Why Are Construction Projects Always Delayed?

Published Categorized as Project Management
Construction Projects Delayed

You were told that your building project would be finished a couple of months ago, but now your contractor says it may not be done for another month. Others you know have reported similar problems in the course of their building projects. So why do construction projects always seem to be delayed?

Construction projects are often delayed due to unexpected weather, labor shortages, permit and licensing issues, and supply shortages. Contractors must deal with many issues outside their control when trying to maintain a schedule. One unforeseen event can easily throw everything off.

Project delays are frustrating, but often they’re unavoidable. This article will explain the issues a contractor must consider when scheduling and show some of the problems that can set a remodeling project back days or weeks. Keep reading as we discuss why construction projects get delayed and what you can do to minimize those issues. 

Unpredictable Weather

Mortar, grout, and concrete require certain temperatures to set properly. If the air is too cold, tiny ice crystals can form throughout the mixture and separate the sand and cement, causing the bonding and solidification to fail.

Some types of adhesives, insulation, and wiring are also weather-sensitive. An unexpected cold snap can set a construction project back days.

On damp days, concrete, paint, and adhesives can take longer to cure. Onsite humidity can also lead to mold growth, warped lumber, and corroded finishes.

Unexpected rain or humid weather may lead to delays or even repairs for mold abatement. Tenting a site and renting a dehumidifier can help, but these steps cost money and require time.

Dry, sunny days might seem like ideal construction weather. But if dust gets in your equipment or on your fresh coat of paint, you could be looking at downtime or extra work. And if the weather gets too hot, contractors will have difficulty working with sealants and mortar — not to mention potential worker’s claims for heat exhaustion!

How To Plan for Potential Weather Delays

Contractors can’t control the weather, but they can have plans in place for inclement weather. Ask your prospective contractors how they have handled weather emergencies in the past.

If your contractor includes provisions for weather delays in your contract, this isn’t an excuse to miss deadlines. Any competent contractor has a full schedule and hates shuffling dates around for a late project. You’re much better off delaying a project in bad weather instead of pushing crews to do substandard work in dangerous conditions.

Lack of Manpower

Over the next two years, construction firms will need to hire at least 1 million more employees to keep up with current demand. A 2020 survey by Associated General Contractors of America found that 81% of responding construction firms reported difficulties filling open positions, and 72% said labor shortages were their biggest problem.

This fierce competition for an undersized labor pool has driven up salaries for skilled workers and has also led to firms poaching employees from other companies. Your contractor may have a team in place for your job, then lose several key employees days before it starts.

Many contractors who have been working from their offices are now out in the field laboring alongside their employees. And the construction shortage shows no signs of abating any time soon, though rising wages and benefits for construction workers will likely inspire more young people to take up construction as a trade.

Keep in mind that most construction projects involve multiple subcontractors who handle specialized tasks like plumbing or electrical wiring.

If any issue arises with finding an available subcontractor — and in this current climate, many skilled construction firms are booked months in advance — the project may be put on temporary hiatus.

How To Avoid Labor Delays on Construction Projects

If your contractor hires outside a Home Depot parking lot, you’ll likely run into delays as the demand for construction help outstrips supply. If your contractor has regular long-term staff, there’s a decent chance that the team will stay together through your project.

If you’re a contractor dealing with the ongoing labor shortage, you may have to bite the bullet and increase salaries and benefits. This can be challenging, but it’s an investment in your future.

Supply Shortages

In May 2021, over 90% of builders reported shortages of appliances and framing lumber. The pent-up post-lockdown demand has created shortages in many construction supplies, and many suppliers are still reeling from COVID-19’s explosive impact on shipping and supply lines.

Contractors regularly deal with supply shortages for individual items. The current supply shortage has left construction projects scrambling for almost every building necessity.

In Lincoln, Nebraska, county executives reported a 300% increase in the price of steel products and an over 100% price increase for aluminum signs and signposts.

COVID-19 inspired many to renovate their homes or build home offices. Many hired contractors while others did their own remodeling.

But all this demand has led to a scarcity of many building products. Lockdowns left many factories working at reduced capacity or even shut down altogether. This has led to shortages of windows, siding, and other building essentials.

How To Avoid Supply Delays

The current housing supply crisis is not likely to abate soon, and contractors will face high prices and scarce materials. This means projects will cost more, and contracts will likely include clauses noting that the builder and customer will share in any added expenses due to inflation.

You may also have to make compromises on certain materials that become unavailable or grossly overpriced. These are things you must discuss with any contractor before starting your project.

Permits and Inspection Delays

You’ll almost certainly require a building permit for any construction project. Most jobs will also involve zoning, water, sewer, right-of-way, and several other permits and clearances.

If your site is a Brownfield site, you’ll need an analysis and decontamination plan. Historically significant buildings may have exacting requirements on renovations.

If you work in a co-op or condominium, you’ll also have to stay in touch with the directors. Should you need a sign-off from the board when everybody is away, you could find your project stuck in limbo. And homeowners’ associations have become notorious for contentious disputes with contractors over minute details.

How To Avoid Permit Delays

One of the best ways to avoid permit issues is by sticking to your original plan. It’s tempting to second-guess yourself as you see your dream taking shape. But every change costs you money and may require a whole new round of permits and amendments.


There are many moving parts to any construction project. Should one jam up, a cascade of delays and issues can follow. Keeping everything running smoothly can be a big challenge. If you want to make sure the job is done right and on time, you need a good contractor.

When it comes to construction, some delays are unavoidable. A good contractor keeps projects from getting bogged down in avoidable delays. When downtime happens, a good contractor brings things back to speed as quickly as possible.


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.

1 comment

  1. It is obvious that construction projects have been delaying for years than their finishing time in my country too. And there are studies why they are late to be delivered but I want to test again whether these studies indicate the actual situation or not as a project management and finance student. Your material has provided me with supportive ideas.

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