Mr. Handyman offers thoughts on when to pay for work

Photo of a pile of $100 bills

There seems to be some confusion on “when to pay” for work and I thought I’d make this a topic for the week.  Much of the confusion comes from different sizes of jobs, and some of the confusion stems from schemers and scammers in the market.

Projects around the home can take on many shapes and sizes.  Larger projects include full-scale additions to your home, a new roof, or a full kitchen makeover.  Smaller projects may be as simple as repairing a small area of damaged drywall.

There can also be many billable parts of a job (permits and plans, equipment, disposal, site prep, and the like) but the two most common billable items on most jobs are labor and material.

For smaller jobs, where somebody shows up and completes the project in one visit, the question of when to pay is simple; when they are done.  Somebody shows up, presents pricing for approval, and then completes the work.  You should then inspect the work and pay for it.

At the other end of the scale, say a full-scale room addition with a new master bedroom and master bath, a deposit and ‘draws’ will be stipulated in the contract.  An architect must draw up plans, plans must be submitted to get permits, and materials will need to be calculated and pre-ordered. 

Significant time and expense can be incurred before they actually ‘break ground’ on your project.  The payment schedule is outlined in your contract.  Additional payments will be required at various completion milestones as summarized in your contract.  Sub-contractors need to be paid and your contractor needs to pay his staff.  If you have questions, or concerns, with the payment schedule don’t sign a contract until you are comfortable with what is expected.

In between the minor maintenance and repair project and the large room addition are a lot of different project types.  If a lot of material must be ordered and staged before your project can move forward (a kitchen full of cabinets, or enough roofing to re-do your home), then expect to pay a deposit.  If the materials required can be acquired the day of the project (some lumber, and a sheet of drywall, for example) then a deposit for materials is generally not required.  The exception to this may be items that cannot be returned. 

Because some project legitimately require a deposit to cover materials, this is a place the schemers and scammers ply their trade.  We occasionally hear tales from customers of them giving somebody money to go shop for the materials needed for the days work, and that somebody never came back.  Hopefully I’ve provided some insights on when giving money up front is legitimate, and when to be cautious.

If you have home improvement, maintenance or repair needs around your home, call Mr. Handyman; we won’t ask for a deposit on same day work.  Mr. Handyman, there’s simply no one like us!