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Tips | Development Services Center, City of Madison, Wisconsin

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  • Shop around for materials and/or contractors
  • Know what you can afford. Choose a price range and stick to it when selecting appliances, fixtures and materials.
  • You can do your own electrical, heating, plumbing and structural work on the single-family house you own and live in.
  • All work done by you or a contractor needs a permit and must be checked by the City Building Inspectors at specific times during and after construction.
  • Look for a contractor with the experience and resources to do your project on time and according to the State of Wisconsin building code.
  • Get estimates from at least two contractors. Some contractors charge for estimates.
  • Be as specific as you can about what you want and expect in your project and show the contractor your sketches. Call past clients for references. It’s important you feel comfortable with the contractor you select.
  • If you use a contractor, you may want a proposal that includes these items:
    • contractor's full name, address, phone number and insurance company
    • names, addresses and phone numbers of any subcontractors
    • the dates work will begin and be completed. You may add a penalty for each day or week the completion date is not met and/or a bonus for early project completion
    • a complete description of the project and materials. Be specific about quantity, size, color and brand
    • total project cost and a breakdown of labor and material charges
    • payment schedule based on work completed, not calendar dates
    • a stipulation that before final payment is made all contractor lien waivers are completed and submitted to you
    • a guarantee of workmanship and the delivery of all warranties, registrations, directions and care instructions for all materials installed
    • a stipulation that the contractor is responsible for obtaining and paying for all permits and approvals and that the work will conform to all City codes
    • who will be responsible for debris removal and landscaping damaged during construction
    • a procedure for making changes during the work. Any change should be in writing and signed by both parties
    • an agreement on how disputes will be settled
  • Sign the contract in the presence of your contractor. If you change your mind, you have 3 business days to cancel the contract. You must cancel the contract in writing. Call the Attorney General's Consumer Hotline, (608) 266-1852, for more information about contracts.
  • Don’t pay for any work until you are satisfied with the job and the appropriate inspections are made.
  • Be sure to get a copy of the bill marked PAID from the contractor when you do pay.