just a piece of paper, often only one sheet, and
different companies write it up different ways. Yet when
needed, the change order could prove the only thing that
stands between you and hundreds or thousands of dollars
worth of misunderstanding — or worse, unauthorized
work that inflates the price of a project.
addendum to the original contract ensures the service
provider and customer are on the same page and that both
sign the dotted line before making any changes to a job
already in progress.
need to have a written record of the project," says
Robert Criner, founder of Criner Remodeling , in
Newport News, Va. "It keeps the job running smooth,
and there aren’t any surprises for anybody."
Criner serves as vice chair of the NAHB Remodelers,
which represents the interests of the National
Association of Homebuilders’ remodeling industry
a construction or remodeling job — a common place for
the change order — it details that
project-already-underway switch in tile styles you asked
for in the bathroom or outlines additional work a
contractor needs to do after finding rot under the
floor. The written agreement should communicate changes
to job scope, how these impact cost, when you’re
expected to pay (if it adds to the price tag) and any
changes to the project completion date, since
modifications often push that deadline back, Criner
prefers to call them "change requests" since
they’re optional. That’s another reason to get
changes in writing first, experts say, so you can review
the details before proceeding with work.
rated contractors say most change orders occur as a
result of customers’ suggested tweaks once the project
has started. Unforeseen issues can legitimately result
in change orders on the contractor’s side, too, but
experts caution consumers to be wary of an endless
stream of paperwork.
there are contractors out there that rely on change
orders to make their margins," says Charlie Griffey,
owner of Griffey Remodeling n Columbus, Ohio.
"When you hear about people low-balling their
estimates, it comes down to how detailed is their
proposal and scale of work?"
advance of signing off on any project, you should expect
a thorough proposal that not only outlines what you’ll
physically see in the space — the new divider wall and
paint color — but also what you don’t, such as that
pre-formed base put in before a shower install to
not unusual for us to have a six-page proposal on even a
bathroom remodel," says Griffey, adding that this
helps keep change orders to a minimum. "If it’s
not a detailed proposal or scope of work, there’s
always going to be change orders." On the other
hand, highly rated contractors say the lack of any
change orders to account for modifications made to a
project already in progress is also a red flag.
and customers should work closely to determine early on
if changes in project scope might be needed, whether the
contractor suspects water damage that seeps into a wall
or the project involves lead paint. "The proposal
should at least note that some form of remediation could
be included in the project and that could affect
cost," Griffey says.
addition, service providers say homeowners should steer
clear of making changes late in a project, which can
alter a contractor’s schedule on other jobs.
"That can affect the customer and contractor
relationship," says Jason LaPay, president and
owner of J&B Affordable Design and Remodeling in New
Kensington, Penn. Ultimately, he and others say, good
communication nurtures that relationship — in person,
and in writing.