Here’s my thinking on deposits, maybe you agree.
You want someone who’s been in business a while, who is experienced, and who is serious about being in the business. Not a kid who is maybe sticking around next year and has barely any experience.
So a mason who has been around for a while, they can afford to cover your job and get paid when they’re done, when you’re happy. That has been my model. I did a $13,000 brick job this Summer and got paid at the end. My expenses were scaffolding, cement, wood forms, and other small stuff – I could afford to wait until the end to get paid.
When I do ask for a deposit it is only to cover the materials you will have even if I get run over by a bus. Perhaps we’re doing a big patio and buying a couple thousand dollars worth of stone, which may be 20% of the job’s cost. I’ll ask for a deposit just on the stone.
Here’s a case as an example. You may have read in the Citizen or on the CBC about an Irish couple that were bilking bed and breakfasts. One such reader saw their pictures on page three and realized the guy was doing his steps. He called the police and they deported the couple for working illegally in Canada. Unfortunately the guy had taken a deposit, and had been doing the work incorrectly. When I was called in, I helped the client see how it was being done wrong, and made it right for him. I got paid at the end. But the client never got his first deposit back and never had anything of any value from the faux-mason. I’ve heard of other clients who made deposits and never saw the person again.
I’d say keep deposits to materials, like the big things – stone, bricks, but not the incidentals like cement, screws, etc.. Stuff the client can own regardless of what happens to you. I can go an entire Summer without a deposit, as I can afford to buy materials.
If the mason hasn’t been around long enough to develop good business practices, like having working capital, do you really want them doing your job?