Your remodel bid indicated a timeline of three weeks. However, once work began you ran into issues that threaten that timeline. The delay can cause friction with your customer and also prevents you from bidding and working on other jobs. Issues like this are common and a major source of profit loss for small contractors. How you handle change requests and the processes you follow can make all the difference in not delaying your project, staying profitable, and keeping your client happy.
Having a sound change order management process is the first step to ensuring that not only are changes approved but that you get paid for them. As a contractor, there are steps you can take to avoid change orders and ensure your timeline is accurate, and/or you set expectations in case anything goes wrong.
- Know your contract. Whether you provide it to the customer or signed it, ensure you know key dates and issues. Anything questionable, highlight for future discussions with the client or other subcontractors.
- Walk the jobsite. Some of your highlighted items might be resolved here, or they may appear worse, in person, than in the documents. Make notes of your access, parking, type of neighborhood, and the impact of construction noise and dust (and hours) on it.
- Shoot video of the site. It can be helpful, later, when you are figuring costs or describing the need for a change order.
- Pay attention to administrative permits and fees called out in the plans, and allow for them if the work is in your scope. If you are NOT going to include such things, then make sure you have a list of “Notes and Exclusions”, clearly stating what you are, and are not, including. You could even add a sentence: Estimate allows only for  business days for permits. Remember, nothing is worse than a homeowner getting mad at how long your project is taking because you are waiting on the city to get your permits.
- Any questions you discover which are not addressed in the documents need to be addressed to the project owner, using a “Pre-Bid RFI” or in most home remodels, an informal discussion. If this occurs through talking, be sure to follow up with an email to the client with a written notice that they agree. This is just an additional layer of protection for you.
For instance, if the specifications do not indicate that the contractor has to pull a permit, then you will want to exclude that from your scope of work and responsibility. Also, even if the specs say that the contractor has to pull the permits, you might exclude the “cost of permits”, which is often a good idea because often the exact cost of permits is not known at bid time!
- If you are going to use subcontractors and they will be submitting bids to you, then reinforce these same tips with them—ahead of the bid. In other words, you insist that they thoroughly review the documents, walk the site, cover their permits and fees, and advise you of any pre-bid RFIs they’d like you to send on their behalf. They will be held responsible for things they miss, so they need to cover everything the specs have in their section—otherwise you will end up covering it, and you probably don’t want to cover that!
- Realize that most construction projects run into changes, which means you’ll have to do a change order to approve the change and also to document the dollar amount of the change order work itself. That said, ensure your process is as airtight, quick, and efficient as possible. A great way to do that is with Trak Changes.
Pro Tip: Do not be bashful about using pre-bid RFIs on anything you do not understand. You might see a note on the plans and specs which state that all pre-bid RFIs need to be submitted two weeks before bid opening. Something like that. If it’s an unanswered question that you have, and the job bids in a couple of hours, still submit the pre-bid RFI. The more expensive you believe the hidden item to be, the bigger the reason you have to send the pre-bid RFI!
Pro Tip: Even on a tiny job, use RFIs and CORs. Get used to it. Practice on the smaller jobs and it’ll become second nature on the larger jobs. And the truth is, in the construction industry, changes are actually the norm, so put in a process which eases your burden in providing the documents, which also lessens and limits any arguments from the other side as to who is responsible for something. When there is any difference of opinion it is so nice to scroll down your RFI log or even on your spreadsheets, and be able to remind everyone that “…we discussed this two months ago in RFI #12. Remember?” That’s what you want to do.
Following the tips above may not help you avoid change orders completely. Change orders when required and done efficiently, can become an asset for your construction company instead of a liability and source of delays. Learn how Trak Changes can help you manage the change order process digitally in 3 easy steps.
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