Dealing with change orders requires putting a system in place that will prevent you from losing money on additional work. It may help to push some of the responsibility to the field manager by asking him to estimate the additional work and present the change order to the client. Here are some pros and cons to consider with this option.


  • Capturing payment. Often the small changes on a job aren’t captured because field staff complete the work without a paper trail and estimate just to keep the process flowing. If you encourage your field manager to stop for an hour to write up a change and have the client sign it, you’re more likely to get paid for both small and large changes.
  • Smoother workflow. At any given time, office personnel are working to get more jobs into production. Rather than have them stop and focus on an existing job, the production team can complete the changes. This prevents a log jam in the flow and the production manager or salesperson can concentrate on new sales.
  • Accuracy. On-site field managers and lead carpenters are more familiar with the full circumstances of the change order and all the phases of the project the change will affect. With the proper training and estimating tools (see GoodForm, January issue) for a sample of a field calculator), they will likely create a more accurate estimate.


  • Sales slack. If the sales/design team knows that the field will handle change orders, they may slack off on preparing a job for production. A “complete package” still needs to be delivered to production.
  • Increased jobsite paperwork. Most lead carpenters are more interested in the work and don’t always appreciate more paperwork. It could take their time and attention away from the main job.
  • Inaccuracy. Despite “accuracy” listed in the pros column, the flip side is that if not trained properly, lead carpenters might be too optimistic for the estimated time it will take for them to complete the change.

—Tim Faller is president of Field Training Services and author of The Lead Carpenter Handbook.