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If you’re thinking about starting a design-build project, it’s important to understand the general process and what to expect along the way. Since everything will be outlined by a contract, it’s best to know what should be included in a typical design-build contract so you can rest easy knowing you’re covered. Like all contracts, these can be fairly complicated if you don’t know what you’re looking at. That’s why we’re going to be breaking down everything that you need to know about design-build contracts before you sign one!

As a premier design-build contractor, Thomas Buckborough & Associates has worked for years to ensure that we’re always providing value to our customers and that our design-build processes are simple and easy to understand. Let’s dive in!

Overview of a Design-Build Contract

Every design-build contractor is going to have a slightly different design-build contract, but there are always several different factors that will likely stay the same.

First off, almost all design-build contracts are going to include an overview of the work that will be accomplished throughout the project. Some projects may be more strenuous, and others may be more relaxed, but in both cases, it’s essential to have a good understanding of what work will be completed and what the timeline will be.

The contracts will often be legally binding when it comes to payment, timeline, and deliverables. If you fail to pay, the contractor will almost always have the right to stop the project until you do choose to pay. Beyond that, design-build contracts will look similar to most other contracting and construction contracts. Here’s what you can expect to be included in the project.

design build visualization

What’s Included in a Design-Build Contract

In the design-build contract that Thomas Buckborough & Associates uses, there are several items included in every contract that we produce.

Design, Timeline, and Fee

First off will be the design work. We’ll agree to finish all of the initial designs and planning for the project within a specific time frame. In almost every situation, you’ll need to pay the designer for the drawings that they produce. This can be a fairly complex process with permits and inspections needed for your designer to know what is feasible.

With the design, a timeline will often also be produced so that you have a good idea of when the project would be completed, barring any major setbacks.

After all this information is passed onto you, you’ll be able to decide whether or not you’d like to continue with the project.

mediterranean design style

Cost Estimate

Every contract is going to include an estimate of the cost. How much you spend to complete the project can sometimes vary depending on the materials you choose, any hidden problems after the project starts, and setbacks in the timeline.

The contract should state something along the lines of “cost will not exceed.” At TB&A, we promise all our customers that our cost estimate will be within 10% of the final project cost.

Scope of Work

The contract should also include all of what will be finished throughout the time that your contractor is working on the home. If they fail to offer a scope of work, then don’t sign a contract with that contractor.

Expectations for Relationship

Lastly, the contract will likely include some expectations for the relationship that you’re going to have with the homeowner. In some cases, this section will include what times of the day the work will be completed, when contractors can come and go, and what the best means of contact are during the project.

Some of these projects will take months, making it important that you have a good relationship with your contractor before, during, and after the project.

Design-Build Cost: Breakdown

So far, we’ve talked a little bit about some of the different costs associated with a contract for design-build, but we haven’t gone into too much detail about how the overall cost and projections work. Here’s what you pay for when you hire a design-build contractor:

  • Time spent designing
  • Project management
  • Materials
  • Manpower and hours spent working
  • Permits and inspections

While most of your cost will go to materials and the labor that is spent to ensure that you’re project is a success, there are a few other miscellaneous items that will take some of your budget. Here’s how it works.

Time Spent Designing

Your designer’s time working on a project will make up a significant part of the design fees. During this part of the process, they’re dreaming up what your future home will look like, what’s feasible, and what materials will be best. Some design-build contractors will charge separately for this portion of the process in order to ensure that their time doesn’t go to waste.

Project Management

Next up is project management. You might not think that this would be as big of a part of the project, but it actually can be incredibly time-consuming. The project manager assigned to your next remodel or renovation will need to source labor, materials, and communicate with you throughout the entire project. If anything goes wrong, the project manager gets called and has to make it right. Project managing is a very important job, and it’s essential that you find a good project manager.

Remodeling your home with a contractor.


The cost of materials will make up a good amount of your total cost for the project. Depending on what type of project you’re having done, materials might even make up as much as 60% of the total cost. If you’re going to help your project manager source materials be sure to be on the lookout for good deals. Ultimately, you won’t want to buy “cheap” materials because if you do, the materials may fail soon after they’re installed or won’t live up to the expectations you had for your project.

2x4s stacked up for building

Labor – Time Spent Working

Labor will be the second most expensive part of the project. Labor is expensive primarily because those who know how to do their job well cost more money. Premier design-build companies will have specific laborers that they repeatedly hire because they can trust the work they complete. Expect time-consuming jobs to become a bit more costly than quick-fix-type projects.

Permits and Inspections

Lastly are permits and inspections. Not every project will need a permit, and not every job will need an inspection. But, any larger project or expansion to your home will require your project manager to obtain a permit from the city or county and hire an inspector to ensure that all the work has been done up to code. If the home fails to be finished up to code, you’ll find it difficult to sell in the future because of the repair work that will need to be done.

The Next Step for Your Home Remodel

If you’re looked for a premium design-build contractor in the greater Boston area, reach out to us at Thomas Buckborough & Associates. We have over 25 years of experiencing designing and building projects. Whether you’re in need of a simple kitchen remodel, bathroom update, or you’d like to add on to your house, we can help!