Homeowners and businesses expect carpenters to bring their woodworking skills to bear on the job site, whether for a remodel or new construction. Once a price has been agreed upon between the carpenter and the customer, it's wise to get the details in writing. A basic letter of agreement or contract is protection for both parties in the event of any disputes or concerns at later dates. It also serves as a guideline for how expectations will be met within budget limitations.
Draft a rough letter of agreement to include all items that have been mutually agreed upon. Make a list of the expected work and the anticipated costs. Review it in person or by phone to make sure you've covered all the key points. Use this draft to refer to when composing the actual contract.
Formalize the agreement by titling in something like "Contract for Carpentry Work for Hire," then add the names of the parties involved. An example would be: This agreement is between Maxine Jones, Carpenter, and the Bill Williams Jewelry Store, Bill Williams, Owner.
Write in paragraph form or in a bullet list the items agreed upon, using last names. For example: Jones agrees to provide carpentry service during the specified time period between July 10 and August 1st, 2011. Work to be done includes: - Frame and install new walnut entry door. - Custom build two 6 foot by 2 foot bubinga jewelry display cases. - Refinish existing 5 foot maple wall case to left of entry door. - Add 2 shelves to existing oak checkout area cabinet - Create purple heart trim and inlay for owner's display treasure box
Add the costs broken down into materials and labor. You can get very specific and detail the cost per task or as a total line item. An example is: Materials cost for hardwoods, glues, screws, and other hardware is estimated at $ 2,500.00 (+/- $300.00) Labor cost estimate is at the rate is $55.00 per hour, for 120 hours = $6,600 Labor discount for new customer @ 15 percent = $990 Revised estimated labor total = $5,610 Estimated Job Total = $8,110
Add a short section regarding how payment will be made, such as total materials cost will be paid in advance (so the carpenter can purchase everything needed for the job). Labor will be paid weekly, or whatever the arrangement is, such as 25percent in advance, then the balance when the job is completed. These are what you will determine specifically during planning and discussions that lead to the work agreement.
Add any liability waivers (for example, homeowner is not responsible for injuries) and state who is responsible for getting any needed permits for work to be done.
End the contract letter by stating something regarding how it is mutually understood these are estimates, however the carpenter agrees to use integrity and work within the agreement and will consult with the owner should any concerns arise (such as rot in a preexisting structure), and the owner agrees to pay in a timely manner.
Add any details such as whether or not the carpentry can be done after usual business hours, or anything regarding having children around, availability of electricity, hazards or anything else you feel needs to be included in the contract.
Add a section regarding early termination -- this could be due to any number of reasons (such natural disasters, lack of compliance, clash between the parties involved, or resources running out), but it will protect everyone by having it laid out in writing. For example, if, for any reason the work is terminated before completion of the job, owner agrees to pay through the stop date plus an additional 25 percent; carpenter agrees to return unused items for refund to owner, and so forth. Just state what is in the best interest of both parties.
Type the full agreement and spell check, then double-check dollar amounts and dates. Add a line noting that any revisions or modifications to the agreement will be mutually arranged and a new contract drawn up.
Leave two signature lines at the end for both parties to sign and date.
Simple agreements can be done for most carpentry jobs, but once you have a template, you can use it for subsequent ones and just fill in the blanks. Some work for major businesses may involve multiple carpenters and the contract would become much more formalized -- in such cases it is wise to have an attorney go over the contract. In fact, it's wise for both parties involved to check any legal documents with attorneys if they have one. If you are one of several carpenters who are bidding on a project, some of the same items that were in the bid/offer can be used in the contract agreement when you land the job. This just saves some time.
Debra J. Rigas, a professional writing coach, has been a writer and editor since 1975. She is the author of the nonfiction book "Everyone's A Guru" and has edited novels ("The Woman Pope") and worked in arts and sciences as a filmmaker, boat captain, landscaper, counselor, theater administrator and licensed midwife.