Change orders rarely come neatly wrapped. At my company, we complete a form in the office based on information we receive over the phone, estimate the cost of the change, and then present it to the client. We try to respond within one day, but our other work often takes precedence.

We have two secrets to make the change order process easier and more efficient.

A digital camera allows for immediate pictures so you can more quickly and completely review the issue that prompted the change order. The field photos remind us of work we should include in the cost and help us more accurately estimate significant changes.

For changes less than $500, we allow the field staff to estimate on-site so they can quickly respond to the homeowners' request. The lead carpenter or superintendent fill out the form with the description and estimated cost with markup. The lead and one or both homeowners sign the form. The homeowners give the lead a check for the change. The lead places one copy in the field notebook, gives one copy to the homeowner, and takes one to the office with the payment. —Joel Jay Oatten is production coordinator at Classic Homeworks, Denver