Paul L. Sullivan, CGR
The Sullivan Company, Newton, Mass.
Big50 1994

We don't, we welcome them. We have never done a project that didn't involve change orders. Why suppress a client's creativity by telling them they can't change something to the way they want it? It's their home and they should be 100% happy with it.

The key is learning how to charge appropriately for the change and also account for the additional time it will take to complete the job. We include labor above the line then mark up the subtotal to cover overhead. We then mark up that amount another 10% for profit. This is the same calculation we use for contract or cost-plus work. The result is a more satisfied client and a more profitable project.

Phil Cantor
Jendell Construction, Kensington, Md.
Big50 2001

Easy: We don't. Change orders are as much a part of the renovation as invoices. We do a walk-through with the client every 10 days. We talk over any change orders, then proceed or delete.

Of course, there are certain changes that are very expensive when made late in the game -- adding a pocket door in a bearing wall, for example. Those need to be discussed as soon as possible, so the client can digest the cost.

Bottom line: Give the client what they want, then send the invoice.

Mike Weiss, CGR
Weiss & Company, Carmel, Ind.
Big50 1994

Why would anyone want to discourage change orders? They are an expression of confidence in the work you are already doing, a sign from the clients that they are comfortable with you and want to spend more money. Contractors who discourage a client-requested change to a well-designed original job diminish their stature in the clients' eyes and may work themselves out of a repeat job

Peter Feinmann, CR
Feinmann Remodeling, Arlington, Mass.
Big50 1992

I think the best way to discourage change orders is to do the best possible job planning the project. In the ideal world, those jobs that have the longest planning process have fewer change orders and therefore fewer changes to the schedule.

I think small change orders are a part of the remodeling process, but we have gotten into trouble adding a large amount of additional work to the original project scope. We have found that somehow we end up staying too long on the project, and the clients forget that they initiated all this additional work. Then they simply wonder why it is not done yet.

We think it is really important to evaluate adding large portions of work and to have clear discussions with our clients regarding this additional work.

Craig Deimler
Deimler & Sons Construction, Harrisburg, Pa.
Big50 2001

We limit client-initiated changes to 10% of the agreement amount. Unforeseen obstructions are not counted in this total, because no one could have known they'd be there. The preconstruction conference is the last chance they have to make a change that will not be counted toward the limit. Any client-initiated changes over the 10% limit are scheduled as a new job in our production calendar.

Most clients have taken this very well, when properly explained. However, most of our work is design/build in nature, so we have a longer ramp-up time in which to explain this to them and plan their project thoroughly before the work starts.