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Old 11-29-2012, 09:49 AM
DVS Hardscaper's Avatar
DVS Hardscaper DVS Hardscaper is online now
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Do you have these 2 winter clauses in place?

Many of us in the states that have winter will try to work through the winter season. It may snow all winter. It may be too muddy to work. Or it may be below freezing. Or it could be a mild winter with great weather conditions. When you're pricing jobs September through December you have no idea what Mother Nature will bring.

About 9 years ago we did a small patio the week before thanksgiving. The patio was complete but we had to return after the Thanksgiving weekend and wrap up the grading and seeding. Well it rained that weekend. As the temps dropped. After waiting 10 days for it to dry I realized we would have to return in the spring to finish the grading. So I wanted money. I tell the client we're done with the patio and we need to finish the grading in the spring and that he can retain some money for the grading. He and I went round and round about how much was a fair retainer. His amount WAY higher than my amount!

From that point on I placed a clause in my proposals that spell out how much money a client may retain for final grading and seeding. This way me and the client are not standing on their front porch arguing about it. This clause is only placed in the proposals that I write up between sept 1 through March. It's a seasonal clause so to speak.

My job costing system automatically calculates the amount that the client may retain. The amount is usually the cost I materials. So if I budgeted $250 for seed and straw - then that's what they may retain. There are a few reasons for why I limit the retainer to material costs. And this is because often times we're able to fine grade, but it's too cold for seed, so we'll just return in late march, scratch the top of the soil with rakes ad seed and straw.

The clause will say something like:
In the event weather conditions are not suitable for fine grading seeding etc, client is responsible for paying the balance due,
However may retain $xxxx.xx until the grading and seeding is complete.

Poly Sand
Last year I started utilizing a similar clause for poly sand. Last January it turned too cold to apply poly sand. The husband was against having a patio built in the first place. So he was a jerk from day one. So he and I are standing in their foyer arguing about how much to retain until the poly sand app is complete.

Again - the amount I allow clients to retain for poly sand is derived from the amount budgeted for poly sand for the job.

Since having the clause for seeding and grading no one has given me any flack. It's spelled out plain as day and all parties know what to expect. You can build a perfect patio, have a very happy client, and instantly spoil a relationship because something wasn't addressed in the contract.

My business is founded off of being proactive. No matter how much I smile and how much my customers like me - at the end of the day I'm still a CONTRACTOR.


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Last edited by DVS Hardscaper; 11-29-2012 at 09:55 AM.
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Old 11-29-2012, 12:33 PM
shovelracer shovelracer is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: North Jersey
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This is a great point and there are a few ways to go about it. There are 2 ways we handle this.

First is that we have a clause that excuses us during times of inclement weather such as to allow for reasonable time in addition to the contract dates that were laid out. IE: we do a job, the lawn needs final repair, the contract says we are to be done within 3 days. That night it snows 2 feet, rains 5 inches, whatever and it does not melt or dry for a month. We are excused and allowed to return after the conditions improve to finish the job. Without this clause not finishing and not having a weather statement would with a jerk client lead to problems such as possible breach lawsuit or expected discounts. At the least a disagreement since you all know we can actually control the weather.

The second thing we do is address our final payment in terms related to this final seeding. IE: We may have 5 draws during a job. $5000 for this & $7000 for that, $5000 when plants are brought on sight, $3000 when the mulch goes down, $1000 for the final lawn repair. The lawn repair is always the last thing and the amount is directly related to the topsoil, seed, etc directly used for this final repair. So with the above weather statement we can be paid fairly for work completed, we have protection from knuckleheads, and should the ground not heal till spring we are able to sleep at night without being upset that the client is holding $5000, 50%, whatever the amount, when all that is needed to finish is a few hours and minimal materials just that you can not get the weather to break.

The plus side is we do not do too much ground breaking in mid winter if at all. This really has only ever applied in late fall and early spring jobs. I could not even imagine getting a call in December/January about a client wanting a patio installed before spring. That would be the last thing on my mind as homeowner, but we are colder and snowier up here than a lot of you guys.
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