Change Orders

What is a change order?

A change order is an addition or deletion of work outside of the contract scope which could increase or decrease the cost of the project. It can be something simple, like changing a wall color, or it can be more complex, like relocating windows in a finished space or even adding another room. Almost all projects have change orders. Here’s why:

Where change orders come from

Elective enhancements

These are the most common type of change order, and they are usually initiated by the client.

Building incrementally

Sometimes clients opt to start small with the intention of building or expanding the project as they go. This may be done because the clients are unsure about the building experience or want to develop a familiarity and comfort level with the building team.  It could also be for budget purposes to spread the cost out over time. Additionally, it could be because the client isn’t completely clear on what they want yet, so they start with a small project while they clarify the rest of their vision.

Project complexity

Small and large projects alike can be highly complex; knowing every detail in advance can be very difficult. For example:

  • Sometimes a specified product may be discontinued or unavailable.
  • All of the decisions about products may not have been completed before the contract signing.
  • Structural requirements may change as other changes are made.
  • Various inspectors may require changes.
  • Code requirements may change, etc.

Change orders of this nature are usually initiated by the architect.

Opting to start a project with incomplete or unfinished plans

The urge to start and complete a project sometimes leads to beginning with unfinished or incomplete plans. This guarantees there will be change orders. Everyone involved should discuss the situation in advance and be in agreement about the process before starting.

Unknown existing building conditions

Remodels and building additions can involve discovery of hidden or unknown conditions in an existing structure or even underground.  We will always try and get your approval first unless there is an immediate concern for safety. These change orders are usually initiated by the builder.

Benefits of change orders

Change orders can

  • Enhance and beautify your project.
  • Allow the building process to be dynamic within a structure.
  • Give your project the flexibility to grow in an organic, responsive and creative way.
  • Save you money and time, e.g. changing materials or reducing the scope of work.
  • Let you take advantage of great ideas that arise from new sources, at any time.

The Truth About Change Orders

Fulfilling a change order frequently requires stopping work, rescheduling, backtracking, redoing finished work and generally costs more money.

Impact on time

When a change order is initiated, most likely the original schedule will need to be adjusted. The reason for this is typically, one building trade follows another in a strategic and sequential order. This is known as the critical-path method.

For example, making a change like adding a new security system in and of itself requires one week’s worth of wiring work. This work, however, requires that we postpone installing the wall insulation, which then delays the drywall installation, which delays the painting, and so on, affecting every trade’s schedule thereafter. So as you can see, adding ‘one week’s worth of work’ has impacted the entire project schedule, with additional possible delays.

In summary, change orders possibly lead to stopping work, rescheduling, backtracking or redoing finished work.

Impact on cost

Executing a change order and keeping to the original schedule may require paying a premium to subcontractors and suppliers. We may have to work late hours, pay overtime, expedite shipping or just pay a more expensive subcontractor because they are available.

Advice for working with change orders

Hire and talk with your builder early, before the plans are complete. We can share many years of experience with you which may save you time and money in the long run.

If saving money or keeping to the schedule are the top priorities we recommend you try to have your plans completely mapped out and so you can do as few change orders as possible. Letting us know about a potential change as early as possible is important.

Sometimes, change orders are unavoidable, so it’s good to plan for them in your budget. Many times we can mitigate the cost and extra time of change orders through discussing alternative material or labor options.

Always submit change order requests formally through Sacred Oak Homes’ site supervisor.