What the Heck is a Change Order?


Change Order.


Sounds like fast-food drive-thru lingo. Or a switching of the guards on duty at the local prison?


Nope. It’s actually a key piece of communication between renovation contractor and client, a rubber-stamped telegram, of sorts, requiring immediate action.


Change orders document all changes in the work that was outlined in the original contract or estimate.


There are usually two change order scenarios:


1. Sometimes there are unexpected construction additions or corrections needed. This is a contractor-driven change order.


We don’t always know what we will find behind your old walls, or the state of structural beams and piping. If structural beams are rotting or your HVAC piping fell apart and is doing a good job of heating the inside of your wall instead of your bedroom, that work requires a change order.


This is why we ask all our clients to have a contingency in their budget. That way, if there are any unexpected surprises, you don’t have to sacrifice your floor-to-ceiling glass tiled shower to stay on budget.


2. A client-driven change order occurs when there are additions to the scope of work, or changes in the finish selections.


For example, you decide your champagne taste just can’t resist the quartz countertop and you ditch the laminate, or it turns out extending backsplash tile to the laundry room ceiling isn’t in the budget. All major and minor, small or large changes require a change order.


These handy docs also keep the timeline for project completion fair. If structural beams do need replacing, that will add days to the end of your original projected completion date. Also, change orders keep standards in place for safe work practices and eliminate any confusion for trades working onsite. When a change order comes about, all our tradespeople are made aware, and can therefore adjust their timeline accordingly.


As with all changed decisions, the SOONER the better. You may think mentioning the extra kitchen plug-in you want isn’t a big deal. IT IS! Don’t sit on it. Pow-wow with your contractor and designer if you are uncertain; it will cost a lot less to install that plug-in BEFORE the drywall goes in, paint goes on and cabinetry is in place.


We always build contingencies into every plan. It’s impossible to know what is behind the drywall, buried in the backyard, hiding beyond the moat, and we like to keep our clients abreast of any issues and then take care of them.


In our change orders, we outline your original allowance, your upgrade (or a downgrade—YES! We have cost-savings change orders! That’s right people, sometimes you SAVE money on a renovation!) and the difference in cost.


One thing is certain, your renovation job WILL have change orders. Don’t forget to ask your questions, speak up sooner than later, and get your change order signed as soon as you can to avoid delay in your project timeline. Change orders may seem like a hassle, but they are a truly awesome way to track where your money is going when changes occur in your project.