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The Top 5 Causes of Contractor Delays and What You Can Do to Avoid Them

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Updated: 06/16/2024
Construction Delays

In many home renovation projects, timelines become unavoidably stretched. When you hear that your neighbors are redoing their kitchen or bathroom, the first question is always, “When will it be done?”. Although they may have an anticipated completion date, unforeseen changes can cause the answer to change each time you ask the question.

An unfortunate truth in the construction business is that things happen. It’s just the nature of the beast. Various issues from both sides of the table can cause delays. The best way to handle these hurdles is hand in hand with your contractor. Here are a few tips from the trade board to your negotiating table.

Design Changes

Didn’t that countertop look fabulous against the color of your cabinets in the sample? How about that beautiful brushed nickel faucet for your bathroom? The average lead time on special order material in this business is two to three weeks, sometimes longer for extremely special items. This leaves plenty of time for you to change your mind or even forget exactly what the samples looked like. Then what happens when materials arrive? Oh no. Time to rethink the plan!

We suggest that you find out what kind of relationship your contractor has with suppliers. Changing your mind after material has already been ordered can sometimes result in fees, but it doesn’t have to. It’s a great question to ask because, let’s face it, no one is perfect. You always want to try to protect yourself against the unforeseen.

This is your home, and a good contractor wants you to be pleased with the end result. If you decide to change your materials, it is very important that you understand that it may extend delivery time. Your contractor may try to talk you out of the change because a delay in production means a delay in pay, but stand your ground. An established company will put the customer first, whatever the cost. You are not the first person to change your mind in the middle of sawdust and paint.

With so many possible countertops, floor patterns and paint, we also recommend using online resources like Houzz and Pinterest to grab a few starting points for your projects. It’s guaranteed that you’ll find some inspiration there. Also, check out your contractor’s website. Many companies post pictures of their stunning projects, which might give you some great ideas.

Materials

If the contractor had a nickel for every time the availability of materials was the cause of project delays, they could offer their services for free. Clients often make painstaking decisions about materials, only to find that they can’t be delivered for several weeks or months. As mentioned, extremely special items can take an extremely long amount of time to arrive.

The best way to prevent disappointment here is to be candid with your contractor about your expectations. If you have your heart set on an espresso cabinet with brushed nickel knobs, don’t let the promise of cherry wood cabinets that can come sooner sway your decision. Stand firm on your decisions, but be prepared to wait if necessary. For this reason, we do not recommend starting a project near the holidays. There would be nothing worse than having Thanksgiving dinner without countertops for cooking.

While you should stand your ground about what you want, you’ll have to be flexible about material lead times. If your contractor promises to get your material in six to eight weeks, he means six to eight weeks. However, if he says he may be able to get them in three, you should not get your hopes too high to avoid an early interval.

Mistakes

We all know the old adage: to err is human, to forgive is divine. Even the best contractors and laborers are not immune to making mistakes. Occasionally, a delay is the result of an oversight or error on the part of the pros.

First, make sure that you hire a trustworthy and reputable contractor. Get recommendations from friends or family members, and interview several options to find the company you’re most comfortable with. We recommend investigating your contractor through independent consumer resources. The BBB (Better Business Bureau) and Angi (Angie’s List) are great websites to look up previous customers’ experiences. And hey, don’t be shy about asking for referrals either.

Although no one is perfect, you don’t want to have a significant delay in your project or an additional, unplanned expense as a result of someone’s oversight. No one likes making mistakes, but a seasoned company will own up to their mistakes and do the next right thing to correct them. Be actively involved in your project, and make sure you address issues upfront. Don’t wait until it is too late.

Weather

Before you get excited, we have to tell you that we don’t have a suggestion for controlling the weather. Unfortunately, Mother Nature has her own plans that don’t take into consideration your roofing repairs or porch addition.

Other Projects

It isn’t unusual for contractors to be committed to several projects at once. No doubt, the company you hire will be no exception. For experienced contractors who know how to manage their time, this won’t be a problem.

You can ensure that your project will get priority in a couple of ways. First, address this concern during interviews. Don’t hesitate to ask how the contractor handles multiple projects with different timelines. Don’t even be afraid to ask how many other clients they’ll be serving at the time of your job.

Once you’ve found someone you’re happy with, nail down a specific schedule. How many days out of the week can you expect work to be done, and for how many hours per day? Although it would be nice to expect one person there every single day working on your project, be prepared to spend a few days a week by yourself. There are certain trades, like concrete, that require intermittent “resting” periods. Don’t hesitate to ask the contractor if there is one person who will be accountable for your project’s completion, such as a project manager or a production manager.

Most importantly, make sure you have contact information for more than just the sales representative who quoted and negotiated your project. Ask for the corporate office information and the sales manager’s name and number. It takes a team to complete a project successfully, so get familiar with all of the members of your contractor’s team.

Major home renovations, even under the best circumstances, can be a major inconvenience. You often end up living without the use of necessary parts of your home for weeks or months at a time. Although you expect this, you don’t want to be inconvenienced a minute longer than necessary. The most important part of the process is a solid line of communication between you and the company you hire. Set reasonable expectations for yourself, and find a company that is willing to be honest with you about their schedules and workload.

Though much of the process is out of your control, you should always feel that you are aware of what’s happening. Remember, if you knew everything about construction, you wouldn’t need a contractor in the first place. Ask all the questions you want, and educate yourself a bit on the process while you are educating the contractor on what you are looking for.

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