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The BIGGEST MISTAKES contractors make... and HOW TO AVOID THEM!!! Part 2: Bad Change Orders

The BIGGEST MISTAKES contractors make... and HOW TO AVOID THEM!!! Part 2: Bad Change Orders

PART 2: Bad Change Orders

Poor planning is the surest way to get poor execution.

Over the years, I have come across some pretty horrific stories from homeowners about contractors. As I mentioned in Part 1 of this blog series, communication is paramount to a fantastic job. Pre-Construction is the phase of the project where the dream of the homeowners takes real shape. How the general contractor deals with Pre-Construction is a precursor of how every other detail in the project will be handled. If the contractor executes poor Pre-Construction practices, or if Pre-Construction is absent from the project altogether, you can expect a very hectic remodeling experience. If Pre-Construction is handled professionally, it will set the project up for success and you have very good reason to expect that the general contractor will handle the Construction phase with the same attention to detail and organization. During the interview process, keep an eye out for professional problem makers so you can find a professional general contractor who will steer your project toward success.


Good Change Orders vs. Bad Change Orders

A Change Order is exactly what it sounds like, it’s a deviation from the original plan that will, likely, create additional costs and time extensions to the project. Though a professional Pre-Construction phase will eliminate most Change Orders, there might be unforeseen issues hiding behind the sheetrock or tub that must be addressed (i.e., mold or rotten wood). Homeowners might also drive Change Orders as they decide mid-project to change direction on an aspect of the remodel. These are normal Change Orders and are either necessary or at the direction of the homeowner. What I want to address are bad Change Orders, these can derail projects, leaving the homeowner’s bank account and home in shambles. Two major reasons for bad Change Orders are inexperience and laziness. Let’s look at the inexperienced contractor first.


Inexperienced Contractors

If you are dealing with an inexperienced contractor, you will have to deal with problems that the inexperienced contractor does not even know exist. Home remodeling projects, especially those pertaining to the kitchen and bathroom, can run into all kinds of speed-bumps and road-blocks. Certain shower fixtures could require updated plumbing, different materials might come with special installation instructions, and some appliances will need electricity, water or gas where it didn’t previously exist. An experienced contractor will know exactly which questions to ask and how to adjust their plan according to what the homeowner desires. The contractor will probably be the most experienced person on the job site, but, if the contractor can’t anticipate all of your projects’ needs, how will the other workers? As with any industry, experience gives a true professional foresight into potential problems, allowing them to troubleshoot beforehand. Helton Remodeling has 14 years of experience specializing in home kitchen and bathroom remodels so we operate on an understanding that quality requires proper planning. How can you avoid inexperienced contractors? The best way to avoid dealing with an inexperienced contractor is to talk to their previous customers.


Lazy Contractors

While inexperience may not indicate a character flaw, laziness is another story. Lazy contractors lack the organizational skills to pull off a project successfully. Even though Pre-Construction leaves little room for the imagination, undergoing this type of process with clients is too much work for a lazy contractor. “Let’s wing it,” could be the perfect motto. Homeowners will hear lots of, “I didn’t know you wanted to do it like that,” and “I didn’t budget for that.” Without clear communication upfront, the homeowner will end up paying more in the long run.


Another example of laziness is one that defaults to leaving materials in the form of allowances and starting the project. Many materials require increased labor costs, so if this happens, you may have mid-project Change Orders because these details were not worked out ahead of time. Something worth repeating is that Change Orders will always add time to a project. Changes steal momentum from a job, which is why I prefer to work out all project details in Pre-Construction. This provides the homeowner with the best possible scenario for all aspects of their project.


How can the Homeowner avoid bad Change Orders?


  • Ask about the general contractor's Pre-Construction phase. If it does not follow the one outlined in Part 1 (all the details worked out beforehand and written down for homeowner approval), it is probably best to look for another contractor.
  • Talk to references and ask them about the Pre-Construction phase and Change Orders for their projects. Were all the details worked out ahead of time? How were Change Orders handled? What kind of changes were encountered? Were there any bad Change Orders?
  • Ask the general contractor about the Change Order policy. If the policy is not clear and does not require to be in written form and signed prior to moving forward, you are more likely to face bad Change Orders in the project.


Helton Remodeling Services, LLC provides quality models and additions in the Austin Metro Area. We partner with award winning interior designers and architectural firms to make your dream project become a reality.

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