The Bottom Line in Avoiding Significant Construction Delays


Project delays and are a significant issue in the construction business. Not only do they impact your present-day work, but they can affect impending projects as everything gets pushed back. Resources get spread thin, estimates are thrown off and your business is left scrambling to catch up, all without sacrificing quality.

At best, construction delays reduce your annual revenue and demonstrate to clients that you’re disorganized or incapable of delivery the finished product. At worst, your firm could be ruined by liquidated damages, a special type of contractual penalty you could face if a delay costs your client money.

Some construction delays simply cannot be avoided, but the damage they cause can often be mitigated with proper planning, communication and software applications, among other

Avoiding those costly construction delays begins with identifying their most common causes and working to mitigate them before they can take full effect.

Here are some of the more everyday causes of construction delays and what you can do about them.

Unclear lines of communication between parties

Little problems can turn into big delays simply because of poor communication between or among parties. Effective communication is extremely crucial to the success of any project.

A failure of communication to understand deadlines, lead times, ambiguous drawings, or he accuracy of messages, plus a host of other such details can create loopholes in the way the construction team carries out their tasks, thus reducing productivity.

You must be able to quickly diagnose, assess and communicate any problem to all key stakeholders, and get everyone together to find a resolution as quickly as possible.

First, it’s important to establish a chain of command to make sure that all parties are getting the necessary updates regarding changes on the project, including design, specs or timelines. Everyone is held accountable for their specific duties and makes sure the message gets transferred to everyone involved.

For example, the owner may communicate with the architect who then shares it with the general contractor so that everyone is one the same page.

Here are a few other tips to help clear up lines of communication:

  • Use reinforcement or backup. How many times has the project manager or team member misinterpreted an email or verbal communication? Information should be passed verbally and also backed up by an email.
  • Use direct language. When speaking or giving orders, use plain and simple language that the other party easily understands. The use of ambiguous words will be eliminated.
  • Employ a standard feedback method to help ensure assignments are clearly understood before work begins.

Today, construction management software makes it easier than ever to deliver real-time updates for the job site to all key stakeholders. This brings everyone onto the same page immediately and results in directives for how work should continue.

It also helps assure collaboration, so you have less to worry about and no one can claim they were left out of the discussion when they needed to know something important.


Weather delays

Weeks of rain or an unexpected snow storm can put a project weeks behind. There’s simply no way to work when the ground has turned into a mud pit and vehicles sink in up to the tops of their tires.


High winds can also put a stop to a high-rise construction or a roofing project, and there’s no end to the delays that can result from flooding, or worse, a tornado or hurricane.


You’ll need to build allowances for weather delays into your contracts to ensure that you don’t end up paying up liquidated damages because of an unexpected storm. Rescheduling activities such as concrete pours is also a good idea and you should always keep water pumps at a job site so you can rid of any water that accumulates.

You can also reference data from looking at reports of the location’s weather from previous years before starting the project. Resources such as can provide insights regarding snowfall and rain.

Tip: If unfavorable weather conditions are imminent, safeguard the site in advance.


Look out for “scope creep”

When the scope of work is not clearly defined early on, teams might underestimate how much time the project will actually take.


Scope creep describes the process in which the amount of work goes beyond the original agreement. Causes include client requests that are out of the scope of work originally agreed upon; unforeseen conditions that are unknown at the time of contract signing; and clients not doing thorough preliminary work.


While the number one goal is always a happy client, this can sometimes become compromised it they continually make requests without considering the price or don’t provide you with the most accurate information upfront.


When scope creep occurs, budgets are strained, team members may be forced to conduct costly re-work, working overtime to make the necessary changes while keeping to the schedule.


To avoid scope creep:


  • Define the scope of the project as early as possible. This means subcontractors should also have a narrowly defined scope when they first arrive at the jobsite.
  • Make sure to explicitly outline the project scope in your contract.
  • Do not submit a bid until you know exactly what is expected of your team, including extra details that can only be discovered by asking the proper questions.
  • Encourage the client to perform their due diligence at the project’s inception.
  • Get all stakeholders involved early on and keep them in the loop throughout the entire project.


Tip: Make sure the client knows when he/she is the cause of the delay. When they make design change or issue late instructions, they need to realize the cumulative effect on the project’s scope. Delays cost money, typically the contractor’s money. Make sure he/she is aware of the effect of their actions on the project’s completion. Put it in writing and have the client acknowledge receipt.


Labor shortages and overbookings

You might have enough people lined up to do the work, and not have any other projects that need to be completed, but, as we know, this could easily change overnight. Just like any job, people get sick, relocate or even leave the company. Truth is, employee turnover in construction is among the highest all industries, just over 20%.


Moreover, some project managers simply take on too many projects, leaving their crews overbooked. They then attempt to rush from one work site to the other to get everything done, only to end up behind schedule on both projects.


These types of delays can be avoided by a manager who knows his or her crew’s capabilities and isn’t afraid to turn down work if it means rescheduling the original project.


Inefficient or unreliable workers

Even if you have a sufficient number of workers, if the crew you have for a specific construction project itself is inefficient or unreliable, you could end up with a boatload of problems. It usually takes these workers considerably more man-hours to complete something, your project falls behind, and it could cost you more due to the billable hours.


A lack of qualified workers is a recipe for disaster when it comes to construction projects and it could end up tarnishing your reputation. Because the job relies so much on other people, it’s important to know who you’re working with and if they can be trusted to do a top-notch job.


Working with repeat contractors is a smart way to help minimize the chance of employing inefficient or unreliable workers since you’re already familiar with their work ethic and know-how. If you don’t have the opportunity of using someone you’ve previously done business with, then you need to pre-vet your subcontractors by looking at some of their latest projects and checking for their contractor’s license to properly determine whether or not they are a good fit.



Budget issues

You’ve agreed to the scope of work. Things are going smoothly until, unexpectedly, the owner runs out of money to finance the project. Without proper funding, there’s no way to purchase the materials or pay the crew and the project is shut down for weeks, months or even completely abandoned.


  • Create a sound budget that details expenses and projected costs and gives the owner an idea if they can afford to move forward with the project or not. It’s important to also create a consistent plan for payments that provides clear-cut expectations for the owner. The more detailed and upfront you are with your client, the more success you’ll realize.
  • Project managers should also be utilizing accounting software for construction companies to accurately price a project. Using this type of software definitely reduces risk and helps in planning, but there is still a chance that delays will occur due to financing issues if they’re not managed properly throughout the course of the project.


Government approvals, site regulations and permit delays

Sometimes a project is progressing nicely, but once the city or other governing body gets involved and determine building regulations are not up to speed, the project can experience big delays. All such contingencies can slow down the timeline for a project and trigger costly overruns if not properly accounted for. Depending on the location, you might also need to consider union requirements.


By having a full understanding of the wide range of regulations in the first place, your project will be more focused on making sure city regulations and other building codes and requirements are met right from the beginning.


Keep your project on track.

During the initial course of planning, it’s important to understand the site area and any regulations, rules or other requirements that need to be considered before beginning the construction process. Detailed site surveys and in-depth investigations can better prepare you and allow for accurate planning so that any delays won’t cause the project to run overtime and add dollars.


Without a thorough grasp of the relevant rules and regulations, cutting corners to speed up the project will actually end up with added delays.


Tip: Walk the site. Surprisingly, some projects are bid sight unseen. You really have to get out there, look at the site and see what the constraints might be and what conditions vary across the site. There is no substitute for boots on the ground.


The bottom line to avoiding significant construction delays

Although some projects seem to encounter delays more often than not, project managers should be attentive to the varying degrees of delays and what causes them, in order to sidestep as many of them as possible. Truth is, some delays simply cannot be avoided, but, as we mentioned in the first section of this blog, the damage they produce can often be mitigated by proper planning, better communication and employing appropriate software applications.


When construction companies are prepared, delays become shorter and less frequent, helping you to stay on time, on budget. In turn, the more successful and on time your project is, the more your ROI increases and your company has more time and resources to bid and win more work.


If you need some help in planning your next construction project, from start to finish, contact us at PDDM Solutions.