Forrest Gump was onto something when he said: “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.”

Life is unpredictable and sometimes even the best-laid plans can fall by the wayside. But if there is a time you want to minimize surprises, it’s when you’re remodeling your home! Change orders during construction can add up up quickly, blowing your initial budget. Change orders also tend to drag out your timeline and cause you unwanted stress!

The good news is, with proper planning you can identify any ‘unforeseen’ circumstances and get a more accurate quote from your construction team. This helps to minimize change orders and reduce unexpected costs during the remodeling process.

What is a change order?

Image: Two men installing hardwood flooring

In construction, a change order is a document outlining any changes to the original scope of work. Occasionally this occurs because less work is required than originally thought (in which case you’ve hit the jackpot!). But in most cases it means more services are required and therefore, additional costs to you. The change order should include the revised pricing and delivery schedule, which both you and the contractor will need to sign.

What are the most common types of change orders?

These are the most common culprits when it comes to change orders:

Electrical Panel Upgrades

Image: Electrician inspecting an existing electrical panel

Your electrician should always inspect your current electrical panel. This will help them determine if you’re going to need additional circuits in your new lighting plan so they can include necessary updates in the quote before you sign off.


Get your contractor to take a peek into any drywall that will be affected by the renovation by cutting a hole or removing an existing recessed light. This ensures there are no hidden plumbing lines, which can be costly to move.


Image: Removal of existing tile flooring

Sometimes, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to flooring. There may be several layers beneath the carpet or floorboards. Your flooring installer should be aware of these conditions up-front to avoid scope creep.

Code Upgrades

It’s important your home is up to current fire codes when you’re renovating. Your electrician should check whether extra smoke detectors or outlets are needed before you start.

Heating and Cooling Systems

The last thing you want is to get into your new and improved space and find that it’s uncomfortably stuffy or freezing. If you’re tearing down (or putting up) walls, you may need to upgrade your HVAC system to ensure it’s properly ventilated for all weather conditions.  Your contractor should plan for these modifications up front.

Paint and Drywall

Image: Drywall preparation

What’s worse than change orders during construction? Getting to the end of your renovation and realizing you’re unhappy. If there are any imperfections in your drywall, no amount of paint is going to fix it and the end result is going to be lacking. So be sure to get your contractor to check your drywall for any necessary repairs before you get started.


You might not know what lurks behind your old shower walls or floors, but your tiling installer should! They should notice any mold or water damage and factor in any necessary costs for repair well in advance of you signing a contract.

By doing these inspections up front, you can anticipate any unexpected costs and plan your budget accordingly. Need a little extra help making sure your renovation goes smoothly? My FREE download is packed with tips and tricks on how to ensure your next renovation project is stress-free! The download includes:

  • Simple ways to minimize disruption to your daily life
  • How to set clear expectations with your contractor (before the first hammer is swung)
  • Tips to prepare your family (and your pets) for construction disruption 
  • and so much more!

You can download it here.

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