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Tips to help make change orders less of a headache

Nobody is ever really happy with a change order on a construction project. They can be costly and cause delays, leading to headaches and potentially even heated disagreements. Because of this, it's important for everyone involved to be on the same page.

With that in mind, here are some tips to consider for every construction project that can help lessen the potential impact of inconvenient change orders.

1) Establish a process ahead of time

The process of changing the scope of work on a construction project is not something you want to make up as you go. Instead, the contractor and property owner should lay out the framework for a change order process ahead of time, and include it in the contract. This can save stress and time down the line.

2) Minimize ambiguity

One way to help avoid change orders is to be as specific as possible. You probably do not want to accept "Oh, we'll figure it out when we get to it," as part of any contract. Make sure both parties understand all aspects of the project from the get-go, and it can help reduce the potential for change orders.

3) No work until the change orderis in writing

There is often a pressure on construction projects to get things done as fast as possible, including changes. That can lead everyone down a bad road. If a project requires different work to be done than what was laid out in the contract, the owner and contractor should agree upon the alteration in writing. Only then should anyone actually begin work on that changed element. This helps protect everyone involved.

4)Be aware of subcontractor contracts

It's possible a property owner and contractor agree to a change order. But what if a subcontractor is involved in that part of the project? The contractor may need to go through a change order process with the subcontractor to ensure nothing is missed.

Disputes may still happen

Following every suggestion does not guarantee disputes will not arise. On large projects especially there are bound to be disagreements, or surprises nobody could have predicted that necessitate a change order. The goal, however, should be to make the process as streamlined as possible for when these issues do crop up, without any party sacrificing their own legal protections during the course of the project.

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