Don't Be Fooled by CT Home Improvement & Remodeling Contractors


Unfortunately, there are no present laws/restrictions/guidelines that testimonials must be proven to be authentic/genuine to be posted on any Ct. Home improvement contractors web site. Thus testimonials could and are fabricated to mislead the consumer. Even an authentic testimonial could be vague and thus become misleading and a misrepresentation of companies' qualifications and abilities.

It's crucial you're educated on how to "Read in between the lines" and confirm/distinguish between "Truth & Friction". This knowledge will enable you to eliminate the inexperienced, misleading, and inferior Ct. Home remodeling companies and guide you toward a qualified CT. remodeling company.

An overwhelming majority of testimonials (99 %) posted on all companies web sites don't include the 4 essential criteria most helpful to you. Testimonials should exhibit these 4 essential criteria, should be .... (1) Recent (2) Descriptive (3) Compelling (4) Personalized.

Listed below is an explanation and reason why...

Recent. Giving you an accurate pulse and assurance of this Ct. Home remodeling company's present activity and performance. Non-recent or no testimonials should raise red flags.

Descriptive. Gives you an assurance that this Ct. remodeling contractor specializes in the type of project you're presently seeking.

Compelling. A satisfied homeowner will be extremely explicit with all the reasons why this Ct. Home improvement company deserves both recognition and praise. They'll most likely not write a one-sentence vague testimonial.

Personalized. Under ideal circumstances, the homeowner supplying their full name with a testimonial, if not, it's understandable. However I believe the company should include the Building permit number, date permit issued & City/ Town work performed to prove some sort of personalization.

Let me give you some examples of vague, misleading testimonials illustrated below, (between quotation marks).

Testimonial Example One (below 1-4) with an observation that there's "No Descriptive" type of work performed and it is "Non-Compelling".

"They did a great job and completed on time"

"The workmanship was excellent"

"It was a pleasure working with you"

"I would highly recommend them"

Your Concern ....... This could be a small or simple job ( installing a door knob, cleaning gutters, building a deck ), and how is this relevant if you're planning an extensive home addition or remodeling project such as converting a cape-style home into a colonial or remodeling a kitchen or bathroom.

Testimonial Example Two (below1-3) with an observation that even though the location of work performed within the house has specified the type of work was "Non-Descriptive".

"I totally love the work they did in my kitchen"

"I'm extremely happy with the work they performed in my bathroom"

"They did a great job in my basement"

Your Concern....... This could be misleading and possible manipulation of words to give you a false presumption this Ct. Home improvement remodeler is qualified and experienced in this type of remodeling project. And in reality, all they did was "Change knobs & handles on kitchen cabinets" or "install a shower rod in bathroom tub "or "Replace a few damaged acoustical ceiling tiles in the basement ". Absolutely no reason to call and request a quote on remodeling your kitchen, bathroom, or basement.

Testimonial Example three (below 1-3) with an observation that even though a description of the type of project was mentioned there's "no date" when performed.

"They built me a great room addition"

"I'm enjoying my remodeled bathroom"

"I'm so pleased with my new kitchen that your foreman Jerry remodeled"

Your Concern ....... Is it genuine? If so, it could have been done 20 years ago. How is this relevant today? A Ct. Home improvement company's performance/skills could worsen or fade or the actual project was performed by the prior generation of this company and that complimented employee (Jerry) no longer works for this company.

Testimonial Example Four (below 1-2) with an observation that even though a description of the type of work along with the year performed was mentioned, however "it's not personalized".

"They did a great job constructing my new home addition " John, Fairfield, Ct 2011

"Extremely pleased, they are the best Ct. room addition contractor " K & S 2010

Your concern..... Is it genuine? If the homeowner didn't leave the full name the contractor should intervene by stating the Building permit number, date issued, and City/ Town project was performed to assure the testimonial is genuine and has some sort of personalization associated with the testimonial.

All testimonials should include all 4 essential criteria mentioned. Arnone Building & Remodeling testimonials include all 4, plus "Before" & "After" photos, see the home page of the website, right column, with the heading "Testimonials".

Please further read, under the same heading (Read in between the lines) about "References "to confirm/distinguish between "Truth & Friction".


A previous customer experience/knowledge/feedback of a Ct. remodeling company's overall performance is crucial information to obtain. This article provides vital information to assure you're not being manipulated into a false representation of the actual truth. This knowledge will eliminate hiring an inferior/unqualified Ct. Home improvement company.

To establish the true identity of any Ct. General Contractor's performance "You" must control and establish the guidelines. The old premise was the Ct. remodeling company was in control when requested, by supplying 3 random references of their choice, however, this method is flawed. Any company with an extremely low satisfaction record (7 dissatisfied customers out of 10) can still supply 3 satisfied references. Your objective is to know what they're not divulging.

A crucial mistake by homeowners is not calling references because they assume references will be favorable hence no sense in calling. A lot of times Ct. remodeling companies assume their previous clients were pleased however this could be far from the truth. In many incidents (other than workmanship) homeowners will "bite the bullet " and say nothing because they're intimidated to complain most likely because the job is still in process. However, once the project is completed, this homeowner may "open up to you ". Inform you of delays in the project, poor attitudes of company owner and employees; certain work had to be redone, very messy, etc. All incidents the owner of the company either is oblivious or insensitive to.

These Guidelines are as follows...
  1. Specifically, ask all prospective Ct. remodeling companies for at least 3 recent references that are similar to your proposed remodeling project. Don't consider references for decks, roofing, or installing replacement windows if you're proposing to construct a ground-level or second-story addition or remodel your bathroom or kitchen. Your objective is to eliminate prospective Ct. remodeling contractors that don't actually perform your desired work or are not qualified with enough experience to consider hiring. Essentially because there are variable trades/occupations that are covered under the same "Home Improvement License". Some examples are roofing, siding, landscaping, painting, paving driveways, installing swimming pools, waterproofing foundations, insulation, and erecting fences. Literally, you can view a home improvement company's ad or website when you're considering (for example) building an addition, remodeling a kitchen or bathroom and read (all true) that they state they have been in business for 20 years and have collectively over 30 years of experience, they have a home improvement license and are insured. However, in reality, a majority of the work they performed could have been painting, roofing, siding, or commercial work with no or little residential work experience. Besides asking for their 3 most recent projects that correspond with your proposed project you also need to evaluate companies' "profiles", read guideline #2, directly below.
  2. Specifically, ask all prospective CT. residential remodeling companies for the last 10 projects they performed including name, contact number, date, and description of work. You're objective is to establish this company's "profile" such as the type of projects they're more accustomed/familiar/experienced in doing and also the volume of work they perform. If (for example) an overwhelming amount of these 10 provided projects are roofing, siding, or small handyman work then this would indicate ( if your project differs ) that they aren't experienced/qualified enough to perform the type of project you're considering such as an extensive remodeling project or addition. If the 10 provided projects occurred during a substantial amount of time this would indicate there're either purposely omitting unsatisfied clients or not busy for many reasons, all discouraging.
Cautionary measures/advice during your evaluation/research...
  • Don't be influenced by either photos/slide shows on web site or pictures of work presented by a prospective company in exchange for references. Their premise is to convince you their familiar and capable of performing your aforementioned project. The photo doesn't confirm that this company actually performed this work nor confirm homeowner was pleased with the workmanship and overall performance. The photos you viewed on their website could be obtained/purchased from a library of photos supplied by the marketing website designer they hired that created their website.
  • If you are skeptical about the authenticity of any reference, wonder if you're actually talking to the contractor's friend, relative or family member in disguise, there is a foolproof procedure (if this type of project warrants obtaining a Building Permit). You should ask the contractor for a copy of the Building permit affiliated with this reference. A Building permit indicates (1) Company name that performed work (2) Date issued (3) Name & address of homeowner/ job site (4) Date permit was issued (5) Type and value of the project. (6) Companies Home Improvement number.
All information you can verify.
You the homeowner must understand that just because a company processes a license and is insured (both actually purchased and not earned) doesn't qualify them to perform all types of home improvement projects with quality workmanship. Not all companies are experienced, knowledgeable, or capable of performing large extensive projects. Few will be honest and decline to bid on these types of projects, however, a majority will hide behind a façade of misrepresentations because their main concern is what is in their best interest, not yours.

Don't feel you are offending any prospective company by your request/methods of research, because my company Arnone Building & Remodeling would appreciate it if I was asked because I'll know I'll have a better chance of being awarded the project. If you do receive any negativity from any prospective company then you accomplished your goal, which is eliminating the undesirable/unqualified companies. Remember your investing thousands, maybe tens of thousands of dollars of your hard-earned money.

Proof of Insurance

Confirm by receiving a "Certificate of Insurance" directly from their Insurance Company. If the owner of Ct. home improvement company hands, e-mails, postal mails, or fax you the company's policy then you need to confirm by calling the insurance company directly and requesting they provide you a copy to confirm.

They will ask you to provide your name & address so it will be added to the policy and appear under "Certificate Holder" (the Insurance Company will either e-mail/fax/or postal mail you directly). Also, request to be on the "Notification List", this adds you to be notified if a policy was altered, canceled, or renewed during the duration of your project.

Do not accept a "Certificate of insurance" that was provided to you by the Ct. Home remodeling company even if your name and address appear in the "Certificate Holders" box. Anyone can fraudulently type in your name & address on their computer screen at the desired location and place the policy in the storage paper bin of the printer and press "copy" to print your name & address exactly in the desired location of the policy.

It is also possible that the insurance company will inform you that this company is no longer insured with them even though you were handed a certificate of insurance policy illustrating current coverage however invalid because it was earlier canceled due to non-payment.

All companies that provide a service on homeowner's property are required to have "General Liability Insurance" and "Workers Compensation Insurance "if this company has employees (as opposed to just the owner of the company performing the work). Upon receiving the policy directly from the insurance company, carefully read the policy to assure both coverages are included. It is possible that this insurance company only supplies 1 of the 2 coverage, if this is the case then there are 2 possibilities, either this remodeling company doesn't have this coverage or does, but with a different insurance company. If the "ladder" then you have to do this procedure a 2nd time to receive the proof of coverage that was omitted on the first policy.

If you hire a company that doesn't have "General Liability Insurance" you'll be burdened with the expense of fixing/repairing any damage to your processions/property should they get damaged during the renovation period or later on after faulty work finally appears.

You should request/receive these insurance policies before committing to any company and absolutely before signing a contract. It's possible the company you felt was most reasonable in cost was only due to not having any insurance.

If you were informed after you initially asked for proof of insurance that none existed, however, was told by this Ct, remodeling company that should you hire them they will obtain proper insurance before commencing work, then walk away, this is a red flag.

If you receive confirmation during your research that this company had "General Liability Insurance" however doesn't have "Workers Compensation Insurance ". Then you have to ask yourself, is this project a 1 personal job? If so, will it be solely done by the owner of this remodeling company? If you feel it's possible you then must verify and include these language terms in the contract. If you feel this project isn't a 1 person's job, then eliminate this company.

It's not out of the ordinary to also request proof of insurance from the general contractors' sub-contractors (if any), such as plumbers, electricians, heating contractors, etc.

Arnone Building & Remodeling does display a copy of their Insurance coverage on their website that easily can be printed for a homeowner to do their research even before inviting my company to their home. Located on the home page, titled "Credentials".


Public perception is a Ct. remodeling company that is experienced, knowledgeable, and skilled to obtain a Ct. home improvement license. However the reality is no training, no test, no experience, and no knowledge is required. A Ct. Home improvement license is purchased, not earned.

This unfortunately is true you'll still need to verify. Don't settle on just a "yes "from potential contractors or by them showing you their business card stating they are licensed or it's illustrated on their truck their licensed. Start the verification process by requesting them to supply you with a copy of their license if they're not in your presence. If they are in your presence then request to view their license and make a copy or write down pertinent information. It's a State requirement that they are in possession of their current license when conducting business . The state of Ct. provides a wallet-size license that must be presented upon request. Pertinent information of license states the following.... registration number, effective and expiration dates, name of the company, type of license, ( in this case you are looking for H.I.C ( which refers to a Home Improvement Contractor), and address of license holder. It doesn't actually state the name of the contractor. You then can go online to verify your license/registration.

While in the presence of the contractor and viewing their H.I.C license, also request to view their driver's license so you can verify addresses match, since its possible name of the company (example being "All Phases of Carpenter" ) may not have any similarity to their first or last name). If it doesn't match, this is a red flag. Even though the license isn't transferable; it could be shared among devious contractors.

Arnone Building & Remodeling does display a copy of their H.I.C license on their website that easily can be printed for a homeowner to do their research even prior to inviting my company to their home. Located on the home page, titled Credentials.


Public perception is a Ct. remodeling company that is experienced, knowledgeable and skilled to obtain a Ct. home improvement license. However the reality is no training, no test, no experience, and no knowledge is required. A Ct. Home improvement license is purchased, not earned.

This unfortunately is true you'll need to do your homework to assure any potential contractor is qualified to perform your project.

It's possible any information you were told verbally by this Ct. remodeling contractor or seen displayed on their truck, website, stationery or business card could be a total misrepresentation/fabrication of their skills and time of experience.

Listed below are a few examples advocating 1 thing however meaning another.

Highlighted in Blue is what the contractor is advocating.
Highlighted in Red is the possible reality. "Read in between the lines."
A company stating they have 25 years of experience...

  • In reality, it's 5 employees each with 5 years of experience.
  • In reality just a fabricated lie, with no rhyme or reason.

A general contractor company truly stated they indeed have 25 years of experience, however...
  • In reality, a majority of that experience was as an employee with very little or no experience in the business aspect.
  • In reality calculating the 25-year span without deducting when laid off, unemployed, working in a different professional, or worst, incarcerated.
  • In reality, most experience is commercial work and being a sub-contractor to a general contractor thus no residential work or dealing directly with homeowners.
Any contractor advocating amount of experience. I'll illustrate why lying about the amount of home improvement experience in the Home Improvement Industry is rapid. It's because it's undocumented (for the most part).

  • In reality, there're no guidelines/restrictions or documented records to confirm the amount of home improvements experience.
  • Contrary to Electrical, Plumbing & Heating Contractors. In order for any person to obtain any of these 3 mentioned Licenses, they have to obtain 8000 documented / supervised hours of training, once done, take a written test conducted by the State of Ct, if they pass the test they'll receive an E-2 license for electrician, P-2 license for a plumber, etc. They're not entitled to be self-employed at this stage, but no longer need supervision (can be a foreman). Then they must receive another 4000 hours of documented hours of work, once done, take a written test conducted by the State of Ct, if they pass they'll receive an E-1 license (for example if you're an electrician) and can become self-employed if they wish.
  • In reality, a Home Improvement License is bought with no experience required.
Similar to a homeowner attempting to gather truthful information with the objective of avoiding unqualified/overrated Ct. remodeling companies I also research with the same objective when in need of additional employees. Actually, I handle my interview more like an interrogation because I'm aware of the following...

They will exaggerate time of experience, they'll include the time when not working, laid off, or in a different professional or so-called being self-employed.
They will omit references of companies they worked for if they left under bad terms.
They will exaggerate their skills in stating (when asked) the type of work they performed.
What I do, for all reasons above, I'll tell each applicant I'm starting them with zero experience and they have to prove to me their knowledge. I'll inform them that I don't necessarily go by the number of years of experience but by the quality of years of experience. I'll inform them that a person with actually 6 years of experience can be more knowledgeable and productive than a person with actually 20 years of experience.

If I ask them if they know how to tape drywall, layout a stair stringer, layout a roof rafter, etc, I'll not just accept a "yes" for an answer. I'll actually supply them drywall, compound, mesh, and a taping knife and tell them to show me, I'll supply them a board, and framing square and give them the pitch of the roof, the thickness of ridge, overhang, and span to lay out a rafter or pertinent measurements to lay out a stair stringer.

If they actually acknowledged they performed other certain work I will ask them to explain their method. I do this because the method corresponds with production. My objection is to make sure I place them (if hired) in a position and wage that they're qualified/capable of handling. And during the process teach them the most productive methods.

I understand, that you the homeowner may be a little naïve, however, this guidance on this topic along with other topics, hopefully, will place you in a more favorable position.

Arnone Building & Remodeling is documented to be in business since 1973 as per my tax records. Plus prior to this, 4 years of Technical School, and once graduated, hired as a carpenter ( on the books )for additional 2 ½ years before becoming self-employed.


  • I grouped these 2 types of documents (mentioned above) together because basically, proposals are un-signed contracts, and contracts have arrived from proposals (with a few exceptions).
  • I'm not going to inform you that proposals/contracts should be "in writing" as opposed to being "verbally". I'm sure you heard this on television shows such as "People's Court" and "Judge Judy".
  • I'm not going to tell you that proposals from companies will range from being very vague to being extremely explicit in the description of rendered labor & goods because I'm sure you had proposals/services presented to you in the past.
  • I'm not going to tell you (at this point) what should be legally specified in a contract because you can research this information online.

What I want to tell you is what you may never be able to find by researching the internet, conversations with fellow associates, or reading published books about guidance & assistance because what I have to share will not be found.

I'll start prior to you calling up contractors to receive quotes for your proposed home improvement project. Even thou you may be a little naïve about actual construction terms, names of various types of materials you will eventually learn during this process and prior to signing a contract. Your objective at this point is to "Control the bidding process".

Since extremely vague proposals may be done purposely, with the objective to give homeowners a false illusion that they're receiving a great price when in reality the price is extremely low because there're a lot of omissions and contractors supplying inferior merchandise/material. You now know this, you should counter act by doing the following...
  1. Provide a list of all merchandise related to your project that you'll personally need to select based on your preference & personal taste to these contractors. Some possible examples are listed below highlighted in red along with a generous value highlighted in blue. The sub-total value of these individual items is highlighted in green. To offer you a comparison cost to the possible contractor's selection, highlighted in brown to illustrate my point.
  2. Floor tile (bathroom) $5.00 sq. ft. (Need 48 sq. ft.) $240.00 $2.00 sq. ft. $96.00
  3. Wall tile (tub area) $5.00 sq. ft. (Need 66 sq. ft.) $330.00 $2.00 sq. ft. $132.00
  4. Floor tile (kitchen) $5.00 sq. ft. (Need 250 sq. ft.) $1,250.00 $2.00 sq. ft. $500.00
  5. Laminate flooring (2 bedrooms) $2.50 sq. ft. (Need 375 sq. ft.) $937.50 $0.99 sq. ft. $371.25
  6. Toilet / seat $225.00 (need 1) $225.00 $99.00
  7. Carpet (living rm) $35.00 sq. yd. with install (need 35 yds.) $1,225.00 $25.00 sq. yd. $875.00
  8. Bathroom vanity (with top-bowl-faucet) $500.00 (need 1) $500.00 $300.00
  9. Exterior sliding door $900.00 (need 1) $950.00 $350.00
  10. Medicine cabinet $150.00 (need 1) $150.00 $75.00
  11. Exterior light fixtures $45.00 each (need 2) $90.00 $25.00 each $50.00
  12. Interior light fixtures $45.00 each (need 4) $180.00 $18.00 each $72.00

Total of all your selected merchandize highlighted in Green is $5,752.50

Total of what the contractor may have supplied if you didn't control the bidding process is highlighted in brown. $2,920.25

A difference of $2,832.25 prior to tax, with tax a $3,000.00 + difference. This one example illustrates that if you received a quote $3,000.00 less expensive than another, in reality, it was only due to receiving inferior merchandise.

It's more likely that during the beginning stage of receiving quotes you haven't had time to go to supply stores to select these aforementioned merchandise items, if so, then arbitrary select an amount for each item, and if you are uncertain in accuracy then let the 1st contractor select amount, the objective is for each contractor to include the same value in merchandize so you can compare "Apples with Apples", regardless of your eventual selection is more or less than designated guess. If less, you should receive the credit difference, if more, you just pay the difference.

To continue with the same premise, there may be other materials related to your project that appear similar in appearance and function that drastically range in cost. These examples are...
  1. "Sheathing" comes in 4' x 8' sheets that are installed on roofs, exterior walls & floor joists. They come either in a "wood plywood" sheet or a "compressed flake type "sheet, which is half the cost of wood plywood. For example, if you were constructing a 20' x 20', 1-story addition with a gable style roof you'll need a total of 50 4' x 8' sheets (floor, exterior walls & roof). At a difference of $12.50 per sheet, it comes to $ 625.00 plus tax.
  2. "Roof shingles", may look similar in color, however, one could have a 25-year warranty and the other has a lifetime warranty. This translates to a cheaper product
  3. "Vinyl siding" may look similar however a difference in quality. This translates to a cheaper product.
  4. Gutters, the difference in thickness or gauge. This translates to a cheaper product.
  5. "Underlayment" (top layer of sheeting in preparation of finish flooring) (1) flake type, least expensive (2), plywood, middle range (3) concrete board, best, especially for tile. This also translates to a cheaper product.
If you the homeowner prefer the less expensive product, that's fine, however, this should be presented to you as such and not you be scammed by an immoral company looking out for their best interest and their motive of presenting a false facade of a reasonable quote and neither asking nor looking out for your best needs/interest. To combat this, once again control the bidding process by requesting the type of sheathing, warranty of roof shingles, the brand name of siding, a gauge of gutters, and type of underlayment being offered in their quote. You're putting these contractors "on notice "that you're educated enough to understand the differences.

These suggestions of advice I'm offering is still only the beginning. I also provide three "Printable Checklists" located on my website home page, right column, titled "View Checklist" to further educate you on grading contractors' performance during the gathering of information stage.

Once you receive proposals you should carefully read and look for omissions or ambiguous wording. Don't assume all contractors are providing the same services, such as (obtaining permits, dumpster rental and portal toilet rental on large projects, interior painting, electrical fixtures, etc.)

To give you an example of "Ambiguous wording", don't accept the following wording (highlighted in red) in either a proposal or contract.

"All Electrical will be to code" & "All Heating will be to code" & "All Building will be to code"

In reality, it's not required by Electrical Code to supply an exhaust unit in a bathroom if the bathroom has a window, it's also not required to have ceiling fixtures in bedrooms/living rooms, instead, a switch can operate the homeowner's lamp that is plugged into a wall outlet. It's not required to have a light over the vanity if there's already a ceiling light. Not required to install a doorbell, telephone/television jacks, or extend the cable to newly created rooms nor an exterior spot. Only required to supply 1 wall outlet in a garage when more than 1 would be expected/needed.

In reality, it's not required by Heating Code to place a new addition on a separate zone, which may be preferable to the homeowner.

In reality, it's not required by Building Code to supply gutters, providing a folding set of stairs into an attic as opposed to a ceiling trap door, accessible by a step ladder.

The remedy is to request all provided services be individually mentioned as opposed to being included by those statements mentioned above in red. You the homeowner should also receive (if it's part of the project) the brand name, model number, and efficiency rating on all equipment (examples are furnaces, boilers, heat pumps, and central air condition units) because they can drastically range in price.

Another word of advice during the "proposal stage", if you have a " Wish List" of other potential work besides the main project you're considering, you should request and receive quotes from them. It could be skylights, increasing size of deck or adding a 2ndset of deck stairs, upgrading from carpet to wood flooring, etc. Your objective is to "Lock them in "with a cost while you still have not decided whom you will hire. By doing this you will receive a more competitive quote. If you wait and initially ask while the project is in progress the cost most likely will be more expensive because this contractor knows they are not competing against anyone else. You must realize the homeowner has the "leverage "prior to signing the contract.

Another word of advice during the "proposal stage ", don't state you will directly purchase some of the merchandize, for example toilet, vanity, faucet or tile. By doing so, you are now liable / responsible for warranty & condition. For example if you purchased a toilet or vanity that was delivered in a cardboard box not yet opened or inspected and during the moving of these boxes or installation of these items the contractor accidently damaged this item , well they can in turn tell you it came damaged and you would be responsibly in delay and replacement. If contractor supplied these items they would be totally liable. Or if you later had malfunction issues with toilet or faucet, you the homeowner will be responsible in the cost of replacing merchandize and the labor fee to remove and replace. If contractor purchased they will be responsible for replacement and removing / installing. Homeowners may be unaware when purchasing many boxes of tile that you would also check the "Lot Number "on each box to assure these "lot numbers "match. If not, these same tiles can be a couple of shades off. If homeowners purchased they will be responsible for any delay to reorder or worse, pay to remove tiles that don't match that may have already been installed.

Now let's talk about the transition from Proposal to Contract.

Once you confirm licensing, proof of insurance, referrals, and experience as outlined in previous articles under this same heading " Reading in between the lines " and you fully read & agree to the language in the proposal, then the remaining stage is the presentation and eventually signing of Contract.

You should request that the Contract be e-mailed/faxed or postal mailed to you as opposed to the contractor bringing it to your home and expecting you to sign "On the Spot".

By requesting a contract beforehand, this will give you ...

Time to fully read and understand the entire contents.

Make notes on items you don't understand.

Notice items that were omitted from earlier discussions.

Time to negotiate on items you don't agree on (start & completion date, payment schedule, etc.)

You must understand that since the contractor is the "Author" of the contract certain language/terms are going to benefit/protect their best interest which you may of never priory discussed or agreed to. For example, shown below, highlighted in red would be such terms/language, highlighted in Bold black is my "insight regarding this matter, and highlighted in Green would be your counter offer.
  1. Starting date is within 4 weeks of signing the contract and the completion date will be 16 weeks from starting. Required to give a starting/completion date. If the project exceeds the completion date there will be a penalty of $ 100.00 a day until completed.

  2. Payments will be paid as follows... 20% upon signing the contract, X amount upon Starting of foundation, X amount upon Starting of framing, X amount upon Starting of roofing, X amount upon Starting of installing windows & siding, X amount upon starting of mechanical work, etc.
    This payment schedule favors contractor because the keyword they mention is "Starting". A contractor can start many phases and complete none thus unfairness to the homeowner on monies paid compared to work rendered. Request to change to word "Start" to the word "Completion", this way you're paying for what was done thus monies paid are equivalent to work rendered. Also, since the contractor was the "Author" most likely the payments are "Top heavy" with minimal amounts toward the end. The homeowner should request larger payment amounts toward the end, to be an incentive for contractor to complete the project as opposed to walking away or enough money remaining to pay another contractor should the first contractor refuse to correct the work the homeowner is not happy with.
  3. Final payment upon completion of the project. A contractor can complete a project and never request/receive a final inspection approval from the building department or receive a Certificate of Occupancy if also required. The homeowner should state, the final payment upon completion of the project along with receiving final approved Building Department documents.
  4. Additional costs will occur (three examples). (1) If during the stripping of old roof shingles, we encounter rotten roof sheathing. (2) If during the demolition stage, we uncover any code violations or damaged materials that were not possible to see during a field inspection. All items 1-2 are possible and unpredictable. However, you should put language in the contract that protects you so that you will not be taken advantage of. For example, item number 1, Request a pre-determined square foot cost on replacing roof sheathing that's acceptable and agreed upon. Similar to requesting a quote from a "Wish List" item. This way you will receive a more reasonable price. Item number 2, it's different to negotiate a pre-determined cost because the variables are endless. Hopefully, this contractor is reputable & honest. However, the one thing I could recommend to counteract their point/reasoning of charging because these code violations or damage were not exposed to see. I would recommend to state... Any pre-existing item/equipment/conditions that were readily available for the contractor to clearly view/evaluate will not deem an increase in cost if later needed to be installed. Some example, if the contractor requests an additional cost of upgrading the electrical panel because later on during the rough electrical work the electrical contractor states there isn't enough room for all the electrical work in the existing panel box, then this required work will be done at no additional charge to the homeowner because this should have been noticed and would be an unexpected hardship to the homeowner and was noticeable. Another example, is when building an addition and the existing exterior water faucet has to be relocated and the contractor wants to charge extra for their oversight.
  5. Usually, the contractor will specify in the contract the size/thickness of certain materials being installed. such as... We're providing (1) 2' x 6" ceiling joist, 16" on center. (2) 2" x 6" rafters, 16" on center. (3) R-19 insulation in exterior walls. (4) 8" thick foundation wall. (5) One battery-operated smoke detector in each of the 2 bedrooms. During the application of the Building Permit process, this contractor was informed by the Building Inspector that 2" x 8" ceiling joist and rafters are required by code not 2" x 6". Also, thicker insulation is required in the exterior wall, and foundation by code needs to be 10" thick and both smoke detectors need to be "Hard Wired" as opposed to battery operated. The contractor may approach you and state... I have to charge you extra because I'm providing material larger / thicker in size as outlined in the contract. The homeowner should include this phrase in all contracts. Providing/installing the correct size/thickness/specifications of any material is based on present Building Code requirements and not what is necessarily mentioned in the contract. Proper Code requirements will supersede language in the contract at no additional cost to the homeowner. This will also include items that the contractor omitted. It's the contractor's responsibility to be up to date on all code requirements. It's possible this contractor's quote was more attractive in cost because they "undersized" and "made omissions".
Also, as I earlier mentioned, receiving a contract beforehand you may notice emissions of earlier mentioned items/services that were promised that were omitted.

Once all your request/concerns are settled between parties then request to see the revised contract to confirm, once done, happily sent up an appointment for the signing and giving a deposit.

You the homeowner should not feel that you are overstepping your bounds, you worked very hard for your money and want to make sure you're protecting your best interest.