Construction Project Delays

Delays on a construction project common: 80% of contractors expect jobsite delays on some or all of their projects. Delays are also costly and sometimes unavoidable. The reasons for these delays are all over the map and can include everything from poor planning, to an indecisive owner, or even natural disasters. Regardless, delays have a significant impact on every single project participant — whether it be to the cost, schedule, or merely the reputation of those involved.

Construction delays typically fall into two very general categories: inexcusable delays and excusable delays. There are other important ways to classify delays, but let’s focus on these two distinctions for this post.

Delays that are Inexcusable

Generally, inexcusable delays are delays that could have been avoided relatively easily by someone on the job. As a result of the delay, the owner may be compensated for the delay — often by the GC or the prime contractor — and this may come in the form of payment of actual damages incurred, or via some other method prescribed by the construction contract.

There are many specific events that can cause a delay to occur and be categorized as inexcusable delays. Here are some examples:

  • Delayed project start
  • Delayed procurement of project materials, tools, or necessary equipment
  • Poor planning and scheduling
  • Generall late performance and execution
  • Late performance by subcontractors or suppliers
  • Quality issues and failures

Excusable Delays

The name sort of gives it away, but excusable delays are a little more understandable. They happen due to circumstances beyond the GC’s control and they’re reasonably foreseeable. When an excusable delay occurs, a contractor or sub may be given more time to complete the project.

What’s considered “excusable” will often be pretty explicitly laid out in the contract. Here are a few examples:

  • Delays due to an owner’s change orders, approvals, or decisions
  • Poor weather conditions
  • Natural disasters
  • Errors in project specs 
  • Unforeseen issues with the project property
  • Delays in permitting or government approval
  • Delays caused by third parties, unrelated to project participants

Whether a Delay os Excusable or Inexcusable may Depend on Perspective

What if a subcontractor is delayed due to the fault of another contractor on the job? For example: What if the contractor was in charge of procuring materials for a sub and got them to the jobsite late? That subcontractor may be facing delays at no fault of their own. In this instance – what might be considered an inexcusable delay for the contractor could be an excusable delay for the subcontractor. Remember – it’s all a matter of perspective.

Check out this great article from our friends at eSub

What happens when a project delay affects another subcontractor involved on the project? For example, an avoidable error by the plumbing subcontractor prevents the electrical subcontractor from starting on time. In that scenario, the electrical subcontractor may be entitled to compensation. To find out more about construction delay claims, read this article:

How to Write a Construction Delay Claim

A Third Distinction: Critical Delays

Remember when I said, “…let’s focus on these two distinctions for this post…?” I lied. We’re going to take a quick look at a third distinction: critical delays.

Both excusable delays and inexcusable delays can be considered what’s called a “critical delay.” Basically, if the delay will impact the date the project will be completed, it will likely be deemed a critical delay. As you could imagine, whether a delay is critical or non-critical is probably the most important distinction. Even when a contractor or sub has caused an inexcusable delay, if the issue can be fixed without forcing a critical delay, the ship can be righted and crisis can be averted.

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Types of Construction Delays - Inexcusable Delays vs. Excusable Delays
Delays occur all the time on construction projects, but the reasoning for the delay will play a large part in how the issue is handled. Let's take a look at two types of construction delays: Inexcusable Delays and Excusable delays.
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