top of page

Understanding Building Delays

Updated: Mar 6

When You picked your General Contractor, you were promised that your build would take 9-12 months. It has been 18 months. Where did the build go awry? Whose fault is it? Can you be compensated for the delay?

According to Plan Radar, over 90% of new builds are NOT finished by the completion date. After the pandemic, the number of homes built on time fell and continues to fall at a steady pace. In fact, Many factors come into play once a building starts, and with so many moving parts, even a well-oiled machine runs into difficulties. Setbacks can and will happen even with the most reliable Contractor.

In this blog post, we will try to make sense of delays, what causes them, and how to ease the sting of a delay.

Critical Delays

A Critical Delay is one that will end up extending your completion date, and if there are a number of critical delays, that extension may be indefinite.

Every construction project, even small ones, should have a set schedule. The schedule is given out to everyone involved in the project, including all subs, supervisors, project managers, owners, etc. The schedule is a timeline of all the critical tasks and key dates to keep the project running in a timely manner. The schedule determines when each subcontractor starts and finishes his/her portion of the project. If you are using the Critical Path Method (CMP), it will also have schedules for equipment and materials delivery, inspections, walk-throughs, and any other critical component that can delay a project. Each critical component has a set time that needs to be done so that the next phase can begin. Any delay or delays on this schedule can put the project behind or on hold. Without a good schedule, critical delays will happen! Make sure the builder has a good schedule, or if you are acting as your own GC, make a schedule that will work for everyone. Keep in mind you may have critical delays even with a good schedule.

Non-Critical delays

A delay that, although inconvenient, will not affect the project's completion date is called a non-critical delay. Individual activities may be late or extended, but these delays are usually contained overall. Non-critical delays may also affect costs and usually require change orders, such as material cost escalation.

Causes of Delays

There are many reasons a project might be delayed, but some reasons are pretty common. Here are the more common delays:


Here in Texas, this is a very common delay. Rain and even freezing temperatures affect many trades, slowing them down to a crawl or even stopping production altogether. Windstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, and the like also stop production for days or even weeks.

Booking Problems:

As a contractor, we try not to overbook. With buildings ramping up since the end of COVID, overbooking has become more of a problem, especially with subcontractors and delays from other jobs affecting the timeline of the current one.

Budget Problems:

Contractors may misquote an estimate or sudden price changes in materials may cause a budget problem. Owners often run out of funds or miss items in the budget for a project. When the money runs out, the project stops.

Poor Scheduling:

Waiting on other trades or for material to be delivered are major reasons for delays. Coordination problems such as approvals and major decisions are also reasons for delays. I will do a separate blog on material and weather delays, which are happening more often than they used to.

Design Changes:

I just discussed this with a fellow contractor not long ago. Some owners are unsure of what they want or see something in a magazine they like better after the initial plans are drawn and even in the middle of an installation. That is OK. But a change order requires time and, most likely, a price change. If too many changes happen, the build will quickly go behind schedule.

How to Handle Delays

Delays will happen. It is the nature of construction. How you handle these delays can often determine whether your project is finished on schedule. The most important thing to remember is to be realistic. Do not start throwing accusations around when things don't happen exactly on schedule. Do not stick to the schedule so aggressively that you ruin your relationship with the builder or subs. The Contractors want to get done as quickly as possible. The more delays they have, the less they make. They also want to keep up a good reputation as someone who builds quickly and does quality work.

When a delay or delays happen, be reasonable. You already know they will happen. Openly communicate with your builder. The General Contractor should be keeping daily logs, often complete with photographs. Daily logs will not only help you see where and why delays are happening, but they will also give you peace of mind that things are running as smoothly as possible.

Keep in constant communication with the GC or if you're acting as your own with your subs. Don't lose your head, and do keep your cool when delays happen, and you are more likely to get a heads up when problems do arise.

If your build was delayed, whose fault might it be, and can you be compensated for the delay? This subject will be tackled in our next blog post.

6 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page