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Quality Standards in Contracts

Referencing published industry specs is one simple solution. Here, pros chime in with additional short and sweet disclaimers. November 12, 2005

After a miserable first year I am in the process of creating a better terms and conditions contract. I hold my work to a very high standard of quality. How do you include your quality standards in your contract without ending up with a seventy page contract?

Forum Responses
Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor G:Join AWI and then specify AWI custom grade or AWI premium grade. AWI provides a book of quality standards that spells out all of the details. Most of the architects that I work with are familiar with it. It has helped me out in situations where architects spec 1/4" filler at the top of a 14' run of cabinets (AWI calls for a minimum of 3/4" in all grades, maximum of 1-1/2" in premium grade, 3" in custom and economy grades).

From contributor A:
I can appreciate the detailed contents of a contract. I got into quite a conflict with a customer who expected dovetailed cherry drawers (instead of maple) in an entertainment center. You can run into some bizarre details unless everything is spelled out in plain English on a piece of paper.

From contributor B:
You don't need to join AWI to use their specs. You should however buy the book so you know what it is you are spec'ing. More importantly, I think a simple phrase in your contract would help, such as the following:

Any detail not specifically discussed and documented will be performed at the discretion of (insert shop name here).

From contributor C:
On the rare times that I feel I need to use a contract, I simply state that cabinets will be built with the materials and construction methods that customer approved, and that no work will be done that is not detailed in the line item estimate. Sometimes I even state little things I will not be doing, just to prevent a fuss when it's time for the check.

From contributor D:
I ordered the AWI Standards book at AWFS. Got it in paperback and CD for $10 - delivered. I am working up a contract with my construction attorney. He says that he can adopt something that he has used with another trade, and the cost should be about $200. We are shooting for a 2 page contract. If it is longer than that you could start to scare people off.

Pay attention to your gut and be selective. If you have bad feelings in the beginning, let it go. Let your competition deal with this loser. When I look back at those jobs that went sour, there were usually indications in the beginning. Get a few of those under your belt and you will know what I am talking about. The bad jobs serve as a reminder. Now I feel so much better when I let those troublesome clients walk.

From contributor E:
I have a two page contract that has worked well and it gets longer only with attachments, plans, specs, photos, etc. I do make reference to AWI specs. AWI membership is probably one of the best qualifiers I provide.

Remember - a contract can be a conflict or a plan for success depending on how you approach it. Sometimes it helps weed out a bad client long before any damage is done.

From contributor F:
What is AWI?

From contributor G:
Architectural Woodwork Institute