Do You Speak Building Contract Language?


Do you feel like the contract you’ve just been handed by your builder or remodeler is in a foreign language?  Let us help you bone up on “building-speak,” so to speak. This week, we’ll start with the basics.  Here are some common terms you should know as you read your contract thoroughly:

Scope of Work – what the contractor will be doing for you

Specific exclusions – what the contractor won’t be doing for you – for example, not supplying certain materials.  If there is just too much unknown about certain items at the time of contract, they may be considered as specific exclusions.  

Allowances – dollar amounts that will go against costs for labor or materials, or both, for phases of work that have not yet been selected or fully specified.  They are an educated guess and a holding place for value to be used for not-yet-specified scope items.  As your selections evolve, the builder will compute that cost against the stated budged allowance.  

Lead time – the amount of time it takes for a piece of material or fabricated product to hit your job site. Lead times are a critical aspect to discuss during your selection process with the suppliers and designers. 

Rough-in – the process of placing any mechanical, electrical or HVAC systems within your walls, ceilings or floor spaces. This comes before close in, insulation and drywall.

Close in – the covering or enclosing of anything behind the walls, floors or ceilings. Happens only after the contractor is given the ok by the code officials.  

(F/I) –Furnish & Install – describes something that is to be supplied and installed by the contractor. Install only means that the contractor is not supplying it, but only installing a specific item.

(OF) – Owner Furnished – represents an item furnished by the owner and not the builder.

Specification – detailed descriptions of items that include manufacturer, model numbers, sizing, weights and dimensions etc. of materials selected to be incorporated into your project.

If you’re reading your contract thoroughly, you’ll find more terms that might be unfamiliar. Stay tuned for more in-depth building terms next week!


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