What’s in a Design Agreement? | Episode 9 | Carmel Builders Sidelight Series

April 9, 2020

In episode 9 of our Sidelight Series, Carmel Builders President & Owner Louis Weiher discusses the importance of having a design agreement with your design/build contractor, and what that agreement should include before you sign the contract agreement.


Welcome back to another episode of our Carmel Builders Sidelights Series, and today we’re going to talk about design agreements. What are they and why should you have them? We get asked this question a lot. We meet with a homeowner, they’re looking to remodel a kitchen, remodel a bathroom, do an addition; but people ask us, why do I need to sign a design agreement? Can’t you just tell me what it’s going to cost? Why should I pay for design? Well, there’s a couple reasons why and it really comes back to something my father said, and I say a lot, and our team, we really believe. There are only two ways to figure out how much a project costs; before you do it, or while you’re doing it. There’s no other way.

We believe very strongly that the right way to figure out how much something costs us is before we do it. So that’s why we do a design agreement. Design agreements are intended to give us the details so we can price out exactly what you’re going to be doing. From what type of product, where it’s going, how big is it going to be, all those details. At the end of the day, even a really simple little project is going to have several pages of plans, scope of work, and specifications. That’s not just something that you write up on the back of a napkin. If you are doing it that way, you’re going to figure out what it costs while you’re doing it.

So what is a design agreement? Design agreements are really just kind of a pre-construction agreement. It’s going to define what us as the design-build contractor is going to do. It’s going to be figuring out the design layout, help you pick out products, determining the scope of work, who’s doing what. All of that needs to be figured out, and it takes time. And to be perfectly honest with you, someone who’s going to do that work for free probably isn’t going to put much effort into it. 

It does take a lot of time. Our estimation is for a standard bathroom project, we’re putting in somewhere between 40 to 100 hours of pre-construction time developing it to figure it all out. So yes, that’s why people charge a design agreement. And why you should ask your contractor to sign a design agreement. Because you want to know what you’re going to get so that when you sign the actual construction contract, you know exactly what you’re going to get. So, thanks a lot, we’ll have some more information for you in future episodes.