As you plan your library project, you probably have a thousand ideas running through your mind. From paint colors to light fixtures, shelving units to floor boards, you’re ready to create it. Hiring a contractor or interior designer is often one of the first steps in getting your library remodel or addition off the ground. As you search for the perfect professional, don’t forget to consider signing a contract.

Why do you need a contract for your library project?

Unless you’re planning a very minor project that costs less than $500, you should always have a contract with your professional. Having a contract will help you, and your contractor, avoid any legal ramifications if things do not go as planned. Throughout your project, you and your contractor will use this document as a guide, and it will hold both of you accountable for upholding your end of the agreement.

In some states, a contract is required for projects valued over a certain dollar amount. In California, for example, home improvement projects valued over $500 require a contract. A reputable contractor should know when a contract is necessary. If you’re unsure, consider contacting your local state licensing agency to find out if your project requires a contractual agreement.

Beyond providing legal protection, a contract is also a great way to keep track of your library remodeling project. By developing a contract, not only will you be forced to think carefully about what you want, but you will also be well-informed about exactly which materials will be used to complete your project and exactly when you can expect your project to be completed. Additionally, your contract will help guarantee a high level of workmanship on the part of your contractor. Just as your contract holds you responsible for opening your home to your contractor and paying them accordingly, it holds your contractor responsible for delivering a high-quality library remodel.

Depending on the scope of your library remodel, it may be necessary to sign one or many contracts. If you’re simply planning to refresh your library’s floors, you may only need to sign a contract with a flooring expert. However, if you’re planning a floor to ceiling makeover for your library, you may need to sign contracts with several contractors. It’s possible that you’ll hire a flooring expert, a painter, a general contractor, and a lighting specialist to complete your remodel. In this case, you may need to sign a contract with each contractor separately. Alternatively, you might choose to hire an interior designer, general contractor, or architect to plan and create the library of your dreams. If this is the case, you may only need to sign one contract. Your contractor will work directly with you to plan your library, and they will subcontract out to other professionals if need be.

What is a contract, and what should it include?

A contract is a written, signed agreement between you and your library remodeler (or contractor for a specific aspect of your remodel). It should outline the scope of the project and the expectations for each party, so both you and your contractor are legally protected if any disputes occur. Make sure your contract includes:

  • the contractor’s business name, address, and contact information
  • your name, address, and contact information
  • the scope of the project and what tasks your contractor is expected to perform
  • the project’s start and prospective end dates
  • payment information, including how much and when the contractor will be paid
  • what materials will be used for the project, including sizes, colors, and models numbers
  • information regarding who is responsible for obtaining all necessary materials, equipment, and permits
  • whether any other service providers or subcontractors (e.g., electrician, plumber, architect) will be involved
  • what happens if deadlines are missed or changes need to be made to the contract
  • any applicable warranty information
  • any architectural drawings made for the project

The contract you sign with your library remodeler, or remodelers, should contain all of the details of your agreement, so there are no misunderstandings after the project begins. If the project doesn’t go as planned, your contract can provide a paper trail to support any legal action you may need to take.

Your contractor will likely have a standard contract they use for most projects. If they don’t present you with a contract on their own, don’t be afraid to ask for one.

Making changes or canceling your contract

As your library remodel progresses, it’s likely that you will need to make changes to your original contract. The paint color you planned to use may clash with your lighting, the wood you ordered for shelving may get delayed in transit, or you may decide that instead of hardwood floors, you want to install carpeting. Whatever the case may be, be sure to discuss the changes with your contractor and record them in writing. Prepare a “change order,” sign off on the change with your contractor and attach the order to your original contract. This will help you and your contractor stay up to date on the project and avoid any miscommunication or misunderstandings.

If your library remodel doesn’t go as planned, and one or more of your contractors aren’t living up to your expectations, you may need to consider canceling their contract. Be sure to read the fine print regarding cancellation in your original contract, proceed carefully, and consult an attorney for advice if necessary. Keep in mind that if you’ve just signed your contract, many states afford signatories a three-day grace period to cancel the contract after signing.

Top image credit: Griffin Enright Architects