should also include additional attachments such as drawings, specifications and other supporting documents.

Read Your Entire Contract

Always take whatever time you need to read and thoroughly understand your entire work contract. The provisions you might expect to find in your written contract are described below. This list represents the items in an ideal contract. Not all contracts will include all of these components. If the contract you receive does not include an item that you think is important, ask the contractor to add it.

  • Scope of Work. The scope of work is a description of all the work to be performed. This provision may be referred to in the attached exhibits. Be sure everything you expect to be done is detailed in the contract or attached as an exhibit.
  • Specifications. The full schedule of specifications the contractor is required to follow may be attached to your contract as an exhibit. However, small projects may not have a separate specifications schedule. Instead, these specifications might be incorporated into the drawings.
  • Permits. Make certain your contract includes a provision that specifically requires the contractor to be responsible for acquiring all permits. This provision should also state that the contractor is responsible for following all applicable laws.
  • Contract Amount. This provision identifies exactly how much money you will be expected to pay to the contractor. This provision may specify that periodic payments will be tied to a percentage of work completed.
  • Commencement of Work. This provision is the date the work is scheduled to begin.
  • Time to Complete the Work. This provision sets a date by when the work should be completed, subject to normal causes for delay like the weather.
  • Contractor's Insurance. It is critical that the contractor has and provides proof in the written contract that he or she has all the insurance needed to protect you. All insurance policies must list you as an additional named insured, and that no change may be made to the coverage, and that the policies may not be canceled without 30 days’ prior written notice to you. Make certain that you have written insurance binders for all of these insurance types:
    • Worker's compensation insurance for all employees and subcontractors.
    • Employer’s liability insurance.
    • Bodily injury liability insurance in an amount not less than $1,000,000 for any injuries, including wrongful death to any one person, and $2,000,000 all together.
    • Property damage insurance in an amount not less than $1,000,000.00 for damages on account of any one accident, and in an amount not less than $2,000,000 all together.
  • Builder's Risk Insurance. Builder's risk insurance protects the contractor’s work and materials against a loss by fire or other casualties during construction.
  • Contractor's Warranties. This provision indicates that all the work is warranted for a minimum of one year from completion.
  • Default. This provision outlines what will happen if the contractor or you default on the contract.
  • Subcontractors and Suppliers. Your contract should list all subcontractors and suppliers. This is the only way you'll know what lien waivers you'll need before you pay the general contractor. A lien waiver is a one-page document that states the subcontractor has been paid and waives any rights to file a mechanic's lien on your property for this payment. The document must be signed before you make any payments to the general contractor.
  • Cleanup. This provision establishes your expectations for cleanup of the job site. The contract should state that the contractor agrees to broom sweep the work area daily. It should also state that the contractor, upon fulfilling the contract obligations, must remove all rubbish, refuse, debris, implements and surplus materials from your property that were used in, or resulted from, the construction project and the performance of the related work, and that the contractor will leave your property clean.