It is in practice impossible for a construction contractor to foresee every possible issue that may occur and include those contingencies in the contract.

Most people involved in any construction project realize that there will be changes, and they expect to deal with these when they crop up.

Cardinal changes

Cardinal changes are those that are essential or fundamentally change the nature of the job. They may necessitate an adjustment to a contract, but proving that a change is significant enough to warrant this may be difficult. When contractors are thorough in defining the scope of work in the contract, they are more likely to avoid litigation.

Scope of work 

Here are the elements of a thorough scope of work document:

  • Contractor’s responsibilities
  • Project requirements
  • Contract goals and objectives
  • Estimates of labor costs
  • Contracting method
  • Payment schedule
  • Standards and regulations for the work
  • Special requirements for the contract

The scope of work document should include an explanation of what the contractor needs to do in order to fulfill the project requirements, such as the specific and related tasks, milestones for completion, outcomes and technical considerations.

Document language

While some contracts are full of necessary legal language, the scope of work document should include clear and concise wording that leaves no room for interpretation. Ambiguity could result in a trip to court.

Other clarifications

Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Visuals such as drawings and photographs may provide clarity to a description that would otherwise provide an opportunity for misunderstanding.

Change process

Because changes will inevitably be necessary, there should be details in the contract about the process for addressing them. As well, the contract should identify when changes are material and when they exceed the limitations of the change clause. The contract should also specify at what point the contractor can refuse to comply with the changes or additions to the original scope of work.