Nothing is more certain than uncertainty (did I just make that up? If so, patent-pending). Never has this quote been more applicable than when it is applied to the building and renovating process. Who knows whether you’ll hit rock, or an undocumented pipe, or an old slab when digging? Who knows if a design on paper translates to a buildable structure in real life? Who knows? The answer is no one. There is no crystal ball that will illuminate these unforeseen mishaps.

‘Variations’ has long been thought of as a dirty word on the building site, often associated with increased costs and drawn-out build times. They also put a strain on the relationship between the client and the builder as arguments ensue as to whether or not it was an unforeseen event versus a foreseeable complication. Why should the builder foot the bill for a variation due to the client’s change of mind for their own benefit? Why should the client have to foot the bill for an oversight by the builder resulting in calamity?

Today Rebeka and I talk you through variations, how to think about them, and how to handle them. Account for variations in your build. Don’t just expect the unexpected, plan and budget for it. And remember, this is not just limited to money. Agree on a process with your builder to deal with variations when (not if) they arise with respect to communication and billing.

Builder’s are not out to get you, and quotes are based on the information provided and available at the time of quoting. It is much easier to look back and think “you should’ve thought about that” than it is to look at the plans and think “that looks doable”. Hindsight is 20-20 and foresight is as blurry as Bigfoot in a photo.

Whoever said, “a change is as good as a holiday,” clearly wasn’t talking about a design change on a building site. So prepare yourself and your budget for a lesson in uncertaintyp.

If you have a topic or question you’d like us to cover, contact us here.


  • [3:00]: ‘Expected’ variations such as those associated with groundworks
  • [3:30]: Figuring out where you sit within the “variations game”
  • [5:00]: No matter your build complexity or level of documentation, variations will occur
  • [5:52]: Why variations can come from omissions in the drawings
  • [7:20]: How it can be difficult to get your head around what’s included when you’re having contracts going back and forth with adjustments
  • [7:55]: Variations resulting from erroneous drawings
  • 9:00]: What about when variations go the other way – they’re called deductions!
  • [9:40]: Understanding both sides of the coin as to where the cost should come from
  • [11:16]: It comes back to what’s included in the quote when dealing with trades
  • [12:10]: Going through your drawings with a finer level of detail to catch any possible changes that might need to be made
  • [12:52]: The importance of having a contingency in place so that you can deal with necessary variations
  • [13:06]: Understanding exactly what it is that you need a quote for
  • 13:45]: How beneficial it can be to sit down with your tradesperson to discuss the quote to make sure that you’re on the same page
  • [14:42]: Have a process around how you’re going to deal with variations when they do arise
  • [16:00]: Keeping a tab of how many variations you’re making along the way so that you don’t get surprised by them all at the end and sour the relationship of an otherwise great build
  • [17:35]: No variation is created equal!


We have several Facebook Groups at BuildHer Collective.


BHC DevelopHers Circle and BuildHer Collective Members Only – these are closed groups for women who are doing our Build Like a BuildHer course or who have joined our DevelopHers Inner Circle.


Anyone is more than welcome to join our Women who Design, Decorate, Renovate & Build group. You will note that it’s a closed group but ask to join and if you’re into building and renovating, this is such an amazing and supportive FREE community, so come on and join in the building goodness!