Design & Home

The Essential Elements of a Home Improvement Contract

What you should know before signing on the dotted line.

Susan C. Jones, with Fairfax County’s Department of Cable and Consumer Services, says a home-improvement contract should always include the following:

• The business’s name, address, and telephone number.

• The contractor’s license number.

• A clear description of the work to be performed and detailed descriptions of all materials to be used.

• A project’s start and finish date.

• A payment schedule and total price.

• A buyer’s right to cancel—usually within three days—if the contract was signed in the home as well as any cancellation penalty.

• The policy on cleanup and debris removal.

Steven Smitson, executive director of the Maryland Home Improvement Commission, recommends that a contract also lay out the work’s progress: “If I’m doing a major addition, I want to know when the framing will be done, when the plumbing will be done, when the inspections will be called for.”

He says to be wary of signing any contract with an arbitration clause. There can be benefits to arbitration—it can be cheaper and quicker than litigation if problems arise. But, he says, “consumers typically do not do well in arbitration.”

This feature first appeared in the March 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.

Subscribe to Washingtonian
Follow Washingtonian on Twitter

More>> Open House Blog | Homes | Real Estate

Keep Up on DC’s Latest Fashions with Our Shopping Newsletter

Fashion finds and deals, and the latest trends for you and your home.

Or, see all of our newsletters. By signing up, you agree to our terms.
Executive Editor

Sherri Dalphonse joined Washingtonian in 1986. She is the editor in charge of such consumer topics as travel, fitness, health, finance, and beauty, as well as the editor who handles such cover stories as Great Places to Work, Best of Washington, Day Trips, Hidden Gems, Top Doctors, and Great Small Towns. She lives in DC.

SIGN UP
We engage readers directly in their mailboxes with topics like Health, Things to Do, Best Brunches, Design & Shopping, and Real Estate. Get the latest from our editors today.
Get The Best Of Washingtonian In Your Inbox!