Home Remodeling and Change Orders

You’ve finally decided to go ahead with your long dreamed of kitchen makeover. You’ve visited kitchen showrooms, you’ve combed through magazines, and you’ve put together a design with your carefully chosen contractor. As the work begins, you come across some tile that you think will complement your china perfectly. You tell your contractor that instead of the laminate you’ve picked out for the counters, you want to go with the tile. He says okay.

Two months later you have tile countertops that don’t match the backsplash, which wasn’t changed, and a bill that is substantially higher than you anticipated. What went wrong?

Change orders are a fact of life in the remodeling industry. The homeowners’ understanding of what they are and how to handle them can make the difference between a successful project and one fraught with tension.

The actual definition of a change order is pretty simple it is anything that changes the original scope or specifications of agreed upon work. They are not uncommon, especially in large projects. But they do frequently cause problems. These problems arise in two ways. First, there can be misunderstandings about what to change. Second, there can be misunderstandings about the cost of those changes.

Change orders should always be put in writing, and a price should be quoted in writing before the change order is final.

Contractors are responsible for coordinating dozens of details in order to bring your project to completion. They find subcontractors, coordinate schedules, arrange inspections, purchase material, provide paperwork for home improvement loans, and lots more on a daily basis. It shouldn’t be a surprise that some conversations can be forgotten or details can be lost. While it’s a good idea to talk to your contractor about potential changes, when you decide to go ahead with a change, put it in writing so that there is a record of the change and exactly what the change is.

Getting a price is also very important, and homeowners should expect nearly every change to have a cost. Costs include not just materials. Suppose you want to add a small cabinet to the original design, but you don’t decide that until after the rest of the cabinets are installed. The cost of adding that cabinet will include not only the labor and material to build the cabinet, but there will also be a trip onsite to measure for the cabinet and trip to install the cabinet, plus the contractor’s time to get a new bid and a new contract with the cabinet maker, and, well, you get the idea. The cost of change orders can be higher than you think, so always get an estimate before you set yoru heart on the change.

To keep your job running smoothly, follow these rules:

Finalize your design before you start any work.
Resist the urge to modify your design except to address specific issues that arise during the remodel.
If you do make a change, put it in writing.
Make sure you get a written price quote before you give the go ahead for the change.

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