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Navigating Construction Change Orders: A Homeowner’s Handbook

Navigating Construction Change Orders: A Homeowner’s Handbook

Undertaking a home remodeling project can be an exhilarating adventure, brimming with anticipation for a newly designed space that perfectly aligns with your lifestyle. However, this journey is often interrupted by the less glamorous reality of change orders; however, the first step in minimizing change orders is to understand them. This is your handbook to ensure a seamless remodeling experience.

What are Construction Change Orders?

Construction change orders are amendments to the initial agreement between the homeowner and the contractor, typically involving modifications to the scope of work, the cost, or the project timeline. These changes can arise from a few legitimate reasons. Regardless of the source, change orders can inject complexity into a project, so homeowners need to understand how to manage them effectively.

What Are the Common Causes for Contractor Change Orders?

Unforeseen structural or safety issues: Change orders during remodeling can arise from various sources. One of the most concerning sources for homeowners is unforeseen issues that only come to light once construction is underway. These issues encompass hidden structural damage, outdated wiring, or plumbing, among others.

As a homeowner, it is important to be aware that unexpected issues may arise during the remodeling project; it's a natural occurrence. However, reputable remodeling companies will conduct thorough research on your property beforehand to minimize the likelihood of any surprises during the construction process.

Requests by homeowners: Another potential source is changes requested by the homeowner, which can occur as they review construction progress and refine their vision for the remodel. These requests could involve switching out materials or fixtures, additional work that wasn't originally planned, or even alterations to the scope of work agreed upon initially.

Homeowners must understand that additional changes requested mid-project can incur time and cost penalties, so it's important to consider your ideas beforehand and discuss them with the contractor before construction begins.

Availability of materials: Finally, changes in the availability or suitability of materials can trigger change orders. This may occur due to supply chain disruptions, material shortages, cost fluctuations, or the introduction of new materials that offer advantages over the originally specified ones. Change orders can be used to substitute materials while ensuring the quality and performance of the project.

modern-master-suite-addition-phoenixHow To Minimize Change Orders

Although change orders can't always be avoided, there are steps homeowners can take to reduce their frequency. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Research your contractor: You should work with a reputable home remodeling company that has an extensive portfolio, positive reviews from past customers, and a team of experienced professionals. Review their website and become familiar with their home remodeling process. An experienced remodeler can anticipate potential issues before they arise and help you minimize change orders throughout the project.
  • Have a clear vision for the project: Before construction starts, homeowners should review and refine their remodeling plans during the project's design phase to ensure that all details have been addressed. By understanding what you want ahead of time, you're less likely to change your mind as the project progresses.
  • Be fully engaged: The design phase of your remodeling project can be tedious, but it's important that all of the decision-makers be fully engaged. Your design will drive the rest of the construction project, so you must carefully review your decisions before signing the construction contract.
  • Discuss costs upfront: Before starting the project, thoroughly discuss all aspects of your project with your contractor and design team. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page so you understand the project's scope and costs.
  • Be flexible: While having a clear vision of what you want from the project is important, understand that changes may occur during construction and be open to considering different options. A competent contractor will help guide you through the decision-making process and ensure you get the best outcome.

Consequences of Change Orders on a Remodeling Project

Whether it's cost overruns, delays, or altering the original vision for your remodel, change orders can be disruptive. However, with effective management and proactive planning, their impact can be mitigated. Let's delve into the potential effects of change orders on your remodeling project.

Cost overruns: Change orders substantially affect costs, leading to increased expenses. It is crucial to bear in mind that any additional work conducted requested will result in additional expenses. This may even include a small fee to research and pull together the change order scope, whether you decide to move forward with the change or not.

Schedule delays: Another consequence of change orders is that they can cause delays in the project timeline. This could occur due to substituting materials with longer lead times, re-ordering fixtures, or coordinating specialty contractors.

Design and quality impacts: Changes made through a change order can have design implications. Alterations to the original plan may affect the overall design concept, functionality, or aesthetics of a product or project. It's essential to consider how changes will impact the overall quality and performance of the final deliverable.

Coordination challenges: Homeowners should understand that change orders create additional work for contractors, which may require them to reallocate resources or move labor from one area of the project to another.


Improved Outcomes from Change Orders

It's worth noting that not all change orders have negative consequences. Sometimes, change orders can lead to improved outcomes, better functionality, or increased satisfaction. For example, contractors may suggest materials that offer better performance or are more cost-effective than the originally specified ones. Change orders can also be used to incorporate new technologies or features that weren't initially part of the project plan. This could lead to increased efficiency, improved energy savings, and a better overall outcome for the homeowner.

It's important to remember that change orders are a normal part of the remodeling process, and they can be used to benefit the project as well. With careful planning, research, and clear communication between the homeowner and remodeling team, change orders can be minimized and their impact on the project can be managed. This will ensure that your remodel is completed on time and within budget while still achieving your desired outcome.

The content is provided by Hochuli Design & Remodeling Team, a firm specializing in design-build remodeling. If you want a design-build construction team to complete your whole home remodel or home addition, contact us to get started.