Designing Your New Bathroom -- Schedules & Contracts

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It would be nice if you could order all your materials once and have the ones you need arrive on your doorstep exactly when you are ready for them. Unfortunately, real life works a little differently. Contractors rarely start work on a remodeling job until they have everything in hand. They know that they will probably have to stop for extra screws or different hinges, but they go to great lengths to limit such extra stops. Unless you want to risk waiting a few months for that basin you thought would be delivered the second day, follow their lead: Make a place in your basement, backyard, or hallway to accommodate everything you expect to in stall. When it is waiting for you, instead of the other way around, begin your work.

Before you stash your new materials away for future use, open every carton and inspect each fixture or other piece of equipment to make sure it is what you ordered and is undamaged. When you've waited three months for your washbasin, it's unpleasant to discover that it's cracked but even worse to discover the fault just when you're ready to begin installation. When you've exam med a piece and are satisfied with its condition, repack it in the original carton before putting it away.

Scheduling particular jobs depends on your skills as a handyperson and on the nature of the work you anticipate doing. If you are remodeling an older building, you are more likely to encounter surprise problems during your labors than if you are remodeling a newer one.

Diverting the plumbing can be done quickly and with out remarkable difficulties, or it can demand unexpected work on the system and the walls. If you have two left thumbs, even replacing a toilet seat can be a half-hour job, though under most circumstances it should take only about ten minutes. The amount of time a job requires may also depend on the number of helpers you can enlist, The additional pair of hands may make no difference at all in the length of time it takes you to install your toilet: but it can reduce your tiling time by a third or more: and without several other bodies, you could be all week installing a cast-iron bathtub, The variables are so many that the best way to schedule your project is to break the job down into phases and each phase into specific tasks. Make a flow chart to give you a quick overview of the entire project. Then, estimate the amount of time you think it will take you to do each task and double that estimate-most tasks usually take twice as long as you think they will. The flow chart/schedule will enable you to estimate the amount of time your household will be disrupted, to schedule your contracted services, and to make necessary adjustments in order to meet any dead lines you've set for yourself.


When you've calculated your schedule, re-contact the professionals you want to hire. If you're using a general contractor to oversee all the work, including the scheduling, obviously you will have already done so. But if you want to use contractors only for specific tasks, now is the time to hire them. No matter how much you trust your contractor, you should always write a contract.

Every term the two of you agree on should be in writing, and everything you want covered should be included.

Anything you do not understand should be clarified to your satisfaction.

Contract Forms Ordinarily, general contractors will have a standard contract form. These forms tend to be written in very broad terms, with a lot of open spaces to fill in. Contracts are intended to be discussed and negotiated: They are starting points-until they are signed. Then they are binding.

Sometimes the heading for a standard form agreement will read "Proposal." rather than "Contract." In content there may be no difference between the two documents, but in a court of law-should you find your self in one-the heading can make the difference between a document that will be enforced ("Contract") and one that will not ("Proposal"). When hiring a professional, sign a contract, even if you have to amend the form's heading.

In the event that your contractor does not have a standard form or you dislike the form he has, you can take the initiative and create your own, to be certain you both know what you're signing, and to avoid un pleasant surprises.

Work Arrangement

There are many ways to work with a contractor but they generally fall into two main categories: Total Price, and Time and Materials.

Total price . A total-price arrangement means the con tractor charges you a bottom-line figure that includes everything. It can be one amount for the entire project or individual amounts for separate phases of the project.

The advantage of this approach is that you know how much the job is going to cost before you start. The disadvantage is that the total will include a hidden markup-as much as 25 percent-to cover unforeseen problems. This is not refunded even if the job goes smoothly.

Time and materials . A time and materials arrangement means that the contractor charges you an hourly rate for labor, the cost of materials, and a standard mark up (usually 15 percent) for overhead and profit. The advantage of this approach is that you pay only for what you get. Your invoice clearly shows the amount of time worked, the cost of materials, and the markup. The disadvantage is that you don't know exactly how much the remodeling will cost until it is finished.

If you work on a time and materials basis, make sure you are clear about what the 15 percent markup includes and what it doesn't. For example, if you do the running around and pick up the materials but charge them to the contractor's account, will you still pay the markup fee? If you pay for COD, materials ordered by the contractor, are they subject to the markup? Is consultation time charged separately or is it included in the overhead amount? Will workers supply all necessary tools or will you be charged a rental fee? Are plans included in the markup? Does the overhead figure cover the cost of replacing faulty materials discovered six months after the remodeling has been completed? Try to think of all the gray areas and make sure that they are understood and agreed upon by both of you.

Points to Cover in a Contract

It is hard to overestimate the importance of making sure your contract covers any problem that may arise. The following points should be included in your agreement.

Changes are the most common cause of misunderstanding and dissatisfaction. However carefully you have thought through your project, there are bound to be things you didn't think of and things you want to change when you actually see them. Be sure to agree in advance on how you will handle any changes in plans. This is especially important if you are working on a total-price basis: The smallest change can release the contractor from the original agreement. One method of dealing with such situations is to agree to make formal, mini-contracts for each change as it comes up. There will be few disputes if everything is down on paper.

Insurance . You should be prepared for accidents. Hopefully you won't have a fire that destroys all the lumber that was just delivered. But if you do, who is responsible for replacing it? Ask your contractor for certificates of insurance. If he does not carry any, you can buy your own for the duration of the project. Make sure the contractor carries workman's compensation-this is his responsibility.

Plans and permits . Determine who is responsible for supplying the building department with the correct documentation, for buying the necessary permits, and for arranging for inspections. Dealing with the building department can be laborious, and questions may be technical. It makes sense to let the contractor handle these details.

Completion dates . Even if the contractor will not commit to a specific completion date, make sure your con tract ensures that work will proceed on a schedule. This might be a guarantee of a specific number of hours or days of work per week over a given period of time or until the project is completed.

Materials to be used should be written into the contract.

They should include model numbers, sizes, colors, and manufacturers so there are no misunderstandings.

Payment . Decide when and how often you will pay your contractor. With a total-price arrangement it is common to divide the job into phases, paying an initial amount upon signing the contract, several intermediate amounts, and a final amount when all the work is completed to your satisfaction. If you are working on a time and materials basis, it is common to pay at the end of each work week.

This tiny washroom demonstrates how accessories can extensively alter a room that already has strong stylistic features. The gloss of the brass mirror frame and wall sconces, along with the curved water spout, provides a striking contrast to the rough-hewn adobe walls and counter and the handmade floor tiles. The choice of these accessories serves to give the room an elegant rather than an earthy feeling. The wall to the left, which conceals the toilet, might have been taken out to make a more spacious room, instead, the owner chose to keep this small space to maintain an impression of intimacy as one enters the room.

Next: Dismantling the Old Bathroom

Prev.: The Working Drawing

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Updated: Monday, 2011-07-11 5:13