Construction Contracts Used in Canada: An Overview

If you`re a construction professional in Canada, you`re familiar with the importance of contracts in the industry. They set out the terms and conditions of the project, define responsibilities and liabilities, and protect the rights of all parties involved. In this article, we`ll take a closer look at the most common types of construction contracts used in Canada and their key features.

1. Fixed-Price Contracts

A fixed-price contract, also known as a lump-sum contract, is perhaps the most straightforward type of construction contract. It sets out a total price for the project, which includes all materials, labor, and other costs. The contractor agrees to complete the work for this fixed price, regardless of any unexpected expenses or delays that may arise.

This type of contract is often used when the scope of work is well-defined, and the project`s risks are relatively low. It provides the owner with a clear idea of the project`s total cost, and the contractor with a guaranteed profit margin. However, if the project encounters significant unforeseen challenges, the contractor may end up losing money on the job.

2. Cost-Plus Contracts

On the other end of the spectrum, we have cost-plus contracts. These contracts are based on the actual costs incurred by the contractor, plus a pre-determined percentage or fee for overhead and profit. Unlike fixed-price contracts, cost-plus contracts offer more flexibility to both parties and are used when the scope of work is uncertain.

This type of contract can be beneficial for the owner, as they only pay for the actual work done and the materials used. However, it can also leave the owner vulnerable to cost overruns if the contractor doesn`t manage the project`s costs effectively.

3. Unit-Price Contracts

Unit-price contracts are typically used when the project involves multiple similar tasks or items. The contract sets out a price per unit, which includes all the labor, materials, and other costs required for that particular task or item.

This type of contract allows for greater flexibility in the project`s scope, as the owner can increase or decrease the number of units as needed. However, it also requires more detailed record-keeping and cost tracking, as the contractor must accurately measure the number of units completed.

4. Design-Build Contracts

Design-build contracts are becoming increasingly popular in the Canadian construction industry. They involve a single contractor responsible for both the design and construction of the project. This type of contract offers several benefits, including streamlined communication, reduced risk of disputes, and faster project delivery times.

However, design-build contracts also place more responsibility on the contractor to produce a high-quality design and ensure that it meets the owner`s requirements. Additionally, the owner has less control over the design process and may not be able to make changes once construction has started.


Choosing the right type of construction contract is essential for the success of any project. Each type of contract has its advantages and disadvantages, and the decision should be based on the project`s specific circumstances. It`s crucial to seek legal advice and ensure that all the terms and conditions are clearly defined and agreed upon by all parties before commencing any work. With the right contract in place, both the owner and the contractor can be confident in their ability to deliver a successful project.

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