As a homeowner when you contract your construction project to a company, you make take it for granted that you sign on the dotted line, submit a deposit and the project is ready to start. Unfortunately, it is not quite that simple.
In reality, there are many things that must happen between the time a contract is signed and the day we start work.
- Building plans need to be developed and approved.
- All necessary permits must be submitted and approved by the town/city. Most jobs require detailed building plans for permitting.
- All colors must be selected and ordered for roofing, siding, windows, etc. Some materials have extended lead time.
- All materials must be ordered and scheduled to be delievered prior to the project start.
- Kitchen and bathroom remodels need to have cabinets and counters selected for ordering (cabinets can take 6-8 weeks).
- Flooring should be chosen, allowing up to 6 weeks for some styles.
Prior to work beginning, keep in mind:
- All fragile items should be removed from work areas and walls.
- Furniture should be moved out of the work areas.
- Curtains/drapes should be removed prior to window installation.
- Cabinets and closets should be cleaned out if there is work being done in those areas.
- Burglar alarm systems should be turned off during work hours, as vibration often sets them off.
The definition of a change order in the simplest sense is summed up by the educational department at the University of Colorado.
The client’s written order to the contractor, issued after execution of the construction contract, which authorizes a change in the construction work and contract time and/or amount.
Change orders are a part of construction and play a necessary role in achieving proper results during construction, but often times customers are taken advantage of by contractors who use change orders as a way to supplement income after a job is intentionally bid low. More times than not, the contractor with the lowest bid didn’t fully quote the job as intended by the homeowner. Some contractors utilize very vague terms in their contracts to allow for later change orders to supplement the lack of profit in their original scope of work.
The best way to avoid this problem is to utilize a contractor who is very specific in their contracts. Some people often wonder how one contractor can be twenty to fifty percent higher than comparable quotes. The answer is simple; they are not comparable quotes. It is tough to compare apples and oranges, so the best way to ensure you aren’t change ordered to death is to look over each proposal and make a list of what is included in each scope of work. At the end of the day cheap things aren’t good, and good things aren’t cheap. That is not to say that you should pay top dollar for everything, but typically the lowest bid is lowest for a reason.
Sadly, the age of handshake deals are gone. Your greatest form of protection is making sure that the contract you sign has included everything you requested and specifically outlines the scope of work and alternative plans if unforeseen items do arise. It is not uncommon for customers to go with a low price only in the end pay more than other quotes they received.
QUESTIONS EVERY POTENTIAL CUSTOMER SHOULD ASK:
- Can I receive an itemized contract that includes product information such as brand name, model number, size, shape, and color?
- How does your company handle change orders, and do you foresee them being an issue?
- Do you have a list of references that I can call that have experienced projects similar to mine?
Doing home improvements should be a happy and exciting time in a property owner’s life. The last thing a customer should worry about is if their contractor is squeezing them for every last penny. If you find yourself in a situation where cost is skyrocketing for items that should be included; stop the project and conduct a meeting with your contractor to review all legal paperwork.