There are many problems that can arise when hiring a contractor. Here's how to avoid them.
Neither the client nor contractor want delays in a project that inevitably costs time and money. Therefore, careful planning and communication with a contractor, before the project, is key to avoid delays.
Although project disruptions can still occur, understanding the root cause can help a client and contractor minimize delays.
Seven factors that determine whether or not a project will finish on time include:
1. Project planning
One key aspect of planning is attention to detail. Using a knowledgeable designer can help mitigate communication problems and cover details that might otherwise go ignored. Furthermore, in the planning stage it is important to build in extra time for the project in order to deal with any delays that might arise, many of which are listed below. Although some project delays might be unavoidable, a carefully planned project will adhere much better to a timeline.
2. A change of plans
One of the biggest project delays is having the plans change mid-project. Even changes that seem minor, such as moving an electrical outlet to a different wall, could have knock-on effects that greatly magnify delays. Sub-contractors may have to be brought back, applications may have to be re-filed, and already completed work may have to be removed. A detailed plan from the onset can help reduce the urge to change plans and time built in timeline buffers can help mitigate any plan adjustments.
Inspections are a necessity for almost any construction project as failing an inspection can lead to huge costs and delays. Inspections have to be timed correctly to keep a project flowing smoothly, and a knowledgeable contractor can explain during the planning phases of a project what inspections have to be done at what time. Because statutes are different in various states and cities, a contractor with local inspection knowledge is valuable to keeping a project running on time.
4. Shipping delays
Items like doors, windows and appliances are often ordered and shipped, sometimes from a long way away. Specialty items in particular can get delayed in shipping and cause all sorts of backups in the project timeline. Look for large suppliers and focus on in-stock items rather than back-ordered items to keep deliveries on time.
5. Weather delays
The weather is something that no one has control over, but the extra time built into the project schedule can help tremendously when dealing with weather delays. Weather delays should be particularly considered when outside work is being done but, even with inside work, the weather can adversely affect the project. Bad weather such as snowstorms can delay work crews from getting to and from the work site and can delay shipping items from other parts of the country.
Holidays should always be detailed at the beginning of the plan, which is simple enough. However, plans should be made for communication availability even during holiday periods if necessary. For example, if a client is away and work is still ongoing, he or she should be in communication with the contractor to deal with any problems or potential delays quickly.
Finally, documentation of plans, changes, inspections, orders and progress is key to avoiding delays. Taking note of when aspects of the project have been started, how long they are taking, and what changes are made will help both the contractor and the client be upfront about delays and the measures that can be taken to reduce them.
Documentation is just one aspect of communication which is central to avoiding project delays with a contractor. Upfront planning, time budgeting with built-in buffers, and attention to detail also help reduce the potential for damaging delays during a project.
Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally published July 26, 2012