Contracts, Pricing and Warranties


A Detailed Written Contract Is a Must for Your Protection

A contract is a legally binding agreement between two or more parties. In your case, it is between you and the contractor that you hire to build your outside living space. The contract itself lays out the roles and responsibilities of both parties in relation to your individual project. It is a necessary part of the process so that the interests of both parties are protected.

Be a smart homeowner and work with a professional contractor. They are used to having written contracts that include a detailed project plan which specifies exactly what both parties have agreed to as their part in the construction process. Having that contract is the best way to protect yourself and to make sure that things go as planned. Besides, a contract is a valuable part of what a professional contractor provides.

A contract is also another way to make sure that you know what you are getting yourself into as far as expenses are concerned. Don’t be afraid to ask for a detailed written contract with a contracted price included. That way you will know what to expect and won’t lose sleep over what the final costs will be.

What Kind of Contract Do You Need?

For minor home projects, such as adding steps to a shed, a simple work order may suffice. The work order would include your name and address, the name and address of the company doing the work, a brief description of the work that the contractor is doing for you, the cost of the project and when your payment is due. This shouldn’t be more than a page long.

For larger repairs and building projects such as building a deck, especially those requiring specified materials, you will want additional details. This would include details about the materials to be used which would include brand and product specifications. You wouldn’t want to pay for premium materials only to find out that lower end materials were used. This type of contract would also include details about the contractor’s warranty.

For very complex repairs or remodeling projects, such as a multi-level outdoor living space with a built-in jacuzzi, the contract can get quite long. It will need to include a full set of plans and detailed specifications.

What Makes for A Good Contract?

A good contract provides full disclosure as to what is to be done, how and when it is to be done, how much it is going to cost, how and when the payments will be made and what kind of warranty is provided. As far as your building project is concerned, the contract clearly defines all aspects of the business relationship between you and your builder.

The contractor needs to look out after his interests just as you need to look out after yours. Therefore, a good contract treats both parties fairly, so that both will be satisfied that their needs are being met. You are assured that you will get what you agreed to at the price you agreed upon and on the schedule that was agreed upon. On the other hand, the contractor’s obligations are clearly spelled out; and he has the assurance that he will get paid in full and on time.

It is usually the contractor who provides a copy of the contract after you decide to proceed with using them on your building project and once you have an agreement with them on what is to be done. They will prepare a standard draft copy for you to review. Make sure to review this contract carefully, making sure that it is accurate regarding what you want and what you have agreed to.

In most instances, this contract, written as is, will be adequate to cover the building project. However, you may want to hire a lawyer to review the draft if your project is very complex or requires a large outlay of means.

If there are things on the contract that are not clearly stipulated, if details that you agreed on are missing or if you don’t agree with any part of it, don’t sign it. Since a contract is legally binding once it is signed by both parties, you will want to discuss and resolve whatever issues you find, and the contractor should amend the contract as needed before you sign it.

Changes After the Work Begins

Even though all the plans have been laid out, there may still be necessary changes once the work has begun. Although this is perfectly normal, these changes can be dealt with using well-proven methods.

Change Orders

It is likely that you may want to make changes to the initial contract as the job progresses, especially with larger and more complex projects. You may decide you like something so well that you want to implement it in another area, or you may find materials that you prefer over the ones you originally selected and listed in your contract.

This sort of change is perfectly normal and is handled by a mini-contract called a change order. It defines the changed or additional work as well as the payment terms for the changes to the original contract. These orders need to be signed by both you and the contractor and should include separate payment arrangements based on the work in the change order. Once you have both signed the change order, it becomes part of your contract with your contractor. If you ask the contractor to make a change, be sure that it is properly documented and signed off by both parties.


To manage situations where some aspects of a project cannot be accurately determined until the work is underway, contracts will often set aside a budget “contingency.” This is a certain amount of money that is held in reserve in case it is needed.

An example of this kind of situation is if the subflooring in an old house that you are renovating is rotting and needs replacing. Of course, this can’t be determined until the flooring is removed. To cover such an incident, an estimate of the costs involved should the subflooring need to be replaced would be noted in your contract but subject to your approval during the flooring process. If the subflooring is intact and doesn’t need to be replaced, the contingency would not be approved, and the money would not be spent.

Make sure that a contingency budget is always linked to a specific aspect of the project and that it is also subject to your approval before the money is spent.

Unknown Deficiencies

Where there is the possibility of hidden problems that could not have been reasonably anticipated before the work is underway, your contract will most likely have a clause which states that the agreed-upon price does not cover the hidden issues. Some examples of these problems could include any number of things including dangerous wiring, rotting wood or termite infestation.

If such a problem does arise, the contractor should alert you to the problem and ask for your direction on how to deal with it. He will then determine the cost of the additional work that is needed, and you will have to approve this additional expenditure before he can proceed in remedying the issue. Once you have approved the agreed upon change, it then becomes part of your contract.

Essential Elements in a Contract

Contracts usually include two types of information. The first type defines what has been agreed upon by you and the contractor. This would include all the following basic information.

  • Who the contractor is
  • What the contractor has agreed to do and what you have agreed to do yourself or have another contractor do
  • Who is responsible for hiring, paying and inspecting the work of sub-contractors if they are used
  • Who will get the necessary building permits and schedule inspections
  • When the contractor will start the job and an estimated completion date
  • How much is due to the contractor for the work he has contracted to do
  • When you are required to make payments, whether installments or a final payment
  • What warranty the contractor provides for his work

The second type of information in a contract lays out the basic business requirements that the contractor must meet to provide protection in case of an accident and to comply with the laws in your municipality. To meet the specific requirements of a professional contract, it should specify that your contractor:

  • Is adequately covered by business liability insurance
  • Provides documentation about their enrollment or exemption from enrollment in a Worker’s Compensation program
  • Is bonded if the municipality where the work is to be performed requires a bond
  • Agrees to payment holdbacks according to the provisions of the municipality’s lien legislation
  • Is a registered and licensed business if your municipality requires it
  • Should guarantee that any subcontractor they hire to work on your project will also meet these business requirements

What About Disputes Between You and Your Contractor?

In the case of construction and larger renovation projects, contracts between the homeowner and contractor commonly specify that a mediator or third-party arbiter is required when disputes cannot be resolved by the parties involved.

Another common provision in contracts is an allowance for either party to be released from the contract if the other party defaults in specific ways. A good example of this would be if the contractor defaults because they declare bankruptcy or abandon your project. Likewise, you could be the one who defaults by declaring bankruptcy or failing to pay the contractor.

Pricing Your Project

The site,, says that according to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report, a homeowner can recoup an average of 80% of the cost of building a new wood deck, during resale. For example, if you construct a 16-20 foot wood deck and spend $10,050 on professional construction and materials, you can expect to get back about $8,090.

Compare this with 78% recouped for a bathroom remodel and 69% recouped for a family room addition.

In addition to the straightforward dollar-to-dollar value, it's important to consider the overall attractiveness that a quality deck has to most prospective buyers. It greatly increases the curb appeal of your home, its perceived comfort and living space. This ultimately translates to more offers and a faster home sale.

This site also includes a very handy calculator tool that lets you know a ballpark figure for the cost of replacing your deck or deck boards based on the material you choose and your location. Based on a calculation we ran for the Atlanta area, using pressure treated Southern Yellow Pine to replace deck boards on a 360 square foot deck cost a whopping 60% less than the most expensive, and least environmentally sustainable, product. We ran the same calculator for areas ranging from San Francisco to New York City and found that the calculator ALWAYS listed pressure treated lumber as the most affordable decking option.

Since pricing strategies will vary greatly depending on where you live, you should use the remodeling calculator just to get an idea of the pricing in your area, but you should then get actual price quotes from different contractors since these quotes will all be different. These prices may be in the same range as the pricing calculator and other bids, or they could go from very low to very high, depending on the contractor.

Get a Price

  • Price quotes

    Price quotes are essential elements in deciding whether to proceed with a building project or to delay it until you have more funds, thus ensuring its completion. You need to know what it will cost you to get the job done and how much you can do on a set budget.

    For small jobs, it is usually a simple task to get quotes if you make sure that all the contractors vying for the job are bidding on the same services and materials. However, the task becomes much more complex when dealing with larger or more intricate jobs.

    Larger or intricate projects will often necessitate that you have a complete design, specifications and plans done before you ever get a bid from the contractor to do the actual work. This design process would be the initial phase, and getting it done will usually have a fee associated with it. Since many contractors may offer their own design services, this price could be included in the final bid or not. If you have already had the plans drawn up in advance of getting contractor bids for the job, you can use them to get formal quotes. Getting a price for the job using identical designs and specifications will make evaluating the different quotes much easier.

    The scope, size and intricacy of your project will determine the level of detail required in your plans. If you plan on altering the structure of your home, it will most likely require full construction diagrams, while easy projects may be illustrated with simple sketches.

    The specifications included with your plans will delineate in detail the specific materials and products that you plan to use in your project. An example of this would be if you have decided on the exact type of decking you want to use to create your outdoor living space, then you need to include these specifications with your plans.

    Another option to getting quotes from contractors would be to work with your designer or architect and let them get the price quotes from different contractors. They will probably have a working relationship with several companies that specialize in the area of expertise that you need to get your job done the way you want it.

  • Educated “guesses”

    Educated guesses may be helpful in the beginning to make sure that what you have in mind for a job and what you have budgeted for it sync with each other. These “guesses” or rough estimates can be gotten on the spot through experienced contractors who will base their opinion on the cost of similar jobs that they have done in the past. There are many factors, however, that can cause a big variation in this type of pricing, especially the types of materials you want to use as well as the current condition of your home. Remember that an educated guess is just an estimate and not a price quote.

  • Bids

    Just so you understand it, remember that price quotes and bids are the same. If they are written down, they represent a contractor’s offer to do the job that you want to have done for the quoted price. It is based upon the description of the work included in their price quote.

    When you are given a price quote, it should include several elements in it. It should contain prices for labor for the contracting firm and for any subcontractors that they might use. Also included should be a list of specific materials and products with their brand names and model numbers to be used in the project. It will also set parameters for payment schedules and amounts and their associated progress milestones.

    While payment schedules should be laid out in the price quote, a deposit is usually required if you decide to accept the quote and sign a contract. These deposits should, however, not exceed 10% of the total cost of the work to be performed. There are some exceptions to this 10% rule of thumb, with one them being if the contractor has to prepay for special-order materials that he cannot return. If your contract includes these special materials in the job request, expect to pay extra on the deposit.

    Remember, that a written price quote is legally binding for both parties and it becomes part of the contract between you and the contractor if you decide to accept it.

    There are no rules to govern how many bids you should get for a job. On large projects, many homeowners interview several contractors, check their references and check out their previous projects. Once that is done, they choose one company to work with during the whole building or renovating process from start to finish. This would include creating plans and budgets as well as doing the actual work. Other homeowners will simply get quotes from several firms before deciding which contractor to hire.

Methods for Determining Prices

It is typical for contractors to use one of four methods to determine the cost of a project. The method that they use should be clearly defined in your contract with them.

Each of the four methods is suited to the particular type of work that they are performing. On large, detailed projects, there may be a contract between the homeowner and the contractor who is performing the work and a separate contract between the homeowner and their designer or architect.

Methods for Determining Prices

  • Unit-price contracts

    This type of contract is based on a given rate per unit of measurement. A good example of this would be backfill or decorative stone added to enhance the beauty of your outdoor living space. These types of things can be charged by the cubic foot or yard or by a specified area.

  • Fixed-price contracts

    A Fixed-Price Contract or Lump-Sum Contract is one which lays out the total price for the work on your building project. This would include all labor, materials, equipment rentals, subcontract work, and other expenses. It must be clearly stated in this type of contract whether taxes are included in this price or in addition to it. These contracts are best suited to smaller repair or renovation projects that are straightforward, easy to plan and have little chance of unforeseen circumstances interfering with the work’s successful completion. If there is a change or adjustment made to a fixed-price contract, it is required to be signed by both the homeowner and the contractor.

  • Cost-plus contracts

    A Cost-Plus Contract is similar to a Fixed-Price Contract, but it is based on the cost actually paid for materials, labor, subcontracted services and other direct expenses with the addition of a fee to cover the contractor’s time for managing and coordinating all aspects of the project. The added fee can be a percentage of the total costs or a fixed amount after all expenses are paid. This type of contract is commonly used when larger renovation projects are done and when the exact extent of the work to be done is difficult to determine in advance. A project budget should be set out in the contract with estimated costs for the major elements of the job. It is usually advisable to add a maximum budget to the contract to ensure that the project costs are kept under control. This type of contract is not commonly used when building a deck.

  • Design-build contracts

    A Design-Build Contract is generally a variation of either a Cost-Plus Contract or a Fixed-Price Contract. Its distinguishing feature is that the homeowner signs just one contract for the whole building project rather than one for the design and another one for the construction work. In this case, the contracting firm designs and builds the project. This kind of contract usually covers custom home construction and large-scale renovation projects. An example of this would be if an architect manages an entire custom home project. He designs the home and then hires contractors to do the actual construction. More often than not, the design-management fees are a percentage of all costs. Once again, this type of contract is not generally used when building an outdoor living space unless it is very elaborate.


Make sure that a clearly-defined warranty on materials and workmanship is laid out in your contract. A professional contractor will usually include it without being asked. A verbal assurance that a contractor will “come back and fix any problems” is very hard to enforce after the job is finished and without a written contractual agreement that they will do as promised.

The warranty should be very specific and should cover the quality of the installation or construction work done on your project. It should specify what is covered and for how long it is covered. Products used by the contractor are warranted by their manufacturers to be free from defects for a specified length of time, but only if they were installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure you get the manufacturer's warranty documents for the materials and products used in your building project from your contractor.

Your contract should also state how you can access warranty service from your contractor and contact details for any needed follow-up service.

Warranty and Follow-Up Services

Remember that your contractor’s responsibility for your job doesn’t end when the job is finished. According to your contract, you should have a warranty on all work done for a specified period, which is usually one year. Make sure to review the warranty coverage that is outlined in your contract and make note of its time limits. If a problem arises, make sure to report it to the contractor prior to the expiration of your warranty. It is advisable to do this in writing by letter or email so that you have proof that your contractor was informed of the issue. It will also provide a reminder to him in case he fails to follow-up with you about the issue.

Two Kinds of Warranty Follow-Up

For minor issues such as nail-pops or small cracks in drywall, repairs can be scheduled around your schedule and that of the contractor.

However, for problems of a more serious nature such as leaking plumbing, furnace failure or electrical issues, you need to call the contractor immediately. Failing to make these needed warranty repairs could endanger your home and your family. These kinds of repairs need immediate attention.

There are numerous materials and products used in your project that will come with a manufacturer’s warranty. Your contractor should give you any documents supplied by the manufacturers that outline their product warranties and explain the procedures you need to follow in case a problem arises.

Your Responsibilities

  • Clear work area

    Clear work areas of any valuables or anything that would hinder the progress of the work. Cover anything that might be harmed by dust.

  • Select your products and materials

    Select your products and materials before the work begins and have them available to the contractor when they are needed. This will help the work to progress smoothly. The contract may stipulate that you select/provide different components of the job such as flooring, lighting, tiles, etc.

  • Keep in touch with contractor

    Don’t leave your contractor hanging by an inability to get in touch with you. You will invariably be asked to make different decisions as the work progresses. Make sure that you are available on short notice. If the contractor can’t get hold of you when there are decisions to be made, it will slow down the progress on your project.

  • Discuss concerns

    Discuss concerns that you may have as they arise.

  • Keep changes to a minimum

    Keep any changes to a minimum. While most contractors are willing to accommodate changes to the original project as you go along, remember that they are on a time schedule and a budget. Don’t make constant changes which delay the progress of the project and cause an increase in costs. Besides, constant changes may knock them off schedule on another project that they are waiting to start. Make sure to discuss the implications of changes with your contractor. Any changes must be amended in the contract and signed by both parties.

  • Accept the unexpected

    Accept the unexpected such as bad weather, unavailable or delayed products and other unforeseen problems. Trust your contractor to deal with these experiences in a professional manner. Always expect to have some unforeseen issues to arise. This will prevent you from getting frustrated when they do occur.

  • Have your payment ready

    Always have your payment ready on the contractually agreed upon schedule. This will ensure that you and your contractor can maintain a trusting and healthy working relationship. You never know when you might need their services in the future.

You are not the only one who has responsibilities when dealing with a contractor. It is a two-way street. The contractor also has responsibilities that he should meet to make a successful working environment for both you and them.

Contractor Responsibilities

  • Have a contact person available

    The contractor will give you the name of a person to contact during your building/renovation project. It may be a site supervisor, or it may be the contractor themselves. This designated person will keep you informed and stay in touch with you throughout the job. They will give you regular updates and inform you when to expect workers and when you will need to be available to make decisions. Expect this person to be available on short notice to respond to your questions and concerns.

  • Minimize disruptions

    A reputable contractor will make every effort to minimize disruptions and the impact on your daily activities. Having temporary hookups for water and electricity will allow you to maintain your daily cooking and cleaning routines.

  • Meet stipulated deadlines

    Responsibility lies with the contractor to meet the deadlines which are stipulated in the contract. If the work is thrown off schedule by unforeseen circumstances, the contractor’s designated contact person or preferably the contractor themselves will immediately discuss the situation with you to find mutually agreeable ways to remedy the situation.

  • Have daily clean-up routine

    Contractors should have a daily clean-up routine as part of their service to you. Leaving a clean work site at the end of the day alleviates a lot of potential problems, especially injuries. Be sure to discuss expectations with your contractor regarding the cleanliness of the job site.

Now that you have taken everything into consideration regarding your outdoor living space, it is safe to decide who is to do the job, whether that is you or a professional contractor. We hope that the information that we have provided will help you to make the best possible decision for the best possible outcome.

Even if you decide that you are going to hire a contractor or aren’t quite sure if you are going to do so, the next page, “Need a Contractor,” might be just the one to help you in your decision-making process. It will give you more information about whether to hire someone and, if so, who you should hire.

Why Retailers and Contractors Buy Our Products

Dan Jones, Manager

84 Lumber, Rozzelles Ferry Road, Charlotte, NC

Dan Jones, Manager, 84 Lumber, Charlotte, NC

"Ecolife is our brand of choice for pressure treated wood for a couple of reasons. We have seen a great reduction in checking as well as an overall improvement in product appearance. This leads to cost reduction and customer satisfaction."

Bill Gay, National Sales Manager

W.C. Meredith Company

WC Meredith Company

“As a treater, changing to DCOI was a seamless transition with the steam conditioning process plus the DCOI preservative has extremely good penetration all the way to the heart of the wood. UltraPole NXT with DCOI offers additional benefits of less toxicity for lineman, the public and the environment, plus linemen are very happy with the drill-ability and say it climbs beautifully.

Shannon Terrell, President and CEO

Brooks Manufacturing

Brooks Manufacturing - Crossarms

"The advantage of DCOI for us as a wood crossarm treater, is the preservative penetrates better than penta. To our customers, they will not recognize a difference from penta in color or look of the wood, but they are getting a product with better treating results."

Eric Perez

Florida Lumber, Miami, FL

“Florida Lumber has carried Ecolife for over four years, and we keep our lumber stock outside. The Miami weather can be harsh on treated lumber, and we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in cracking and cupping in our inventory compared with other treatments. The other big benefit is Ecolife is fully compatible with fasteners and in our constantly humid and moist climate, that is a big advantage to builders. We’ve done very well with Ecolife, and we probably sell one to two truckloads per week and have lots of repeat customers that return to buy it again.”

Jeff Rorex, Homeowner


“I used Ecolife to build a 24' x 36' deck around my above-ground swimming pool to make the pool easier for people to use. I chose Ecolife because of the consistent uniformity in the appearance of the deck boards and the warranty. I installed a composite deck about ten years ago, and have never really been happy with it, and wish I could have used Ecolife instead back then. The clarity and natural wood beauty of the Ecolife deck boards is impressive, and I have recommended Ecolife to friends and would continue to recommend it in the future.”

Joseph Miranda, Homeowner


“Our home was built 30 years ago, with a ground-level entrance deck up to a landing and front door. After the original deck passed its useful life, we decided to rebuild the deck on its original footprint since it functioned not only as a distinctive entry-way but also as an extended outdoor living space integrated into the front-yard landscape.

We chose Ecolife, first because of its appearance. We wanted the look of authentic wood, in place of the synthetics, the promise of a long life as we had with our original wood deck, and the ease of construction that came with using stabilized, dimensioned wood, as well as the integrated eco-friendly wood preservative and weathering treatments. We also wanted to balance cost with quality, for both final appearance and quality of construction. We were also looking for a product that would weather naturally and hold up well under our challenging coastal climate of heat and humidity. Ecolife fit the bill and has been performing well.”

James Wolfe, Homeowner


“We built a 16’x25’ deck using Ecolife. I am in the process of building benches and flower planter boxes for the perimeter in lieu of a railing. In my area, I had a few lumber yards to choose from and spent a lot of time talking with staff members about their products and of course pricing. The YouTube video describing the product side-by-side with the competitor sample was very helpful and informative, and the “green” benefits and affordable price were also huge in our decision process.

Working with the Ecolife product was very nice compared to other products I have used in the past. The decking also sat in the sun for a few hours and there was no board warping or twisting. The boards cut very easy and did not split while using self-drilling screws even when screw placement was near the edge. I will definitely be using Ecolife when I rebuild my pond dock later this summer!”