Overcoming construction delays and how they can be avoided

Overcoming construction delays and how they can be avoided


Construction delays are among the most common causes of cost overruns on projects. Keep reading to learn more about construction delays, their common causes, and how savvy construction management professionals minimize the potential for delays.

Common reasons for construction delays (and how to avoid them)

1. Lack of money

Not having enough money to pay for materials, equipment, and personnel can cause significant project delays. Common root causes of this include:

  • mistakes during the construction estimating process (prompting stakeholders to underestimate how much money the project will require – or, alternatively, overestimate how much one project will cost, causing inadequate funds to be available for another project)
  • poor cash flow management
  • poor change order management allowing scope creep to push the project far from its original specifications without resources sufficiently being taken into account
  • financing issues (i.e. issues with loans)

How to avoid construction project delays caused by limited funds

Well-run construction companies have people and processes in place to ensure their finances are managed properly. A key component of that is good construction financial management software that makes it easy to store data and extract relevant insights from it. Companies still using generic tools (i.e. spreadsheets) place themselves at a severe disadvantage in this regard.

Another important consideration when trying to avoid construction project delays caused by financial pressure is the estimating process. Inaccuracies (in either direction) can have a significant impact on any construction company’s bottom line and restrict capital.

2. Labor shortages

The construction industry’s labor shortage has left many companies in a precarious position from a staffing perspective. When workers become unavailable (i.e. because they leave for other opportunities, fall ill, etc) project timelines can fall into jeopardy given how difficult it often is to find replacement workers.

How to avoid construction project delays caused by labor shortages

A good resource management strategy can go a long way towards helping construction companies avoid overcommitting on projects beyond what their workforce can accomplish. Such a strategy will take various things into account, including the company’s:

  • current workforce utilization rate (a measure of worker capacity)
  • areas in which knowledge is concentrated in just a few people, which would leave the company in a tight spot if those people became unavailable to work
  • capacity (i.e. financial ability and feasibility) to hire additional workers

Additionally, of course, companies can also avoid the impacts of labor shortages by hiring more workers. While the inherently limited nature of labor in the modern construction industry undoubtedly makes this challenging, it’s not impossible. Strategies worth considering include:

  • having (and demonstrating) career development paths to help workers (including prospective workers) understand the long-term benefits of working for your company
  • offering competitive wages and benefits
  • ensuring safe working conditions
  • viewing employee retention as an important metric to improve on

3. Bureaucracy

Many construction projects rely on traditionally slow processes, such as awaiting government permits and licenses before work can commence. Bureaucracy can also be a hindrance in the private sector (i.e. waiting for approvals from a client, processing change orders, waiting for financing to come through, etc).

How to avoid construction delays caused by bureaucracy

One way to avoid delays in construction projects caused by bureaucracy is to ensure your company incorporates approvals and other important considerations into its timelines. By doing so, you can avoid the mistake of being caught off guard by foreseeable delays.

When it comes to bureaucracy your company can control (i.e. delays caused by poor internal coordination), streamlining processes and removing red tape through the use of construction management software is often an approach worth considering. Learn more about workforce management solutions.


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4. Poor subcontractor performance

Sometimes, delays in construction projects are brought about by subcontractors failing to deliver in a timely manner. When, as is often the case, other aspects of the project depend on subcontractors completing their work on time, this can cause a domino effect and push the entire project behind schedule.

How to avoid construction delays caused by poor subcontractor performance

Choosing subcontractors wisely is an important first step when attempting to avoid poor performance jeopardizing your entire project’s timeline. Savvy construction companies screen subcontractors based on a variety of criteria, including timeliness, and check references.

Of course, poor subcontractor performance isn’t always foreseeable. Further, it isn’t always the subcontractor’s fault. Supply shortages can wreak havoc on a specialty contractor’s ability to deliver work in as timely a fashion as they’d like to, for example.

In these scenarios, proper planning on the part of the general contractor can help avoid surprises and minimize the impact of delays. Good construction resource management software can help general contractors identify key dependencies, which may constitute areas in which additional investments and care are required to ensure the entire project stays on track.

5. Poor communication

Another common cause of delays in construction projects is poor communication regarding important tasks. When stakeholders don’t understand where one task fits priority-wise relative to another, for instance, they may make decisions that don’t align with the client’s bigger picture, causing unexpected confusion and delays.

How to avoid construction delays caused by poor communication

Maintaining a single source of truth for important data (i.e. task prioritization and employee scheduling) can go a long way towards minimizing the potential for delays caused by miscommunication among stakeholders.

Applications such as Bridgit Bench are designed for this purpose, placing data at the fingertips of any stakeholder with an internet connection and device.

Maintaining a company culture conducive to communication is also important; if stakeholders feel they can’t ask clarifying questions (or there isn’t a concise process for doing so), that creates a breeding ground for confusion and miscommunication.


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Construction project delays: Conclusion

We hope this article has helped you understand the common reasons for delays in construction projects – and how they can be avoided. For more articles about construction project management, visit our blog.

Learn more about how Bridgit Bench has helped construction companies throughout North America streamline workflows and avoid delays (among other setbacks).


Brandon-Richard Austin

Brandon-Richard Austin is a writer and content strategist focused on the construction sector. He’s passionate about educating readers on construction management techniques and best practices.