Ever wonder why small changes made after buildling begins can have surprisingly large effects on the budget? We’re here to help make sense of it for you.
Cost overruns are an unfortunate fact of life in construction. Common causes of this are unclear or incomplete plans and specifications, job-site surprises and a big one: owner changes during the process of the build.
What may seem like a small change can have much larger cost impacts – oftentimes beyond the builder’s control, as there are typically several parties effected by changes requested by customer.
We’re not talking here about dishonest contractors who write vague specifications up front to create low bids and then nickel-and-dime clients with change orders to increase profits. We mean ethical, fair builders who write detailed specs and manage their jobs in a professional manner. It’s not unusual for customers of these builders to decide, after the project kicks off, that they want something different in a part of the house.
The kickoff usually happens at the pre-construction meeting, where the builder and clients review the final product and design choices, and the clients sign off on those choices. After this meeting, purchase orders are generated and sent to all subcontractors and suppliers, setting firm prices for every part of the job. Any change that happens after that point will likely add cost.
How much cost? That depends not only on what is being changed, but also when. A common example is the clients who, after seeing the space over the kitchen sink, decide they actually prefer a bigger window. That decision will cost a lot less if it is made early, during the framing walkthrough. If they wait until the window is in the wall opening and the insulation, drywall, and sink cabinet are installed, the change is more costly.
Less obvious are seemingly minor changes that have a ripple effect. These can multiply the cost of an item to several times what it would have been as part of the original specs.
For example, suppose the homeowners decide they want a pedestal sink in the guest bathroom, rather than the small vanity they had initially selected. Seems like a simple enough switch, right? The builder’s staff has to now cancel the order for the vanity and possibly for a granite top. If those items have already been fabricated and shipped, the supplier will likely charge in full for a custom order or a restocking fee for others. The pedestal must be ordered from the plumbing supplier, taking additional time. If the hot and cold water pipes are already in place, the plumber has to move them, and the plumbing inspector has to inspect the change. If the wall has already been finished, the drywaller must be called back. This minor change may throw everyone’s schedule off by a week or more!
Every change also requires time from the builder’s staff: time to complete and track orders, to reschedule workers and subcontractors, and to update the budget. The more hours of labor on the job naturally increases the total project cost as well.
Don’t let this explanation discourage you. Clients are entitled and encouraged to speak up during the process to ensure their dream home is exactly what they want and in fact, most clients decide to make at least a few changes during construction. Sometimes it is simply too difficult to envision what a space will look like until you begin to see it come to life in front of you. But we encourage clients to make changes with a clear understanding of the costs these decisions may bring if they are made after specs have been written and the contract signed. This is a reminder that making as many firm selections as possible up front is always in the customer’s best interest – for their timeline and their wallet!
Schneider Custom Builders has over 30 more years of experience in the building and remodeling industry and we are your best asset for minimizing costly change fees to your project! By following our proven preconstruction planning process, we work through and identify the details needed to avoid the unnecessary costs associated with incomplete specifications. As a result, you’ll find we’ll either save you money or afford you more to invest in the true tweaks that custom building is all about.
Experience the Schneider difference with your next home build or renovation! We look forward to working with you.