There's been a lot said here about deposits.
Deposits are usual and customary in today's market for custom work, special
orders, and other special circumstances agreed upon in advance by both
parties of the contract.
I started out my steel erection contracting business doing ornamental metal
in my garage. 50% down because it was custom work, and 50% upon
I did about two years of this before I grew and got into the commercial
market and got my contractor's license. In that time, I was jerked around
by so many homeowners that I was sick of it.
Once I took off commercially, I changed policies. If anyone said ANYTHING
about the deposit on custom work, I'd just put a big X on my copy, and tell
them to call me. If they did call back for the work, I'd say that I was
just too busy and they could call back every three months. Anyone who
grumped about paying a deposit for custom work would grump about everything
else, too. Usually they called me back with some long tale of woe about how
bad a job they had gotten at a "bargain" price, and could I come fix it.
"Sure, a truck and two men are $95 per hour." More wailing.
Once I got commercial, the word "deposit" never came up. They pay when the
job is FINISHED AND INSPECTED. Or they do progress payments. And then it
may take a while for the girl to cut the check.
So, while I say deposits are bad and unnecessary, I must admit that
The main thing is to know your contractor, have recourse, see their
licensing and insurance, and check things out.
As for homeowners paying for stuff up front, I have heard too many horror
stories. It's like the drunk who asks for a buck to get something to eat.
You offer to take him and buy him a burger. No, they want the buck. If the
contractor can't get the materials, YOU buy them and dispense them as used.
But NOOOOO, they want the deposit.
Many have written here, both the informed and the clueless. It is different
with different types of businesses, and areas. But business is business,
and it's just not a smart idea to pay for something you don't get.