Five Excellent Ways to Limit Change Orders in Modern Construction

As a homeowner, it’s essential to understand how Change Orders can affect your residential construction project. Change Orders occur when there are deviations, or changes, from the original plan. These may be a result in changing the scope like adding a bathroom; or changing our minds, such as changing from asphalt shingles to metal roofing. These changes can cause delays, cost overruns, and disputes between you and the Contractor.

As a result of being the Architect, we know your project better than anyone else; we will be your trusted advisor because we understand the importance of limiting change orders to ensure that your project is completed on time, within budget, and meets your expectations. In this article, we will outline our top five suggestions that homeowners can utilize to limit change orders in their residential construction projects.

Broad Ripple Modern Craftsman Renovation - Owner Meeting - Paul Reynolds, HAUS Architecture, WERK Building Modern

#1 – Establish Clear Communication with Your Architect

Effective communication is key to ensuring that everyone involved in your project is on the same page.

From the start of the project, establish clear communication with your architect to limit the likelihood of change orders. This means discussing your programmatic needs, explaining your goals, being honest about your budget, reviewing any timeline constraints, and making sure to provide the architect with all the necessary information about the project.

Ask any questions that you may have, and make sure to address any concerns or issues promptly – we call it ‘ripping off the Band-Aid’. If we have a complete understanding of goals, we are able to better guide the project and limit change orders.

#2 – Complete the Design and Make Selections

It’s critical to complete the design and select finishes with your architect to limit change orders during construction.

If we were to ask you how much a bag of groceries cost, you may ask what is in the grocery bag. The same is the case when exploring pricing for your project. We can make some assumptions based on our experience, but the contractor may be including a lower cost fixture because that’s their go-to but might not be what we want – think of the ‘boob light’.

To set your project up for success – meeting your goals, desired budget, and desired schedule – the design should be as complete as possible prior to pricing the project, but especially before construction; this means making as many design decisions as possible upfront before starting construction.

Modern Lakehouse - Clearwater - Interior Living (looking south) - Christopher Short, Architect, Indianapolis, HAUS Architecture
TOPIC - Homeowner’s Guide: Best Ways to Limit Change Orders in Modern Residential Construction - Rotted wall and roof framing
Bathroom renovation exposed rotted wall and roof framing which needed to be corrected before installing new finishes.

#3 – Consider All Possibilities and Risks

Before beginning your residential construction project, it’s crucial to consider all design possibilities and the potential challenges that may arise during the construction process. Work with your architect to explore design options and selections as well as discuss how to plan for scenarios to avoid unexpected changes that can delay your project and increase your costs.

Consider unforeseen factors like weather, inflation, project type/complexity, and labor shortages that could impact the project’s progress and cost – Have a contingency in place for these factors! While every project is unique, a good place to start is a 10-15% contingency. It varies depending on the type of project – is it a bathroom renovation or a kitchen addition, the complexity of the project – are we adding a second level or working within the existing bones, and the age of the existing structure – we may have to correct some unknown issues before we can do the intended work.

As previously mentioned, it is ideal that the design is complete and selections are made before beginning construction. While no plan is perfect, having a strategy is the best insurance against surprises.

#4 – Choose the Right Construction Partner

Choosing the right partner is critical to limiting the number of change orders during your residential construction project. A major value add would be if your architect could also be your builder; not only do they know the most about the project, but this is a simplified point of contact.

At HAUS, we’re architects and builders. We are able to write good scopes of work which results in more complete pricing – less likely to have change orders.

If your architect doesn’t build, work with them to find a contractor who has experience working on similar projects to yours. A contractor who has a good track record of completing projects on time and within budget will be a better choice. Before hiring a contractor, ask for references and check their license and insurance.

Foundation Walls Complete - Back40House - Pendleton, IN - HAUS | Architecture For Modern Lifestyles, Christopher Short, Indianapolis Architect - WERK | Building Modern, Paul Reynolds, Construction Manager
New Modern House Treesdale - Front Elevation - Christopher Short, Architect, Indianapolis, HAUS Architecture

#5 – Stick to the Plan but be Flexible

Once you have a proper design, it’s crucial to stick to it as much as possible. Any changes made to the plan during the construction process will likely lead to additional costs and delays.

Work closely with your architect and contractor to ensure that the project stays on track and within budget. While it’s sometimes necessary to make changes, try to minimize them as much as possible. If you need to make changes, ensure that they are well documented and agreed upon by all parties involved prior to proceeding.

Change orders can be costly and disruptive to your residential construction project. However, by taking steps to limit them, you can ensure that your project stays on track and within budget.

Work closely with your architect to establish clear communication, complete the design and selections, consider all possibilities and risks, choose the right construction partner, and stick to the plan as much as possible. By doing so, you can limit change orders and ensure that your modern residential construction project is a success. At HAUS, we can be your trusted advisor and construction partner to lead you on this journey to creating a great home. Our breadth of knowledge, experience, and skillset means we help clients limit change orders.