How To Complete a Construction Project on Time (9 Tips)

Published Categorized as Project Management
Finishing Construction Project On-Time

Completing a construction project on time is a difficult task, as many variables go into the project. Surprisingly, an estimated nine out of ten construction projects do not finish on time. The good news is that you can take a few simple steps that will ensure you make that deadline.

Here are 9 tips on how to complete a construction project on time:

  1. Plan for the construction project.
  2. Create a detailed schedule for the project.
  3. Create and sign the paperwork.
  4. Do prep work before breaking ground.
  5. Make a list of all supplies.
  6. Gather the construction crew.
  7. Oversee the project.
  8. Provide the client with regular progress reports.
  9. Prepare for problems that may arise.

Here we will define a step-by-step list to complete a construction project on time. From developing a clear statement of work (SOW) to managing a construction team, preparation followed by action will allow most construction projects to finish on time, barring any extenuating circumstances.

1. Plan for the Construction Project

Planning a construction project can be complicated, as there’s a lot of information to digest and process. Avoiding construction project problems starts by taking the necessary steps to ensure that the project is as safe and successful as possible.

Below are factors to consider when planning a construction project:

  • Insurance – The most critical factor in planning a construction project is ensuring that the project is insured. Insurance should cover liability, property damage, and equipment damage. If a project isn’t adequately insured, do not even begin it!
  • Budget – When discussing a construction project with a client, ask about their budget immediately. Having a clearly defined budget to work with makes it possible to create a construction plan. Remember to include all material costs, labor costs, and subcontractors in the budget.
  • Quality – Quality is everything when it comes to showing a completed construction project. Creating a construction plan that aims for the highest quality build will impress clients and result in further business through referrals and word-of-mouth.
  • Safety – When it comes to construction, one of the most important things to keep in mind is safety. While working on a construction project, ensure that safety is first and foremost. Any safety issues will undoubtedly result in a longer than expected completion date.
  • Legal – It is essential to keep in mind that certain items can affect the legality of a construction project. Be sure that your construction company is licensed, bonded, and insured. Following the regulations will help ensure that the project runs smoothly and legally.

Insufficient planning is the reason why at least 25% of construction projects fail. This reason is why construction projects that diligently plan are often able to meet the due date. While planning may seem tedious, it is the key to success in the construction industry.

2. Create a Detailed Schedule for the Project

Many construction project managers use their intuition when determining how long a construction project will take. However, it is far better to use historical data and project scheduling software to create a more accurate timeframe for project completion.

Project scheduling software allows a construction company to:

  • Organize all the tasks that make up a project.
  • Determine how long these mini-projects will take.
  • Assign a start date and end date to a particular project.

With a completed project schedule, the construction crew knows what to do, when to do it, and its timeframe.

A high-quality project scheduling software allows the creation of deliverables, tasks with a start and end date, budgets, and a timeline for every step of a construction project.

The Critical Path Method

The Critical Path Method (CPM) is a straightforward way to schedule projects. This method shows all activities that a project entails along with a completion timeframe.

The date for completion of each activity has a soft and a hard deadline.

As long as every activity completes before the hard deadline, the project should finish before the scheduled completion date.

Experience Is the Key to Estimating Project Completion Dates

In addition to project scheduling software, project managers with experience can estimate a project completion date with accuracy. Since these experts have participated in many construction projects, they are the go-to source for anything related to construction.

Any construction company that isn’t exactly sure when they will complete a project should receive an expert’s advice and get their professional opinion.

While consultation may not be cheap, it will save companies a great deal of grief if they can plan their project properly and complete the project before the estimated completion date.

3. Create and Sign the Paperwork

Ensure that all documents are created and signed – the contracts, the acceptance criteria, a detailed project schedule, the scope statement, and the estimates. Write all documents in plain English.

Paperwork with detailed instructions on all aspects of the project will ensure clear communication with the client, so there will be little chance of backtracking and extending the project completion date.

Creating a Statement of Work (SOW)

Define a clear statement of work (SOW) with input from the client. This document should include the scope of the work and the work breakdown structure (WBS).

Write the SOW in simple terms, so the client understands what they are signing.

Get a signed copy of the SOW, either handwritten, scanned, emailed, or in a PDF. If you don’t have a signed copy, call and ask your client to send it before starting the project.

After the client has defined the overall scope of a construction project, spend time on project logistics, sourcing project materials, and estimate how much time it will take the construction crew to complete this project.

Ideally, add on a few weeks to the estimated completion date to account for unforeseen circumstances that may arise. A little buffer zone will significantly increase the probability of completing a construction project on time.

With a defined date in mind for completing a construction project, begin writing a rough draft of the project contract.

Signing a Construction Contract

Construction companies should always work with attorneys when writing up a contract. Lawyers will ensure that everything is legally binding before showing it to a client.

When a contract is ready, meet with the client, ensure that they are satisfied with the contract, and sign it. Both the client and the construction company should keep a copy of this contract for their records.

The Acceptance Criteria and the Scope Statement

Get clear and accurate acceptance criteria – your client should have clearly defined acceptance criteria in the contract. The construction team should have access to detailed notes, images, and a link to the original acceptance criteria.

Make sure the acceptance criteria are clearly defined and include all details.

Send the scope statement to the client via a Scope Statement, email, or through the mail. The client should have access to these documents before they sign the contract.

Payments and Invoicing

At every step of the process, be sure to save invoices and payment requests. This includes even the small purchases since they will quickly add up.

It is important to document when and how much payment is received. When accepting payment, track the payment to prevent any monetary problems that could cause the project to come to a standstill.

4. Do Prep Work Before Breaking Ground

After signing a construction project contract, many companies rush in eagerly to start the work.

However, there are still certain steps to take before opening up any ground, including:

  1. Ensure that all insurance policies are up to date.
  2. Determine where underground electrical cables, water pipes, and gas lines are.
  3. Verify the boundaries of a property where construction will take place.
  4. After completing all the prep work, it is finally time to start working on the construction project.

5. Make a List of All Supplies

Making a list of all the supplies necessary to start a construction project can be a daunting task. However, anyone who has been managing construction projects for a while is well aware of the basic supplies needed to begin construction.

Create a detailed list that includes the prices of each item and share this with the client. If required, discuss any necessary changes in the budget that may arise.

6. Gather the Construction Crew

The big day is finally here! It is time to begin the construction project.

At this time, it is crucially important to discuss the overall project with the entire construction crew and discuss all the details with the project lead.

Communication will ensure that everyone is on the same page from day one, avoiding any simple errors that could cause a construction property to go past the due date.

Breaking down a construction project by weekly goals is one way to stay on target. Before starting a construction project, define these goals clearly and share them with the project manager.

The project manager holds all responsibility for ensuring the completion of weekly goals.

7. Oversee the Project

Checking in with the progress of a construction project is a must to complete it on time. At the bare minimum, stop in every week and verify the completion of the weekly goals.

If a construction crew is falling behind, make adjustments and get back on track. While it may not be easy, it might be necessary to change members of the construction crew or cut the project scope to complete a construction project on time.

If you’re assigning the correct people to each specific task, accomplishing weekly goals should be a regular occurrence. Avoid over-assigning too many people to a task, which complicates the project and is not a good use of manpower.

Dedicate Time to Making Sure a Construction Project Is on Pace

Leading a construction project that successfully finishes on time is like tending a garden.

Typically, the more care and attention one contributes, the better the result. Construction companies that want to complete nearly all of their projects on time must dedicate their effort wholeheartedly.

Construction project leaders who visit the job site daily will be able to pinpoint bottlenecks that may be slowing a construction project down. While this is not always possible, visiting a project three times a week is a great way to pick out inefficiencies quickly before they result in long-term slowdowns.

At the very least, visiting a project at the end of the week will motivate the construction crew to finish the work by that time. If there was a hold-up that week and all the work assigned wasn’t completed, it is necessary to make adjustments to get back on track and accomplish next week’s goal.

8. Provide the Client with Regular Progress Reports

Document the project progress and share it with clients regularly. In this progress report, document the work completed, including the cost and time dedicated so far.

Dealing with changes in a construction project is common. Often, things change and need to be modified. Modifications can be frustrating, as changes will almost always increase workload, pushing the project completion finish date further into the future.

However, handle these modifications in stride and insert them into the construction project plan. Most clients will understand any change in the project completion due date if modifications are required.

9. Prepare for Problems That May Arise

As with anything in life, when things can go wrong, they do go wrong. When this happens, pinpointing a viable solution that takes the least amount of time should be the goal.

If there is only a minor error, fix the problem and move forward after that.

However, big mistakes that have no simple solution require transparency with the client.

If an error forces a project to extend past the estimated project completion date, let a client know and be honest with them. Most clients will understand that things occasionally go wrong and will be willing to extend the due date without worry.


Since nine out of every ten construction projects fail to meet the deadline date, separate from the pack by consistently meeting your dates. Simply following the steps laid out here will nearly ensure that a company can complete a construction project on time.

Planning a construction project and determining the workload allows a construction company to complete the work before that time. Construction companies that regularly meet the completion date are bound to impress their clients and have more work offers than they can accept.


By Giovanni Valle

Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.

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