The Homeowner’s Guide to Minimizing Change Orders 

Starting a home remodeling project is an exciting journey toward a redesigned space that fits your lifestyle. However, many homeowners hear the term “change order” and cringe – especially if they’ve heard horror stories about projects gone awry.  

But the truth is, change orders do not need to be scary, especially when you understand what they are, the common causes and how to minimize them (hint: it’s easy with clear communication and project understanding). 

What is a construction change order? 

A construction change order, in the context of home remodeling, is a formal request made by a homeowner for alterations or additions to the project’s original plans. This could stem from several legitimate reasons, such as a desire to change the type of materials used, add new features, or even modify the design or layout of the project. Typically, these changes also result in project cost and timeframe adjustments.  

front foyer with modern door
Image by Lesnick Photo

What are the common causes of change orders? 

Change orders in home remodeling projects can arise from various sources. The primary cause is often a change in homeowner preferences; as the project progresses, the homeowner might decide on a different aesthetic or functionality.  

Unforeseen challenges or complications during the construction process can also necessitate change orders. These may include unexpected structural issues, like discovering faulty wiring or hidden water damage.  

Finally, external factors, such as changes in regulations or material shortages, can also lead to the need for change orders.  

It’s crucial for homeowners to understand these potential causes, anticipate potential changes and manage their projects effectively. 

How homeowners can minimize change orders 

Homeowners can employ several strategies to minimize the occurrence of change orders during remodeling projects.  

Research Your Contractor 

One of the most critical aspects of any home remodeling project is the relationship between the homeowner and the contractor. Establishing a comfortable, trusting relationship with your chosen contractor significantly impacts the overall project experience. When you feel at ease with your contractor, you’re more likely to communicate your ideas, expectations, and concerns effectively. This open dialogue can prevent misunderstandings, facilitate swift resolution of issues, and provide a satisfying result. Moreover, trust in your contractor’s expertise and integrity can alleviate stress, enabling you to navigate the upheaval of a remodel with greater confidence and peace of mind. Therefore, investing time in selecting a contractor who you connect with, and who respects your vision is worth the effort and can help minimize the need for change orders. 

Be Actively Involved During the Project Development Stage 

What we have found is change orders tend to arise when clients are not actively involved during the project development phase. This crucial stage encompasses the design process and selection of all remodeling components, ranging from cabinets and flooring to fixtures and finishes. Lack of engagement from the client, particularly if it is a couple and one party is less present, becomes evident during the construction phase, leading to potential change orders.  

Therefore, being involved and making informed decisions during the project development stage is essential. This will ensure that all components meet your preferences and expectations, reducing the likelihood of costly changes down the line. It is also important to remember that many changes can add extra time to a project’s timeline and additional costs.  

💡TIP: Staying present and actively involved during the design phase is the most important tip we can give any homeowner!

A home office with a desk and bookshelves.

Review Project Details Before Construction Begins 

Before the construction phase begins, a thorough review of project details is critical for ensuring a clear understanding of what’s included in the project scope. This step involves a comprehensive overview of design plans, material choices, Scope of Work, and the project timeline.  

By understanding the specifics of the project, homeowners can verify that their project matches their vision, budget, and timeline. This preliminary review can unveil any discrepancies or potential issues that could lead to change orders in the future. For instance, you might discover a specific material choice that doesn’t meet your aesthetic vision or a design element that is not practical for your living situation. But don’t overlook the smaller items, too, such as where electrical outlets are placed (or how many).  

Additionally, this review stage is the ideal time to raise questions or clarifications you may have about the project. The remodeling firm can provide explanations, accommodate requests, or suggest alternatives before construction begins, minimizing the likelihood of misunderstandings or unsatisfactory results later on. 

💡TIP: Ultimately, taking the time to thoroughly review and understand project details before construction commences is your most effective strategy for minimizing change orders. This will keep the project on track and ensure a result that aligns with your expectations. 

Embrace Flexibility 

While having a well-defined vision for your remodeling project is crucial, it’s equally important to maintain a degree of flexibility. Changes may still occur during the remodeling process, whether due to unforeseen complications, changes in personal preferences, or unexpected inspirations. Embracing this reality and being open to considering different options can lead to improved project outcomes. This could mean being open to alternative materials with the same aesthetic appeal but greater durability, cost-efficiency, or availability. It might involve adjusting the layout of a room to accommodate an unexpected structural challenge, resulting in a unique design element that enhances the space.  

Homeowners can navigate changes smoothly by maintaining an open mind and a flexible approach, minimizing stress and ensuring a satisfying result. Remember, remodeling is a journey; sometimes, unexpected turns can lead to the most rewarding destinations. 

In conclusion, while change orders can be an inherent part of the remodeling process, strategic planning, active participation, and flexibility can go a long way in minimizing their frequency and impact. Ultimately, effective communication and a well-established understanding between the homeowner and contractor can make the journey of remodeling smoother and more rewarding. 

Posted in