How To Start a Construction Project (The Complete Guide)

Published Categorized as Project Management
Starting a Construction Project

Most people think that the building process of a construction job is the most challenging part. However, getting started and planning everything before you even break ground can take a lot of coordination, forethought, and analysis. Still, as long as you follow all of the proper steps, you can make starting your construction project as painless as possible.

To start a construction project, you will need to:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the project.
  2. Understand the budget.
  3. Seek contractor bids.
  4. Apply for building permits.
  5. Set a timeline.
  6. Accept contractor bids and finalize your plan.
  7. Secure safety measures.
  8. Make project execution and construction plans.
  9. Make copies of your permits.
  10. Procure the materials.

This article will go into the details and discuss the steps you will need to take to start your construction project successfully. I’ll also give you a checklist to help you plan your construction project so that you don’t forget any of the steps!

Step-by-Step Guide to Starting and Managing a Construction Project

Construction projects need flexible, detail-oriented project managers to do well. To start a project, you will need to do your best to think of everything the job requires before the first shovel goes into the ground.

As the project manager, you will need to:

  • Set and enforce budgets
  • Create timelines
  • Initiate communication between stakeholders, contractors, workers, and clients
  • Consult with engineers, architects, designers, contractors, and more to optimize building procedures and materials
  • Ensure that safety procedures are enforced on-site
  • Adjust timelines and budgets during the project
  • Supervise the construction site

Keeping track of these many responsibilities is difficult. Still, if you follow a set system of operations that works for you, managing construction projects will become a routine in no time.

1. Familiarize Yourself With the Project

Before starting the construction project, familiarize yourself with the scope of the work.

You will need to procure all of the drawings and schematics and go over them extensively, checking for any mistakes, problem areas, or markings that you are unfamiliar with.

If there are no schematics or drawings, you will need to hire a designer or request one through your client.

Once you get your hands on the drawings, try to memorize the plan. Take the time you need to get everything down so that the construction process will be more straightforward later. Make copies and take notes, highlighting safety risk areas or confusing plans.

Try to understand what will be expected of you and ensure that you know what materials you will need to complete the project. Ask any questions now to clarify your client’s expectations and show an interest in the project. You may also want to discuss the plan with an experienced contractor to address materials, safety risks, and average pricing.

At this point, you may also want to meet with the stakeholders to discuss the construction plans and ask their opinions on how they wish to proceed.

2. Understand the Budget

Now that you know all about the scope, you will need to set your budget and ensure that your expenditures are within the budget. Usually, an estimating team will calculate the budget for you, but if not, you will need to consider:

  • Labor costs (contractors, supervisors, and stakeholders)
  • Material costs
  • Land development expenses
  • Safety enforcement and insurance costs
  • Equipment and tool costs
  • Software costs for project management and team communication apps

While setting the budget, you may need to consult with professional engineers, architects, design consultants, and all your stakeholders to ensure that everything is accounted for. Ask everyone what they think they will need to complete the project and include it in the expenditures.

One of the biggest mistakes that project managers make when planning construction projects is that they often go over budget. So, when planning and accounting for costs, you will also need to make room for unexpected expenses. You should never underestimate the price of a construction project!

Then, you will need to make a list of materials you need to procure and start searching for the best deals.

3. Seek Contractor Bids

You can also send out a request for contractor bids to give them plenty of time to respond at this phase. To hire a contractor, you will need to supply plans, a preliminary budget, and any additional information about the project. Once you request bids, contractors will send you their expected terms and costs for the job so that you can accept the most competitive rates.

Contractors are critical players in the construction project. Once you find the right contractor for your job, you will need to sign them onto the project. There are several types of contracts:

  • Lump-Sum (fixed price). A lump-sum or fixed price contract bids a specific quote for all of the construction costs. Once you sign a lump-sum contract, you are accountable for any overspending. So, make sure your budget is accurate and generous when you sign one of these contracts.
  • Cost-Plus Contracts. Cost-plus contracts cover all of the material costs and other expenses and an overhead fee for the contractor. You can negotiate what percentage of material costs that contractor will cover under the terms of these contracts.
  • Time and Material Contracts. Time and material contracts are best for projects with unclear timelines and scopes. You will pay the contractor a daily rate, which covers materials and per-diem pay.
  • Unit Pricing Contracts. Most often used in federal building projects, unit pricing contracts give you all that you need for your project at one flat rate. With one large up-front payment, the contractor provides material, workers, tools, equipment, and other negotiable items.

Depending on your project’s scope and your preferred contractors, you may want to use a specific contract format. As always, check over every detail before signing anything. Ensure that you and your contractor understand what the project entails before making your relationship legally binding.

4. Apply for Building Permits

Once you are familiar with the schematics and know what it will take to complete the construction project, it is time to apply for building permits.

Depending on the project’s scale, you may need many different permits, such as plumbing, electric, or elevator permits. You will also need a trailer permit if your workers, stakeholders, or contractors want to park a trailer on-site.

Permits are crucial, and when you apply for one, inspectors will come out to the construction site to ensure that everything is up-to-code and safe before construction. So, waiting for your permits can save you time that you might have spent dealing with safety issues or land development problems.

5. Set a Timeline

After you have assessed your budget, consult with your client and stakeholders to lay out a timeline of completion. Set an estimated starting date and finishing date, and be sure to include several milestones so that you can keep track of your progress during construction.

Allow for some flexibility, and always try to overestimate the timeline since, undoubtedly, some unexpected setbacks will arise. Usually, allow for at least a week or two extra in the event of bad weather, labor issues, or material shortages. It is always better to finish early than late!

6. Accept Contractor Bids and Finalize Your Plan

Before you finalize your timeline and budget, you will need to ensure that you can consider contractor bids in your plan and make adjustments accordingly.

Ensure that the contractors are familiar with the job requirements and are available for the specified start and end dates.

Verify Contractor Bids

It would help if you also verified that the contractors have fulfilled all of the bid requirements and checked over material needs to ensure that they covered everything.

It is also crucial to check that even the most minor things, like door knobs and faucets, are included on the list of materials supplied. If you don’t, you may have to readjust your budget later.

Meet With Contractors and Go Over the Job

Once you find the right contractors for you, plan a meeting with all of your stakeholders before signing them on. Have everyone familiarize themselves with the contract terms to ensure that everything is accounted for. If everything looks good, you can sign your new contractor on the job!

Now that you have secured your contractors, you can reassess your budget and timeline. You may want to hold a meeting that includes new contractors, stakeholders, and your client to ensure that everyone knows what is expected of them. You might also wish to discuss how you will all work together to stay on budget. Then finalize everything!

7. Secure Safety Measures

Before starting on the project, it is essential to ensure that you have considered all of the necessary safety regulations. You will need to consider:

You may also want to plan safety briefings for your labor team and ensure that supervisors enforce all safety guidelines. You may also need to procure insurance for the site just in case anything happens.

During this time, you will also need to assess any risks associated with your project. It may not be fun, but at this point, you should try to think of all of the worst-case scenarios for your job and come up with a contingency plan in case anything goes wrong.

Make a list of safety, legal, and environmental risks associated with your project and share it with stakeholders, contractors, and construction workers.

8. Make Project Execution and Construction Plans

Project Execution Plans (PEPs) include details about who is in charge of what, how the construction site will function, and what the finished product should look like. In these written plans, you should include:

  • Your timeline
  • Your budget breakdown
  • Names and contact information of all stakeholders and points of contact
  • Roles of each team member and worker
  • All finished drawings and site plans for the project
  • A map of the site for workers and contractors
  • Health and safety information and the site’s safety execution plan
  • Scheduling procedures
  • Quality control information and roles
  • Material delivery and use plans
  • Technology and communications procedures
  • Equipment regulations

You can also include other information in your plan, but putting it all in one place will help you communicate with stakeholders and laborers during construction.

Give everyone a copy of the plan so that they have a handbook for the project and contact the project authorities in case of an issue or emergency.

9. Secure Copies of Your Construction Permit

Keep multiple copies of your construction permit on-site before you begin construction. If a health inspector or other official comes on-site and you can’t find it, it will reflect poorly on your project management skills.

 Also, it would be best if you make copies of any other permits for the job, such as:

  • Plumbing Permits
  • Electrical permits
  • Elevator Permits
  • HVAC Permits
  • Trailer Permits

Keep copies of all official documentation on-site, and keep the originals in a safe location off-site.

10. Procure the Materials

Usually, your contractor will include material costs in their bid, so procuring the best materials should be simple. Contractors should assist you in getting the materials on-site and finding a reliable source.

Still, you will need to ensure that you get all of the right things for the project.

Ensure that all tools, machinery, and other construction equipment are lined up to arrive on or before the start date.

Construction Startup Checklist

To help ensure you don’t miss a thing, here’s a handy startup checklist you can use to make sure you’re on the right track:

Steps For Starting a Construction ProjectCheck Off When Complete
Check Schematics and Plans
Consult with stakeholders, designers, and architects to verify schematics
Write a generous budget, including:Labor CostsContractor CostsMaterial CostsLand Development CostsTool and Equipment CostsInsurance and Safety CostsSoftware and Technology Costs
Apply for ALL Necessary Building Permits
Send Out a Request for Contractor Bids
Set a Generous timeline with:Start DateAt Least Two MilestonesCompletion Date
Accept Contractor Bids and Ensure all the Materials are Listed in the Bid
Finalize Your Timeline and Budget
Plan Safety Procedures and organize:Safety briefings for all stakeholders and laborersEmergency PlansSafety Measures On-Site
Write Up a Project Execution Plan and Distribute it to all Stakeholders, Laborers, Clients, and Contractors.
Make Copies of Your Permits to Keep On-Site
Procure the Building Materials, Tools, and Equipment

Final Thoughts

Being a project manager comes with a lot of responsibility. Still, as long as you keep all of your duties in mind, your project startups will be simple.

Following these practices and always keeping a systematic approach to your job will help you become the best construction manager that you can be.


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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