Building a new home might seem like an exact science, but it’s not. Timeline challenges can crop up out of nowhere, throwing a wrench into the works. Some of the most common issues are unavoidable, but supervisors and business owners need to know how to handle them regardless of when or where they occur.
Common construction delays
Weather. Weather can be unpredictable even at the best of times. For a construction project, poor weather can cause delays, damage structures and even force site shutdowns if it is severe enough. Managing construction delays starts with prediction and research. Study the common climate conditions in the area, including accounts of severe storms and natural disasters that might occur.
From there, it is essential to have a preparedness plan in place for each type of storm the team might encounter on the jobsite. This will vary depending on the location, season and weather in a particular area. It’s always a good idea to be prepared for anything, even if the chance of encountering a particular type of weather seems remote.
Poor risk management. Risk management is an integral part of every industry. In construction — which sees a good portion of on-the-job injuries and fatalities every year — it’s essential. Without comprehensive risk management, work-related accidents can derail an entire construction timeline, making it impossible to adhere to deadlines and get the job done in a reasonable and timely manner.
The simplest way to address this challenge is to have a comprehensive risk management plan before each job starts. Supervisors need to customize them for each home building project’s potential risks before the first shovel ever breaks ground.
Last-minute changes. People are fickle creatures, and when it comes to building a new home, it’s easy for homeowners to fall into the trap of trying to micromanage every single little detail of their home’s construction. Some last-minute changes might be easy to accommodate, but maintaining a deadline becomes nearly impossible for clients who insist on changing things dramatically or continuously.
It’s up to the business owner how many last-minute changes they allow once construction begins. There’s a delicate balance between keeping the client happy and letting them run roughshod over the project. Finding that equilibrium can make it easier to manage this particular timeline challenge.
Poor communication. Communication is an essential tool in any construction project’s arsenal, both between team members and the company and client. In the best-case scenario, poor communication can lead to frustration, missed deadlines and construction delays. Worse, poor communication can lead to injuries or fatalities.
Related: 4 ways to break down common communication barriers on the jobsite
Start by establishing a communication chain of command and reinforcing its importance. Everyone should know at a moment’s notice who they need to speak to in different situations. Supervisors and business owners should invest in communication hardware like radios or headsets for use on the jobsite rather than relying on cell phones. While useful, mobile phones also create a sometimes dangerous distraction that is best avoided to prevent accidents and injuries on the job.
Supply chain problems. Supply chain issues are becoming even more common in 2020 than they’ve been in recent years, as companies learn to navigate the realities of home building in the middle of a global pandemic. Problems in this arena can make it challenging to maintain home building timelines simply because it’s impossible to complete a task without the necessary supplies.
This is another timeline challenge that business owners can address with communication skills. Ensure everyone is on the same page, from team members to supply chain contacts and everyone in between. Business owners can’t always predict or prevent these problems, but something as simple as communication can help prevent issues from interfering with construction timelines.
Cash flow issues. Cash flow issues can be an enormous problem when it comes to handling timeline concerns in homebuilding. Late or partial payments make it difficult to maintain deadlines simply because the funds aren’t available to complete the necessary tasks.
The easiest way to address this issue is to include payment details and schedules in the initial contract. Don’t be afraid to enforce it if there are payment problems throughout the construction process.
Face one challenge at a time
Construction and home building aren’t an exact science, even if they look like it to the casual observer. All sorts of challenges can crop up that interrupt the timeline and make it more challenging to meet deadlines. The best advice for these events is to face one thing at a time. Attempting to tackle them all will be difficult at best and may leave even the most experienced jobsite supervisor feeling overwhelmed.
Maintaining timelines and meeting deadlines is an essential part of the home building experience, but struggling through them doesn’t have to be. Navigate one problem at a time, and everything will start to slowly but surely fall into place.
Evelyn Long is the editor of Renovated, a resource for construction and home professionals. She focuses on workforce and safety concerns for home builders and contractors. She can be reached at [email protected].