When remodeling your home or working on a home improvement project, an architect may be necessary to complete certain tasks. After finding the right professional for your specific project, it’s in your best interest to sign a contract. Whether you’re building a deck in your backyard or adding a covered porch out the front door of your home, having a contract with your architect will keep you, your professional, and your project all on track.
A contract provides you with legal protection if any problems occur. It is a legally binding document outlining an agreement of terms between you and your professional. Your contract will act as a guideline and paper trail in case disagreements or misunderstandings arise. Before starting any work with your architect, understand what goes into signing a contract.
General elements of a contract
There are many template contracts that can suit a wide range of purposes and it’s likely that your architect’s firm will have a standard contract that they use for most projects. Be sure to read your contract carefully before signing, and make sure it has these integral components:
- Contractor’s full business name, address, and contact information
- Homeowner’s name, address, and contact information
- Detailed outline of the scope of work and what is expected of the architect
- Detailed descriptions of all products and materials needed for the project
- Schedule and date for completion
- Directions for altering or canceling the contract
- Line items for the budget, outlining the prices for all services
- Valid reasons for termination
- Materials list
- Any applicable architectural drawings
- Payment schedule
- Proof of being licensed, bonded, and insured
- List of all necessary permits and who will obtain them
Read all of the fine print on your contract before you sign, and ask clarifying questions to ensure you and your architect are on the same page. A well-made contract can protect you in the case of any disputes that may arise during the project and form the foundation for a solid working relationship with your architect.
Why a contract is necessary
A contract should be a part of any official relationship between you and your architect. It can clearly communicate the terms and conditions of your agreement, determine each party’s responsibilities, and outline important details such as the payment and project schedule. Contracts also keep the lines of communication open between you and your architect by acting as a fallback for both parties to rely on.
Whether your architect is drawing up plans for a three-car garage addition to your house or planning your dream home from scratch, they will most likely know a contract should be in order. In general, if the project to be completed will take more than one day or is more than a onetime fix-up job, you should sign a contract. Because architects usually work on projects with a large scope, it’s likely that your architect will present you with a contract when you accept their services.
Advantages of an architect contract
Once you have enlisted the services of the perfect architect, you can create the drawings and official plans for your project. In this phase, collaboration is key. Make it a point to be completely honest with your architect, so you know you’ll be happy with the outcome of your project. Your architect contract will act as an outline of all services expected by your professional. Architects can add innovation, visual appeal, and structural elements to your home remodel that will be key to your project’s overall design. Including a complete drawing of your desired design in your contract will make sure all construction is executed properly.
Your architect will take the lead and prepare you and your home for the construction of your project. It’s likely that a few alterations to your original plan will have to be made during the process. Be sure to communicate with your professional regarding any and all changes so they fit with your vision for the project. It’s natural for you to change your mind about a few aspects of the original design, and it’s possible that the architect may have to alter your project’s schedule due to unforeseen circumstances. When this happens, be sure to record the changes in a “Change Order” form. Submit the order to your architect, be sure that you both sign it, and attach it to your original contract. This will help you stay involved in your project and will create a paper trail so both you and your architect are legally informed and protected of all project changes.
Cancelling a contract
Keeping a written log of verbal communication with your architect is a good idea. This way, you have a record of your understanding of what’s going on. It’s easy to forget conversations and verbal agreements, especially if the project is long and drawn-out. To avoid misunderstandings, write down your interpretation of meetings with your architect and communicate with them to ensure you’re getting it right. Communicating clearly and often with your architect will help you stay on the same page through every phase of your renovation.
If you find that you and your architect don’t work together as well as you thought, and it’s time for a change, be sure you know how to cancel your contract. There should be instructions for doing so in your original contract. Before cancelling your contract or firing your architect, read the fine print and proceed carefully to be sure you won’t face any negative legal ramifications.