Once you’ve approved the floor plans and materials selections, custom home builders will charge for change orders.  Why?  Because changes cost time, slowing the project.  Often, they also cost money, requiring completed work to be re-done and/or more expensive materials to be purchased.  One simple way to avoid the price of change orders is good planning.  This requires, at the very least, designing a full set of house plans, complete with details, plus completing a Building Specifications (or Selections) document.

Avoid the Price of Change Orders: Tip 1 – Design a full set of house plans, complete with details.

There is a lot of information on a set of floor plans.  Lines and text represent walls, doors, windows, cabinets, and many other elements that make up a finished house.  There are even dimensions and extra notes.  Despite this, there is actually a lot of information missing from house plans, as well.  For example, the following information is often not included on a floor plan:

  • Wall stud material type and stud spacing
  • Wall sheathing (the outside surface of the frame, inside the brick or siding)
  • Insulation type
  • Window material
  • Various finish materials, including cabinet construction, flooring types and layout, paint finish, trim materials, doorknobs, cabinet hardware, faucets, etc.

And I could go on.  Our bid to estimate the cost to build a house contains nearly 700 line items!

So, when you look at your house plans, you’re no doubt making certain assumptions about items not specifically called out.  Your builder is doing the same thing.  If you don’t discuss these assumptions, there is a good chance that some (perhaps many) construction expectations will be different between you and your builder.  ( To read Elements complete “Construction Expectations” document, click here.)

This becomes a problem when, while building your custom home, the builder installs something that matched his/her assumptions, but doesn’t match yours.  Because of this, you want to change it.  The problem is, now, you’re going to have to pay to remove whatever it is you don’t like and replace it with something you do, plus pay the builder’s additional change order fee.

How can this be avoided?  Well…

Avoid the Price of Change Orders: Tip 2 – Complete a building specifications / selections document.

To avoid the expense of tearing out and re-doing work, you must not make assumptions.  (After all, we know what happens when we “assume,” right?)  Instead, you need to have open and honest conversations about your materials expectations with your builder.  And your builder needs to have open and honest conversations with you about whether those selections fit within your budget.

At Elements Design Build, we utilize an online specifications / selections document, which is found on your homeowner’s page.  In fact, we strongly encourage our clients to make all selections before building begins so that we can give a more accurate bid.  Not only does this help clients stay within budget, but it also helps the building process move more smoothly and in a more timely manner.  (You can read more about our homeowner’s page here and our commitment to transparent communication here.)

Avoid the Price of Change Orders: Tip 3 – Hire a design-build firm.

Another way to avoid the high price of changes orders is to hire a design-build firm.  Earlier, we mentioned that when looking at plans, you and your builder are making assumptions.  Well, this holds true for you and your architect, as well as the builder and architect, too.

With a design-build firm, the architectural team is in-house, working alongside the building team.  Because of this, they are better versed about the builder’s typical selections, plus the builder understands what is (and is not) included on the house plans.  Also, everyone on the team is aware of your budget and works from the beginning to design a house that you can afford to build.

Avoid the Price of Change Orders: Tip 4 – Don’t change your mind mid-build.

The final way to avoid the price of change orders is to simply not change your mind.  Take the time before building begins to make your selections, ensuring that they fit within your budget.  Then, stick with those choices!  That way, you don’t have to pay the extra price of change orders, in both time and money.


For more information about how to design the perfect house plans, click here.

View Elements House Plans Collection here.

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The Cost to Build a House: The Price of Change Orders
Article Name
The Cost to Build a House: The Price of Change Orders
An article outlining four tips to help avoid the high price of change orders, including designing a full set of floor plans and completing a Building Specifications document.
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Elements Design Build L.L.C.
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