It is very common that in most projects and contracts there will be additional works, and not every contractor knows how to agree on them and get paid. Please note that additional work and extra work are two different things. Here is an example on how to differentiate: if your scope includes the assembly of railings and your client asks you to perform window assembly, this is extra work. But if you install railings and then find out you need to change how the railings are fixed, this will be additional work. 

Don’t make this mistake!

Usually additional work occurs when you start working on site. You get your momentum going, work goes smoothly, and suddenly you are stopped by some changes. This is when you need quick response and feedback because your on-site team might be sitting and kicking stones on the ground because they can’t continue the work. All this happens while salary bills continue to roll. You go to your client, explain the issue and present your costs, and the client says: “Good that you found them.” You may assume that it was a green light and continue to work applying changes you had ‘agreed upon’. But once you finish and present the invoice, payment doesn’t happen because your client doesn’t know what the invoice is about and has forgotten the conversation. Unfortunately, too many subcontractors don’t know how to agree to additional work so that everything is according to law. It is advised that additional works are taken care of in a specific manner before you start implementing them.

Why additional works happen

Did you know that the quantity of additional works also represents how the works are managed on site? The more additional work there is, the worse the work is managed by the general contractor. And you should really review whether you want to be involved in such a project. Because too many additional works can cause headache and are not worth your time. Additional work usually occurs because someone forgot something or made a mistake. In the project, there are hundreds, if not even thousands, of people involved, and very often human errors happen. When working as a subcontractor it is crucial to be able to recognize and report additional work in an accurate and lawful manner in order not to get carried away with issues and problems that were not created by your team in the first place. 

What to do when you face additional work

When you work on site and encounter additional work, you should immediately report that to your general contractor. If possible, you should also pass along information on possible costs if they occur and give a timeframe on when you should receive answers to continue work without interruptions. If matters are urgent, you should pass the bill immediately, clearly letting him know that work must be done immediately and you will invoice later. All this communication can be done mutually and then documented in writing. Too many times, subcontractors trust that their general contractor will remember what they said and that they will receive the money. Unfortunately, your client probably has many discussions with other subcontractors, and he can’t and won’t remember everything. And after two or three months, once he receives an invoice, he can refuse it if you haven’t built that relationship and put your discussion down in writing (documentation). Also remember that your contact person has management, and if he suddenly passes an invoice after three months, his management will ask for proof of the request for these additional works. A lack of this document will automatically cancel this invoice. 

Give time to your general contractor 

Remember, your client also needs time to consider; he might need to review whether someone else should do the additional works you have discovered; or how these works may affect other subcontractors; how they could affect the design, the building code, and many other factors. Once you pass along information about additional works, notify them how critical they are to you and when the works should be reviewed or approved. 

Time schedule

Very often, additional works consume much more time than expected, and they are one of the reasons why projects can go over schedule. The biggest problem is that very often, additional work jeopardizes your plans and schedule. You start to work but then realize you need additional steps to continue. You have to leave the site; once you come back, you’ll need some time to re-establish your works. When you pass information about additional works, don’t forget to inform your client that you will need extra time to finish the contract.  Even skilled and experienced contractors make such mistakes, and too many times they go over schedule because they didn’t ask for enough time extensions or they thought they would not affect the schedule. But additional work will always affect your schedule. 

Construction softwares

Before construction software, additional works were agreed upon via paper or email, and there was always confusion about which extra work was performed and which was not, which was confirmed and which wasn’t, and more. Construction software like PlanUpPro helps contractors stay organized with their additional works; you can easily see them between projects, whether they are confirmed or executed. But the best feature is that you can see the actual impact of these works: how much did they cost you in the end, and what was the impact on the schedule?


If you encounter additional works, you should always document them, request written approval, inform about costs, and inform how they affect the schedule. All of that should be written down and agreed upon between you and your client. Verbally made communications often get lost. Don’t forget that in most cases, additional work will take much more time than you expected; be careful with your assumptions. Construction software like PlanUpPro greatly helps stay on track and organized with additional work.

Author – Emil Berzins. Follow me on