Like many contractors, Rick Pratt is careful to not count his chickens before they've hatched. He's devised a paper trail to keep it all straight.

"I won't put someone on the schedule until they pay me and sign paperwork," says the owner of Classic Homeworks in Denver. About five years ago, Pratt started using this document to get a quicker commitment from his clients.

Before preparing final construction documents, Pratt quotes his clients a price based on the preliminary specifications and drawings. They then sign this form and give Pratt a deposit check for 10%, which he is entitled to keep even if they decide to back out -- provided that his estimate stays below the quoted price. Click here to view the form in PDF format.