A change order is a document that modifies the original contract and scope of work for a project in the building trades. It can be initiated by either the owner or the contractor, and it must be agreed upon by both parties. A change order can affect the cost, schedule, or quality of the project, depending on the reason and extent of the change.
The most common reasons for change orders are 1.) An unforeseen site condition not discovered during the estimating process, such as discovering termite damage or wood rot, and 2.) The owner request that additional work be done.
Change orders are an inevitable part of construction projects, as it is difficult to anticipate every variable or challenge from the outset. Change orders can cause disputes, delays, and cost overruns if they are not handled properly and consistently. Therefore, it is important to have a clear and documented process for managing change orders.so, there are no surprises at the job closeout.
Unforeseen site conditions
At MTS painting, all of our estimators were experienced painters before they became estimators. While they don’t miss much during the estimating process, it is not uncommon for them to walk through occupied interiors and yards with poor access. Many things can obscure a clear view of the surfaces to be painted and all kinds of stuff can be piled up in corners or leaned up against walls. When this type of situation happens, it will be the painter technicians who discover the problems when they begin preparation for painting. All of our crew members are trained to report to our jobsite leader and/or operations manager, and then we will discuss with the customer what the challenge is, what the options are for resolving the challenge, and what the additional cost will be. Once we have an agreement with the customer to proceed, we document the agreement in our customer relationship management software (CRM).
Owner request for additional work
This is the most common reason for a change order, and this is where a change order can be a benefit for the customer. It may be something the customer forgot to mention initially that needs to be added to the job later. A real common example of this would be to add a security screen door to the list of items to be painted. Or maybe you weren’t sure if you’d feel comfortable with your painters or the painting process, but now you do, so you ask if there’s any way to add to the job scope of work. Maybe you really want to add a guest room to the interior repaint, or you suddenly wish you’d talked about painting the gates along with the house. A change order isn’t an upsell – it’s an opportunity for efficiency, to increase project duration, or a more complete job.
Here are a few items and a couple tips to keep in mind:
- You get the best value from having the most work done possible at one time. In other words, inviting your painters back for three separately scheduled painting projects is less efficient and more costly than scheduling one larger project. That makes a change order a wise move if you like your painting company and they have the bandwidth to expand your project.
- Clear and detailed estimates are important. If the details regarding what’s included and what isn’t included aren’t spelled out, there can be confusion and frustration. If your painting company does recommend a change order, or if you ask for one, make sure you receive a separate proposal that outlines exactly what that additional work involves and costs.
- Keep in mind that this is not an opportunity for scope-creep. Your painters are busy and have other commitments to honor, so please don’t consider this a way to just add things on while your painter is there anyway. A good painting company will do everything they can to help, but being as upfront and transparent about your needs and goals as possible is important. In turn, if they propose a change order, they should be ready to honor and follow through on whatever new work you agree to.
- A well-planned change order is a chance for increased value and efficiency. When you change the oil in your car, your mechanic checks all the fluids, right? Or when you rotate your tires you might check the brakes at the same time while the wheels are already off? It’s a similar idea.
In conclusion, while most of our jobs are completed according to the original estimate, the occasional change order represents the opportunity to either fix an unforeseen problem or to expand the scope of the project to make for a better result for the customer.