Blog - Variations in building: what to expect

Despite every effort being made at the planning and design stage to ensure your documented design is exactly what you want; sometimes changes need to be made part way through the build process.

Minor changes

Minor changes and can stem from a change of heart or not realizing the level of detail in the documented design. These minor changes can be generally dealt with as a minor variation to the contract.

Significant changes

Substantial changes arise from a change in financial circumstances or in the rare chance an escalation of costs through unforeseen circumstances (this usually relates to complex foundations or dealing with additions to an existing structure that has a risk of the unknown).  

We have also experienced significant changes due to an unscheduled increase in family members requiring an additional bedroom. In these instances, the implications on the overall project are more significant and the current contract may need to be terminated or extensively expanded.

Builders and their role in variation

A common misconception by homeowners is that builders like variations and use these to make additional profit. However, if you stick to the right process when engaging your builder (check out our blog on builder selection for reference) you should have an experienced and reputable builder, with a good reputation, so it’s unlikely that this is the case.

In actual fact, for most builders any variation is actually a nuisance. As any change in the anticipated program will most likely need the introduction of new material or trades. When making changes it is important to consider that the builder will likely need change the planned sequence of operations and order new or increase the quantity of materials. All of which have cost implications: time, loss of efficiency from the original planned sequence and any additional materials and labour. The homeowner not recognising the cost aspects other than the obvious "material costs" is how the common misconception discussed above may occur.

For more substantial changes there may also be a delay incurred through the necessary redesign by architects or engineers, or possibly even a review of the proposed changes by the PCA or council.

Without doubt, if you can avoid variations in your project, the journey will likely be smooth. If a change of direction is being considered here’s how to quantify your likely needs and cost before proceeding with any variation to your building contract:

  1. Ask you consultants about the implications of the change. Does the PCA or council need to be notified? Do the drawings need to be amended, if so what are the likely costs and delay associated with the changes being considered.
  2. Ask the builder to price the changes and advise how will the proposal change the construction duration.
  3. If appropriate, check with your lending authority that you have the capability of funding the change on top of any existing borrowing or their lending facility still exists if you are reducing the extent of works.
  4. If appropriate, seek appropriate advice to consider the increase / loss in capital value brought about by the variation to the original scope.

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