What to Include in a Change Order

Change orders can be assets (increase the project value) or liabilities (squeeze your margins) depending on how they are crafted and handled. Here are a few quick-and-easy best practices to make sure yours are the former vs. the latter.

Components of a Change Order

Just like no two construction projects are alike, no two change orders are exactly alike; however, there are some best practices to make sure yours are thorough and steadfast.

  • Overview Description: This is a written explanation of why the additional work is needed beyond the scope of the original agreement. In a nutshell: What changed and why?
  • Itemized Costs: This is a line-item-level list of all of the additional costs (work and materials) resulting from the change.
  • Total Cost: This is the sum of all of the line item changes and hence the total amount you expect your client to pay if they agree to this change order.
  • Time Delays: Any impact on the timeline of the project as a result of this change order.
  • Signatures: Digital or wet signatures of the original contracting parties (you and the client).


For bookkeeping’s sake, some other information to include are:

  • Client’s name and contact information
  • Project address
  • Original contract # or name
  • Your name and contact information

Why you Need a Bullet-Proof Change Order

Crafting a crisp and thorough change order has two real advantages:

  1. You will be confident that you and the client are “on the same page” before you commence any work. You’ll also have confidence you’ll get paid for that work.
  2. It creates a well-documented paper trail in case there is ever a dispute.

You can create a template yourself or use an online tool that does it for you like, Trak Changes. A great change order template is a great first step to making change a good thing.

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