As if renovating in New York City weren’t costly and difficult enough, what happens when the price you already agreed to suddenly doubles — and you have no choice but to pay for it? Such is the case when you get handed a change order request right in the middle of your big renovation project.
The popularity of cable-TV remodeling shows hasn’t helped. On TV, contractors are always removing walls, discovering unexpected pipes, and then ratcheting up the price and timeline. It makes for a dramatic moment right before a commercial break, but in real life, it’s just a big headache.
In the New York City, the average midrange bathroom remodel falls somewhere in the $38,000 range, and for kitchens, you’re likely paying about $50,000. For an upscale kitchen remodel, we’re talking upwards of six figures. The costs and time commitments are already huge — who wants to add unexpected change orders to the mix? No one.
What causes change orders?
Change orders usually result from one of two factors. In all honesty, some contractors actually leave out details of a renovation from their proposals so they can quote you a lower initial price. More commonly, however, contractors just don’t do their jobs thoroughly during the project planning phase. Whatever they missed shows up in the price later on.
Errors in the project scope — scanty details, misrepresentation, or incomplete drawings — can also lead to change order requests. So can mistakes in accounting for your building’s design and layout or the site of your renovation.
How can I avoid change orders?
One common piece of advice is to add a cushion of at least 10% into your renovation budget solely to prepare for possible change orders. That’s fine, as long as you’re using it for extras you decide you want along the way — think custom countertops or cabinets — rather than unexpected conditions that should have been addressed earlier.
Here are a few other tips you can use to avoid change orders:
Examine the alteration agreement for your building.
If your home is part of a condo or co-op, tell your contractor as soon as you can about the requirements imposed by your board’s alteration agreement. The agreement should help ensure that your project won’t go on forever or cause extensive damage to the building. It should also contain other important details like contractor requirements. If you’re confused by something, ask the board for clarification. Even a small misunderstanding can leave you on the hook for thousands or even jeopardize the project.
Look beyond the in-home scope of your project.
Full remodeling projects call for architects, permits and expeditors, filing fees, and more. Is your contractor including all of those services in the initial proposal? If so, are they in-house or outsourced? To avoid delays or fees associated with third-party work, use a full-service contractor like Gallery Kitchen & Bath.
Think about the additional work your choices might necessitate.
You know the saying, “one thing leads to another?” It applies to many things, renovations included. Sometimes, the work you think will be easy can require projects or adjustments you might not have expected. These situations can result in a change order request, but a good contractor will point those things out right away. So if you want to change the layout of your space, your contractor should tell you that taking out a wall could mean rerouting electrical work and more. Your proposal shouldn’t just quote the wall removal and leave other costs of design changes to arise later.
Make your expectations clear upfront.
When your contractor provides you with the initial estimate, examine the finish and fixture allowances, especially the ones you’re hoping to make luxury. Change orders are likely to crop up in this area if your contractor doesn’t give you an accurate estimate upfront. Before you hire someone, make sure they know you’re expecting high-end materials and that your project plan reflects your preferences.
Find a full-service contractor.
Turnkey contractors can help you avoid a change order request because they incorporate every aspect of the project in the initial proposal, using input from multiple experts. A full-service design-build firm like Gallery, for example, will ensure every part of your project, from architectural drafting and construction to design and finishes, is included in the first proposal you see.
How does Gallery do it?
When it comes to change order management in construction, Gallery works to combat the problem right from the beginning.
One of our recent projects involved a client interested in spending seven figures on a Manhattan apartment that, to be frank, needed quite a bit of work before it would be move-in ready. The client wanted to ensure purchasing the place and remodeling it would be a smart investment.
With that in mind, we got started on our typical process, which involved:
- A 45-minute discovery call to identify the client’s goals and answer questions
- An hourlong site visit to assess the condition and project scope
- A review of the alteration agreement
- A two-hour off-site meeting to discuss the client’s options and preferences for layout and materials
- An extremely detailed proposal we could guarantee would not change during the project
The client was convinced, and they purchased the home. We completed the renovation project for the exact price we quoted in the proposal. We didn’t wave a magic wand to make that happen. We just put in the work on the front end so we can deliver on the back end.
If you’re a planning a renovation project, our dedicated and experienced design-build team at Gallery Kitchen and Bath will work with you from the very first phone call to complete your project with no change order requests required.