Most remodeling projects of any size inevitably go through some adjustments in terms of scope of work. Typically, the process involves a series of phone calls among the homeowner, lead carpenter, and company office, with the end result being a signed change order. It's a necessary evil, but it can often become a time-consuming hassle.

Doesn't it make sense, then, to try to avoid it whenever possible, while still satisfying the homeowner's wish to tinker mid-project? “This is for the small stuff,” Chris McDonald, co-owner of Olympia, Wash.–based The Artisans Group, says of his company's time and materials form. Any change order that will cost less than $500 and take fewer than 10 hours to complete gets a “blue sheet.” McDonald's leads complete the form on the spot, get the owner to sign off on it, and then begin the work.

While the lead may not know how much the materials will cost right away, providing as much information as possible about the items makes it easier to track down the invoice when it's time to reconcile the bills.This form is the only blue one in the whole company. That's so it doesn't get overlooked or pushed aside in the everyday shuffle. “There's no doubt in anyone's mind what it is,” McDonald says.

When they developed this form a few years ago, McDonald and his co-owner, Randy Foster, included this space. However, they've found that they rarely need it.

The production manager is responsible for making sure the information on the time and materials forms makes its way into the billing system. The Artisans Group uses a spreadsheet called a master reconciliation sheet (MRS) that tracks the project financials. Each blue form gets a separate line item in the MRS.

The client is made aware of the company policy regarding these forms at the preconstruction meeting, and the specifications are included in the contract, too. “They know that it'll be X amount of dollars and X amount of markup for the blue sheet projects,” McDonald says.