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How to Overcome Construction Delays - Tips for Construction Managers

How to Overcome Construction Delays – Tips for Construction Managers

Delays are part and parcel when it’s about a construction project. Smart construction managers foresee these hiccups, analyze delays as they crop up, and take steps to minimize risks. When delays strike out of the blue, they swiftly adapt their plans to keep the project on track.

In this article, we’ll explore how construction managers can effectively handle delays in their projects, ensuring smooth progress and timely completion.

Construction Delays – A Common Reality for Construction Managers 

In 2022, a whopping 91% of construction managers found themselves dealing with delays in their projects. These hold-ups often stem from two primary factors: unrealistic project plans, accounting for 31% of the delays, and resource issues, making up 19% of the total.

It’s no surprise that construction delays are par for the course in the industry. These setbacks are so common that you can count on facing them in your own projects. To steer clear of these obstacles and keep your project on track, it’s crucial to anticipate and address them head-on. Among the expected reasons for delays are insufficient funding, escalating costs, shortages in labor, and issues stemming from poor planning or communication.

Lack of Funds

Construction delays are often triggered by a shortage of funds or investments. This issue can crop up at any stage of the project, from its inception to its conclusion. However, the most significant delays usually arise due to inadequate initial funding. When a construction project relies on loans, investments, or government grants, delays become more likely. This happens as construction managers and project teams tackle negotiations, paperwork, and explore alternative funding sources.

Increased Spending

Construction managers often face challenges related to increased costs or spending, which can, in turn, result in construction delays. Here are some reasons why going over budget can lead to delays: 

  1. Revisiting Plans: When costs exceed the budget, construction managers may need to go back to the initial plans and designs to find cost-saving alternatives.
  1. Seeking Additional Funding: Sometimes, the team must seek additional funding to cover the cost difference, which can cause construction delays.
  1. Renegotiating Contracts: Contracts with clients, contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers may need to be renegotiated to accommodate the increased costs, leading to delays in project progress.
  1. Adjusting Material Purchases: To manage the budget, construction managers may opt for different materials than originally planned or delay purchasing materials until adequate funding is secured. These changes can impact the project timeline.

Moreover, exceeding the budget can introduce complexities, strain relationships with suppliers and contractors, affect contractor and material availability, and lower team morale. These factors collectively contribute to delays in project delivery. 

Shortage of Available Labor 

Construction managers understand that a construction involves a consolidated project; each step in the process relies on the one before it and sets the stage for the next. The timing of each resource’s contributions is crucial, ensuring that tasks like drywalling happen before painting. 

When construction delays occur due to a shortage of available labor, it impacts the entire project plan. For instance, if the project is set for drywall installation on June 5th, but the construction team isn’t available until June 15th, all subsequent steps dependent on drywalling are pushed back by 10 days. 

Inadequate Planning & Communication 

Construction delays often stem from a lack of communication and planning, which is a common issue faced by construction managers. Here are some real-life examples: 

– Construction crews arrive with excavators and backhoes ready to start on a new addition, only to discover that the lot hasn’t been flagged by utilities crews yet. 

– An oversight results in a 10-day gap between plumbing completion and inspection scheduling, delaying subsequent tasks like drywall installation and trim work.

– A client decides to change the hardware color early in the project, but the designer forgets to inform the construction manager, resulting in the purchase and installation of the wrong hardware.

These delays can cause significant setbacks, ranging from days to even months of lost time. However, with effective communication and careful planning, many of these issues can be avoided.

Combating Construction Delays

When dealing with construction delays, construction managers must employ effective strategies to minimize their impact on the project timeline. One of the key tactics is to anticipate delays that are beyond control and prevent those that are preventable. This can be achieved through careful time management, thorough planning, clear communication, and adherence to established guidelines. By proactively addressing potential delays, construction managers can ensure smoother project execution and timely completion. 

Time Management and Planning 

As construction managers, effectively managing time and planning are crucial to navigate through construction delays. Here are some practical steps to anticipate, prevent, and adapt to delays: 

Detailed Project Schedule: Start by using a comprehensive project schedule. This should clearly outline dependencies and set realistic timelines for each task. 

Budget Contingencies: Incorporate contingencies into your budget. This helps in expecting and preparing for unexpected costs that may arise due to delays. 

Flexible vs. Rigid Timelines: Identify activities with flexible timelines and those that are rigid. Understanding this helps in determining the overall project timeline. 

Daily Progress Monitoring: Stay proactive by monitoring progress daily. This ensures that any delays or issues are addressed promptly, allowing for timely communication and handoffs. 

Lesson Learned Sessions: Conduct lessons learned sessions at the end of each project. Reflect on what worked well and what didn’t, and how these lessons can be applied to future projects to prevent delays and improve outcomes. 

By following these steps, construction managers can combat construction delays and ensure smoother project execution. 

Effective Communication

Effective communication plays a crucial role for construction managers in handling construction delays smoothly. 

Initially, communicating effectively aids in averting anticipated delays. By ensuring that every team member comprehends their responsibilities within the project timeline and recognizes the tasks reliant on their contributions, communication facilitates smooth progress and minimizes delays. 

Furthermore, maintaining transparent communication with both clients and contractors enables the establishment of pragmatic guidelines regarding the construction journey, including acknowledging the possibility of delays. 

Unforeseen Events in Construction Timelines 

In construction management, delays can arise from a variety of expected issues like funding shortages, rising expenses, staffing problems, and communication breakdowns. Yet, there are times when unexpected events throw a wrench into the works. Although these occurrences are rare, they can wreak havoc on your project timeline, resulting in significant setbacks and ripple effects such as equipment damage, accidents, and extra expenses. 

Challenging Weather Conditions

Construction managers face significant challenges when adverse weather conditions strike. Rain and snow can turn the construction site into a muddy mess, causing delays in excavation, foundation work, and concrete pouring. Extreme heat poses risks to worker health and productivity, impacting the curing of concrete and other materials. Additionally, high winds may create safety hazards, halting work temporarily. Effective management of construction delays caused by weather is crucial for project success. 

Unexpected Setbacks 

Construction managers often face unexpected setbacks due to uncommon accidents, which can significantly delay projects. These accidents encompass various scenarios such as equipment failures, natural disasters, hazardous material spills, unforeseen geological or site conditions, theft, vandalism, and worksite injuries. While worksite injuries can sometimes be prevented with proper safety measures, other incidents are difficult to predict or avoid. When these situations arise, construction managers need to adopt a different approach to minimize the impact on the project timeline. 

How to Manage Unexpected Setbacks 

When facing unexpected delays, construction managers follow similar steps to those in expected situations: 

Realistic Expectations: Understand the time needed to resolve the issue and restart the project. 

Transparent Communication: Keep everyone informed promptly and frequently to maintain alignment, especially if there’s a change from previous updates. 

Daily Monitoring: Stay vigilant to be ready to resume the project promptly, avoiding further delays due to unpreparedness. 

However, unexpected delays demand extra empathy, flexibility, and patience. 

Consider the impact of COVID-19 on construction projects. Although not the typical cause, it brought unforeseen challenges. Workers couldn’t maintain a six-foot distance, leading to operational restrictions. Quarantines and isolations affected staff availability. Closure of childcare facilities disrupted workers’ schedules. Clients faced sudden financial issues, halting projects mid-way. Material shortages and backorders added to the complications. 

While realistic expectations, communication, and monitoring helped, compassion and often a new plan were necessary. 

Adapting with Flexibility

Construction managers need to be flexible and understanding when faced with unexpected delays. It’s common for projects to fall behind schedule, and instead of solely focusing on catching up, it’s crucial to address the delay promptly. Showing empathy towards those impacted by the delay is key, and effectively communicating this empathy to the client is essential for maintaining trust. It’s important to set realistic expectations with all parties involved regarding the duration of the delay, its impact on the project’s budget and timeline, and the steps being taken to mitigate the situation. 

Have Patience

Construction delays can be challenging for construction managers. The most crucial quality they can demonstrate during these times is patience. When unforeseen events like illness, loss, or injury occur, it’s essential for construction managers to allow their team members the necessary time to recover. Pushing them to get back to work before they’re ready can lead to disengagement, lower work quality, higher injury risks, increased costs, and extended timelines. 

However, on the flip side, showing patience and empathy can foster camaraderie among stakeholders. This can further motivate the team to deliver results as soon as possible, ultimately supporting the success of the project. 

Crafting and Executing a New Strategy 

When construction managers encounter setbacks like delays, it’s crucial to take proactive steps to address them. If the original plan can’t adapt to the challenges, it’s time to rethink the approach. Gather all stakeholders to openly discuss the issues and obstacles faced and develop a new project plan that considers available resources. Assess whether similar delays are likely to occur again and implement measures to minimize future risks. Realistically estimate timelines, even if it means extending the project duration, to avoid construction delays and better coordinate teams. It’s essential to gain the full support of the team before proceeding with the new strategy.

Arrant Construction – The Pioneers in Construction Management Solutions 

Arrant Construction specializes in providing comprehensive construction management solutions tailored to meet the unique needs of each project. Our experienced team of construction managers is adept at tackling complex construction environments and ensuring projects are completed on time and within budget. We understand the challenges that can arise during construction projects, including delays, and we proactively address them to keep projects on track. By leveraging our expertise and resources, we streamline the construction process, coordinate all stakeholders involved, and mitigate risks effectively. With Arrant Construction, clients can trust that their projects will be managed efficiently and with the utmost attention to detail, resulting in successful outcomes every time. 


What is the role of construction managers in a project? 

Construction managers oversee the planning, coordination, and execution of construction projects to ensure they are completed efficiently and according to schedule. 

How are construction delays handled?

Construction delays are addressed proactively by closely monitoring project timelines, identifying potential issues early on, and implementing strategies to mitigate delays.

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