Surprises are great – most of the time. We all love those unexpected moments for birthdays, anniversaries, and Valentine’s Day.
But when it comes to building or remodeling your home? The last thing you want during a custom home project is a long list of surprise charges after you’ve been given a price – also known as CHANGE ORDERS.
Unfortunately, many dishonest contractors have given Change Orders a bad rep because their modus operandi is to give their clients a low bid in order to be competitive, and then once they have the job, they “walk it up” with Change Orders. We’ve met many homeowners who were given a price for a remodel but when it was all said and done, they paid more than 75% of the original bid because of Change Orders for things the contractor had “forgotten” to include in his bid.
So how do you avoid these horror stories? There are two parts to this. Read on to find out how to avoid Change Orders on your custom home project.
1. Emphasize completed planning before the work even begins.
Completed planning is so much more than a set of blueprints. Planning and Design is a very involved process in which you should be intimately involved. This is one of the most important things you could do to save money later, because the more detailed your bid is, the less likely it is that you will receive an unexpected Change Order during construction.
Design and Planning should include:
• Any land surveys or geotechnical samples needed in order to understand the land on which the home is being built.
• An initial floor plan (also called a schematic) which is presented to you for your approval. Your Design team should go over this with you in detail and make any changes you need to be happy with the layout.
• Detailed blueprints, based on your approved schematics, stamped and sealed by an architect or engineer.
• A detailed Scope of Work, written by the Contractor, which clearly explains everything that is included in the project and anything that is specifically excluded.
• If pertinent, a list of Allowances for any design items not specified yet.
• Any other specific instructions or requests you have. It is best to have everything in writing so as to avoid the “He said/she said”s later.
Once you have completed planning in, you can then get bids from multiple contractors if you wish, and they should be comparable because everyone will be bidding on the same thing. The prices you get are the prices for the exact Scope of Work you have in writing – therefore there should be no room for any “Oops” from the Contractor and unexpected charges later.
2. Do not continue with your design and planning process after the work has begun.
Believe it or not, one of the main reasons for Change Orders at Nelson Construction and Renovations is homeowners who change their minds in the middle of construction.
Design changes often also mean structural changes. For instance, if the Scope of Work calls for a standard faucet, your contractor is going to pour the foundation and put in a plumbing set-up for that specification. If, however, you decide to change to a wall-mounted faucet halfway through the job, that means going backwards and re-doing a lot of the work. This will inevitably result in a Change Order.
The moral of the story is, get all your design and planning done before the work begins – and then don’t make any more changes!
The only time both the Contractor and the Homeowner should welcome a Change Order is in the case of unforeseen conditions. This means something revealed during construction – usually during demolition – which was unknown during the Design and Planning process. This may be a situation with mold, termites, or a structural issue that couldn’t be seen until demolition was done. In such circumstances, the Contractor must submit a Change Order in order to ensure the project is done properly. The last thing you want is your Contractor trying to patch something up that could be a danger to the health and safety of you and your family.
In any case, regardless of the reasons for a change, your Contractor should have a standard procedure for processing Change Orders and that should include notifying you before any of the work is done. The last thing you want is a bill for work that you didn’t approve! This is why communication is so important and is one of the most important factors in your relationship with your Contractor.
The Beauty of Design-Build
When you hire an experienced Design-Build company, both the Design and Planning and the Construction of your home are done under one umbrella. Not only is this more convenient for you, it means that everything is done right the first time – with no surprise Change Orders.
So although there may be some up-front fees to hire a Design-Build company, it is well worth the investment when you end up with the home you love for the price you approve, with NO surprise Change Orders and NO stress!
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