When Construction Change Orders are Necessary

In a previous blog we mentioned Change Orders.  Change Orders are used when the project requirements change due to an unforeseen issue or an owner request that is different than what was in the original construction documentation.  Change orders should be documented by the contractor.  Included in the document should be the reason for the change, what will be required to correct the issue and a detailed budget.  The Change Order should also state the amount of time the change will add to the project completion date.  All Change Orders must be approved by the owner, or owner’s representative, prior to implementation. Owner must understand that a change order equals more money thus being over-budget which may increase the overall cost substantially.

Construction Change Orders should be reserved for structural and mechanical changes associated with material renovations that were not evident until the walls were removed.  Examples of these types of changes are structural beams added to the existing framing or the structure requires re-framing due to damage.  I have seen one house that looked to be in perfect condition until the wall plaster was removed to reveal wall studs that had to be replaced due to damage from termites.

Proposed optional changes should be discussed with the architect or project designer prior to discussing with the contractor.  Often, the designer will study the change request than make recommendations to the owner as to the best way to proceed.  If the change involves structure the architect will need to verify any load paths, recalculate all bearing, beams and footings then determine if the change is feasible based on the existing phase of the project construction.  I have seen owners who at the framing stage, decide that the rooms were too small.  Most often this is just a perception caused by the lack of exterior finish.  After discussing the issue and reminding the client of the furniture layout this type of problem will be resolved without any change orders or involvement of the contractor.

Understanding the true cost of the construction project is critical.  Change Orders mean money and an allowance in the budget for unforeseen conditions is essential in keeping cost under control.  Good planning and communication between the owner and architect/designer will help to prevent changes to the plan after construction starts.

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