Belt & Suspenders: The Preferred Style for Your Construction Contract

new MDB bio picGuest Post Friday is back with a vengeance as we welcome back Melissa Dewey Brumback. Melissa is a partner at Ragsdale Liggett in Raleigh, North Carolina. The bulk of her practice is representing architects and engineers, helping them to avoid litigation and representing them whenever litigation is filed. She writes a blog on risk avoidance and other legal issues for construction professionals at

Belt & Suspenders. It is a fashion faux pas, but in the world of construction law, it is always in style. That is, you should embrace the concept of having everything spelled out in your construction documents—the more details and repetitions, the better, so long as you are being clear and consistent.

Here’s an example from a hotel I stayed in recently, providing the hours of their breakfast buffet. Notice anything a little funny? Even though the hours are the same, 7 days a week, they have listed them separately for weekdays and weekends. Is there *any* doubt what time breakfast ends? Nope, not at all.

MDB Breakfast Hours Photo

Sure, the sign seems a tad redundant. But it answers the unasked question about possibly different weekend hours for the buffet. And it prevents any confusion. A sign that simply said the hours were daily? Would find the desk clerk answering that yes, daily meant every single day. Sundays too. Over and over again.

Back to construction again. Do you clear up any possible points of confusion in your contracts, or do you “wing it” with contracts that you’ve used in the past? Do you bother to read through your entire project and consider areas that might create conflict later? If not, you should. Consider both your “Scope of Services” AND a separate “Excluded from Scope of Services” section to your contract. That way, you lessen the chance of confusion, disappointment, and litigation later on. Take some time to do this on all of your contracts to minimize your risk of being dragged into painful, expensive, and risky litigation.

Better yet, have your lawyer help you evaluate your contract for each project. Lawyers live for details, and we also have a pretty good idea of where things can, and often do, go wrong.

As always, Melissa and I welcome your comments below. Please subscribe to keep up with this and other Guest Post Fridays at Construction Law Musings.

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6 Responses to Belt & Suspenders: The Preferred Style for Your Construction Contract
  1. […] Read the entire post at this link: Belt & Suspenders: the preferred style for your Construction Contract. […]

  2. Tony Carter
    October 2, 2015 | 10:46 AM

    Great reminder to construct contracts to the specific project and include all pertinent information. I have seen many “boiler-plate” contracts in the past two years that have led to misinterpretation.

  3. Rob Pitkin
    October 2, 2015 | 10:46 AM

    Melissa, great reminder. I appreciate your suggestion to include BOTH a detailed scope of work PLUS a list of specific EXCLUSIONS.

  4. Joel Niemi
    October 2, 2015 | 11:32 AM

    Breakfast Hours:
    6:30 – 9:30

    Brevity promotes clarity.

  5. George Dixon
    October 5, 2015 | 8:18 AM

    Love it. the time to read the notice saved a lot of looking around for someone to ask a question that was right in front of your face, just like a project scope. Thank goodness that more architects and GCs are making them up and including them with the bid and contract documents.

  6. […] You followed your friendly construction attorney’s advice, drafted a great contract (using a “belt and suspenders” approach) and do good work! What could possibly go […]

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About Musings

I am a construction lawyer in Richmond, Virginia, a LEED AP, and have been nominated by my peers to Virginia's Legal Elite in Construction Law on multiple occasions. I provide advice and assistance with mechanic's liens, contract review and consulting, occupational safety issues (VOSH and OSHA), and risk management for construction professionals.

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