Getting a new construction project done can be exciting, fun, and daunting all at the same time. Whether you are looking to build your dream home, a commercial space, get a remodel done, or do a smaller project, the more information you have as a customer, the better. It is essential to be prepared for hiccups or changes that may arise during this construction process. One item that arises during the construction process that can affect timelines and budgets is a “Change Order.” They are fairly common during construction, especially if you, as a customer, change the scope, style, or design of the work being performed.

What is a Change Order?

A Change order in construction is a document or a process that is used to request modification to the original work scope, the plans, or the specifications. Changes can involve changes to design, materials, schedules, or other project-related factors such as how far materials have to be hauled to the project site. Change orders are essential because they help ensure that any alterations to the project are properly documented and approved by the parties involved, including the owner, contractor, and the architect/engineer.

Why are Change Orders Necessary?

Change orders are necessary for several reasons. There are unforeseen issues during construction. For example, there can be unexpected challenges or conditions such as hidden structural issues, or the wiring and plumbing isn’t where it needs to be and now it needs to be moved. Also, adding new things to do or changing designs by the owner. There are many reasons that can cause a change orders. Just know that they happen and are fairly frequent in construction projects. The longer a project is, the more likely it is to experience a change order.

Change orders can also happen in order to stay compliant with local HOA or building codes. Depending on what those codes are, sometimes it can add extra, unforeseen costs.

How Do Change Orders Affect Your Construction Project?

Change orders can impact a project’s budget and also timeline. This may require adjustments to account for additional costs or extended completion dates.

Depending on the size of a change order, you can see significant changes in cost. It is best as a consumer to plan on having extra money ready at the beginning of a project in case there is a change order that happens. Expenses related to a change order may include extra labor, materials, or equipment.

In addition to affecting your budget, change orders can also lead to delays in your construction timeline. When changes are made, it affects everyone’s schedule and pushes things back. It takes time to revise plans, order new materials, and re-adjust the construction schedule accordingly. This often results in project completion dates being pushed back, potentially impacting other project-related deadlines.

Change Order Documentation

When working through change orders, it is a best practice to have proper communication and documentation. It is important that all parties involved understand these changes, their implications, and the associated costs and timeline adjustments. Having a good conversation between contractor and client along with properly documenting these changes is important. It helps avoid misunderstandings, disputes, and ensures everyone is on the same page.

What Happens if I Don’t Approve A Change Order?

If you don’t approve a change order, it can sometimes drastically slow down your project. A contractor cannot continue with work related to the change order until this is signed off and approved. If the contractor asks for a change order and you reject it, they may ask for a pro-waiver release form stating you rejected the change order that was proposed. Or, the contractor may not be able to move forward with the project because they are unable to complete the project with the new scope at the old price.


While change orders can be disruptive to a project and add complexity, they are a necessary part of what happens with construction. Properly managing change orders is essential to maintain transparency, control costs, and ensure your project remains on track. It’s crucial to work closely with your contractor, architect, and anyone else involved to proactively address these changes. Understanding the nature and impact of change orders can help you be better prepared for an upcoming construction project. Again, don’t be surprised if you experience one or a few of these during your project. They do happen. Just work to have open communication with your contractor.

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