Change orders can be difficult to estimate because they involve items that are usually not apparent at the current stage of construction. Moving a wall 1 foot will affect the amount and cost of floor coverings six months later.

If they estimate them correctly, companies can make money on change orders. Clients see the change order as an opportunity to improve the project and are willing to spend money to fulfill their wishes.

No matter how small the change, discussing it, writing it up, and rearranging the schedule mean a loss in production time. Here are some rules for estimating change orders that should minimize your losses:

Use a form. Use a checklist/form to build an estimate. This will help you see items that are not readily apparent.

Think through the change. Take time to process the change in your mind. Work through it from start to finish and imagine what will need to be done.

Update missing details. When you finish an estimate, ask yourself, "What did I miss?" If the change is large enough, ask someone else to review it for any missing items.

Realize it will seem like a lot of money. At first glance, most change orders will seem expensive. You need to realize that though you may only be adding one door, the price takes into account the unseen costs of adding crew time and scheduling changes. --Tim Faller, Field Training Services,

Attend Tim Faller's seminar, "Using a Lead Carpenter Program Successfully," at the Remodelers' Show in October. Details at