• Will Downs

Defining Your Scope of Work in a Construction Contract


The construction industry is awash in work right now. With so many plates spinning at once, it can be hard to remember to take care of the basics that will protect you and make each project you take on easier to accomplish.

We recently blogged about who should sign a construction contract (on both sides), but equally important is to clearly define the scope of work. Even the best communicators can leave out details or assume that what they are going to do makes sense to a client. And the people hiring contractors may not understand what is included in your work – and what is not. That is why having a detailed contract that defines clearly the work you are agreeing to do is vital not only for making the job run smoothly, but will also result in a happier client and better reviews!

Creating a Thorough Scope of Work

A contract with a hastily written or poorly defined scope can lead to a lot of frustration for both parties. Simply put, the scope of work should include everything that you are agreeing to do – and provide – for the project. It should reflect everything you’ve taken into consideration to complete your bid.

Problems most often arise when the scope of work is vague. For instance, a scope that simply states “remodel bathroom” doesn’t even clearly specify which bathroom is to be remodeled, much less what fixtures are needed, what tile will be used, if the flooring will change, etc.

Tips for a Clearer Scope of Work

  • If possible, incorporate the architect’s plans into the scope. This can be accomplished simply by referencing that the work includes the plans dated xx/xx/xxxx. Be aware, if the plans get changed or revised, you should require a change order (we will go into greater detail on change orders in a future post).

  • Always include written specifications describing the materials to be used and discuss them with your client.

  • Specifically list all allowances. Allowances are items that are included in your bid, but whose price is not yet known (e.g., appliances, bathroom fixtures or cabinetry). Instead of a general category such as “appliances,” the scope should clearly identify which appliances are included within the bid.

  • Specifically list owner-supplied items and any work you will provide regarding these items. Although owners will often pay for certain items directly, you still incur labor charges when you install these items or supervise their installation. Make sure to account for this work in the scope.

  • Anything outside the initial scope (whether an addition or deletion) should require a change order. A well-defined scope of work should make it easy to determine when a change order is necessary.

It takes time to create a thorough scope of work at the beginning of a project, as well as generate change orders for your client to approve as that scope changes but this is time well spent! Ambiguity and misunderstandings can turn a fantastic project into a legal quagmire - so take the time that is needed to be clear in all communication and make sure all parties are on the same page.

If you need help creating or reviewing a construction contract, we are here to help at Downs Law. Reach out to us anytime for help drafting or reviewing your contract before you and your client sign on the bottom line. And should you find yourself in a contractual dispute, Downs Law has the expertise to help you resolve the conflict. Contact us today and get the help you need!

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