Change orders are one of the messiest areas in all of construction. They can be financial and scheduling disasters, and are also a common area of litigation between builders and owners. I've learned from hard experience that without some kind of change-order system, you'll end up working for free (see "Learning the Hard Way," page 36). Every builder should develop a system to overcome the obstacles posed by change orders and turn them into profit and referral-making opportunities. I'm a design/builder, and I've refined my change-order system to fit the way I do business. The guiding principles are to minimize the number of change orders by planning carefully in the design stage, and then handling any changes that do come up with standardized procedures and forms. Plan Ahead In general, my advice is to try to avoid change orders if you can.