Contractor Missed the Deadline - the shocking truth about contractor not finishing work on time

Key Takeaways

  • Project timelines are affected by various factors such as changes in project scope, labor shortages, schedule delays, and unexpected changes.
  • It is essential for homeowners to communicate their expectations clearly with the contractor and have a written contract specifying completion deadlines to avoid potential legal issues.
  • In cases where a contractor abandons or does not complete work, documenting evidence and claims early on can help build a case against unfinished contracts or contractors who fail to deliver as promised. Finding a new contractor may also be an option depending on the circumstances.
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By George Nicola (Expert Stager)

Table of Contents

Embarking on a home renovation project can be exciting and nerve-racking, as you eagerly anticipate the transformation of your space but worry about potential delays in completion.

Understanding how long a contractor should take to finish the job is crucial when planning and preparing for this critical undertaking.

Nothing in this article substitutes legal advice and can’t be taken seriously. The text provided in this post is for informational purpose and from our own experience.

1. Contractors must receive at least one annual performance evaluation, which will also be conducted upon the completion of a contract or order.
2. The main reason for delays in construction projects is a change in the project’s scope.
3. The term “contract time” refers to the maximum length specified in the contract for completing all the work outlined in the contract documents.
4. several typical risk factors can affect construction projects, including labor shortages, productivity, change orders, and subcontractor default.
5. Construction strikes can significantly delay the completion of a project, potentially leading to contract suspensions or extra days added to the timeline.

In this blog post, we will delve into factors that affect construction timelineslegal obligations surrounding timely project completion, and tips for ensuring your remodeling project stays on track.

Understanding Project Timelines

how to calculate contractor completion time
how to calculate contractor completion time

Factors such as project size, complexity, weather conditions, and availability of materials and labor can affect the completion time of a contractor’s work.

Factors That Affect Completion Time

Understanding project timelines is crucial for home builders when planning a construction project.

Several factors can affect the completion time, and being aware of these can help in managing expectations and ensuring a smooth process from start to finish.

Here are some of the key factors that may impact the time it takes for a contractor to finish a job:

  1. Changes in Project Scope: As mentioned earlier, change in project scope is the top reason for delays in construction projects. Altering plans during the construction process might significantly affect the completion time.
  2. Labor Shortages: The availability of skilled workers is critical for timely project completion. Labor shortages can lead to delays as contractors struggle to find enough personnel to complete tasks on schedule.
  3. Resource Allocation: Proper allocation of resources such as materials, equipment, and budget helps ensure that deadlines are met without compromising quality.
  4. Schedule Delays: Unforeseen circumstances like inclement weather, permit issues, or external problems can lead to schedule delays and longer project durations.
  5. Productivity Rates: A well-coordinated team with high productivity rates can accomplish tasks more quickly than an unorganized or less experienced crew.
  6. Contractual Obligations: Contractors must meet their contractual obligations to avoid risks associated with penalties and disputes, which could affect completion time.
  7. Work Completion: Ensuring that all work meets quality standards and adheres to building codes can influence how long it takes a contractor to finish a job.
  8. Labor Disputes: Strikes or other labor disputes may disrupt progress in completing construction projects on time, potentially leading to suspensions or additional contract days.
  9. Subcontractor Default: If subcontractors do not deliver their portion of work on time or fail altogether, it could delay the overall project timeline.
  10. Unexpected Changes: Challenges like design alterations, material shortages, or new regulations might arise during the construction process, requiring adjustments and affecting overall completion timeframes.

By being aware of these factors, home builders can better plan, estimate and manage construction projects to minimize delays and ensure timely completion.

Ongoing communication with contractors is essential to address any concerns or issues arising during the process.

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Typical Timeframes For Different Project Sizes

Typical timeframes for different project sizes can vary greatly based on several factors such as scope of work, materials, and labor availability.

The table below offers a general guideline for common construction only projects.

Project Size
Typical Timeframe
Small Renovations
1 – 6 weeks
Major Renovations
2 – 6 months
Single-Family Home Construction
6 – 12 months
Multi-Family Home Construction
12 – 24 months
Small Commercial Construction
3 – 8 months
Large Commercial Construction
12 – 36 months

When planning a home renovation or construction project with design work involved, it’s essential to have realistic expectations about how long the job will take.

From small-scale projects like bathroom remodels to more extensive undertakings such as building a new home, the project size plays a significant role in determining the timeline.

Small projects (e.g., bathroom or kitchen remodels, painting, or flooring):

  • 2 to 4 weeks for planning and design
  • 1 to 3 weeks for material procurement
  • 2 to 6 weeks for construction

Medium-sized projects (e.g., room additions, basement conversions, or exterior renovations):

  • 4 to 8 weeks for planning and design
  • 2 to 4 weeks for material procurement
  • 4 to 12 weeks for construction

Large projects (e.g., new home construction or significant structural renovations):

  • 8 to 16 weeks for planning and design
  • 4 to 8 weeks for material procurement
  • 9 months to 2 years for construction

Keep in mind that these timeframes are just estimates, and the actual duration of a specific project may vary depending on its unique circumstances.

It is essential to work closely with your contractor to establish a realistic project timeline, considering factors such as permit acquisition, design, and labor availability.

Communicating With Your Contractor

Establishing open and consistent communication with your contractor is a crucial aspect of any successful construction project.

Without effective communication, misunderstandings may arise regarding expectations, timelines, and potential issues that could delay the progress of the job.

One way for homeowners to maintain regular contact with their contractors is through weekly or bi-weekly meetings to discuss ongoing progress updates and address any concerns about delays or modifications being made to original plans.

For example, if unexpected weather conditions have interrupted work on-site, these meetings are ideal for both parties to reassess schedules and create proactive solutions together.

Legal Obligations For Timely Project Completion

what to do with contractor not finishing work on time
what to do with contractor not finishing work on time

Did you know that 98% of construction projects are completed late or over budget?

That’s a shocking statistic, but it highlights the importance of setting and adhering to deadlines in the construction industry.

As a client, you need to be aware of contractors’ legal obligations to meet the contract’s deadlines.

How to address timeline issues with contractors?

So, how can you address timeline issues with contractors?

1. Communicate openly: Keep an open line of communication with your contractor throughout the project, discussing any potential delays or complications.
2. Monitor progress: Regularly check in on the project to ensure it’s on track and meeting deadlines.
3. Be flexible: Understand that some factors may be beyond the contractor’s control, and be willing to adjust timelines if necessary.
4. Enforce penalties: If a contractor consistently misses deadlines without legitimate reasons, consider enforcing the penalties outlined in the contract.
5. Seek legal advice: Consult with a contract lawyer to ensure you take the appropriate steps to protect yourself and your project.

Remember, you have the power to hold contractors accountable for meeting deadlines.

With open communication, flexibility, and legal support, you can help ensure your project is completed on time and within budget, allowing you to enjoy the finished product without any unnecessary stress.

Why do contractors take so long?

There are several common reasons why construction projects often take longer than originally estimated:

  1. Unexpected delays – Bad weather, issues with permits or inspections, materials backorders, and other unforeseen circumstances can lead to lost days and push timelines out.
  2. Scope creep – Homeowners frequently make changes and add upgrades during the project which affects schedules. Each change needs to be priced and worked into schedules.
  3. Too much on their plate – Some contractors have more ongoing jobs than they can realistically manage in a timely manner, leading to delays.
  4. Poor planning – Inadequate project scoping, task scheduling, and resource allocation can leave little room for hiccups before causing delays.
  5. Subcontractor problems – When contractors rely on other specialty trades like electricians, plumbers etc. delays with those subs can also slow prime contractor’s progress.
  6. Rework and repairs – Discovering issues that require rework or repairs not in original scope impacts efficiency.

Many contractors purposefully quote overly optimistic timeframes knowing projects virtually always take longer. They do that since they are legally binded to complete the project tasks on time as stated in their contracts. This makes them appear more competitive on bids and professional. Keeping expectations realistic from the start can help avoid frustration over extended timelines.

Contract Terms And Deadlines

Contractors are legally obligated to complete the work within the specified timeframe, and failure to do so can result in penalties and extensions only if agreed upon.

One of the most critical aspects of any construction project is setting deadlines and ensuring that they are met.

This is why contracts play a significant role in outlining completion timelines, which should be agreed upon between the contractor and client.

These terms typically dictate when each phase of work should start and end, along with any penalties for delays or extensions.

It’s essential to get an expert contract lawyer involved to draft clear terms and ensure compliance.

Failure to meet these expectations can result in legal action by clients if there are no legitimate excuses, such as weather problems or unforeseen circumstances beyond the contractor’s control.

Penalties For Delays

Construction contracts typically establish a specific timeline for project completion, and delays can result in severe consequences.

The penalty for not finishing a project on time may include limitations on billing for additional hours needed to complete the project or even legal disputes.

If a contractor breaches the contract and leaves unfinished work, they may be liable for damages, including compensation for the delay.

Can I add penalty for contractor not finishing on time - action steps

You can include a penalty clause or liquidated damages provision in the contract to penalize the contractor for not completing the project on time.

Here are seven actional steps how to add a penalty for late completion:

  1. Specify Deadline Date – The contract should clearly state the expected date of completion for the project. This provides a definitive timeline.
  2. Specify Milestones – Identify key interim milestone dates throughout the project, such as finishing framing or rough mechanicals, even a single delay on a milestone adds up and pushes the final project 
  3. Define Delay Triggers – Specify what constitutes a delay, such as failure to meet interim milestone dates or the final completion date.
  4. Establish Daily/Weekly Rate – Decide on a daily or weekly penalty rate if deadlines are missed, such as $100 per day past due date.
  5. Cap Maximum Penalties – You may want to limit total late fees to a percentage of the total contract amount (e.g. no more than 10%).
  6. Allow Reasonable Extensions – If delays result from owner changes or unavoidable events, allow for mutually agreed timeline adjustments.
  7. Consult Attorney – Have an attorney review the clause to ensure it complies with local laws and meets contract requirements.

The goal is to create a reasonable penalty structure that provides accountability without being viewed as unfairly punitive if reasonable delays occur. Enforcing without flexibility risks litigation.

Extensions And Change Orders

Extensions and change orders are standard in the construction industry. A change order is a written document that modifies work required by contract documents, including the time the contractor has to complete the job.

When owners request changes to the project scope or schedule, it can lead to an extension of time for completion based on terms agreed upon through negotiation.

However, if there are penalties for delays included in the initial contract such as Liquidated Damages, these will still apply even after a change order extends completion time.

Dealing With Unfinished Contract Work

To deal with unfinished contract work, homeowners should document evidence of the contractor’s breach and negotiate a resolution or find a new contractor to complete the job.

Documenting Evidence And Claims

If a contractor fails to complete work on time or delivers poor-quality work, it is essential to document every interaction and incident from the very beginning.

Documenting evidence and claims is crucial in building a case against unfinished contracts or contractors who fail to deliver as promised.

Keep copies of relevant documents that support your claim, including the original contract agreement, receipts for payment made thus far, photographs showing incomplete or shoddy workmanship, and correspondence with the contractor regarding specific issues.

Having this evidence can help you build a stronger case if legal action becomes necessary down the line.

Negotiating A Resolution

If a contractor abandons a project, it’s essential to know your options for negotiating a resolution.

Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to work out an agreement with the contractor to finish the project or compensate for damages incurred.

If this is not possible, retaining payment for any unfinished work can serve as leverage in pursuing legal action or finding a new contractor to complete the job.

It’s essential to document all evidence and claims throughout this process and seek professional advice from an attorney if necessary.

What to do if a contractor abandons a job - action steps

If a contractor abandons a job, respond promptly when abandoned, document everything, negotiate where possible, and if the contractor is not willing to resolve the problem, do not wait or hope for results, escalate matters legally to protect yourself.

These are the actionable steps you can take:

  1. Document everything. Take photos and videos showing the state of the unfinished work, keep all contracts and communications, and record all payments made to the contractor. This documentation will help support any legal claims.
  2. Send a formal notice of default. Send the contractor a letter stating they are in breach of contract for abandoning the job and give them a reasonable timeframe (e.g. 7-10 days) to return and complete the work.
  3. Withhold further payments. Don’t pay the contractor any remaining balance until the job has been finished per the contract terms. This gives you leverage in negotiations.
  4. Negotiate a settlement. Try to negotiate an agreement for the contractor to either finish the job or compensate you financially so you can hire someone else. Consult a lawyer to understand your options.
  5. Hire a new contractor. If negotiations fail, you may need to find and hire a new qualified contractor to complete the unfinished work.
  6. Pursue legal action. If the abandoning contractor causes significant financial or other damages, you may need to take legal action to recover costs. Consult with an attorney regarding breach of contract and other claims.

Finding A New Contractor

Finding a new contractor may be the best option if a contractor has left the job unfinished or the homeowner is not satisfied.

Homeowners should conduct thorough research before hiring a new contractor and ask for references from previous clients.

Ensuring that the contractor is licensed and insured is crucial to protect against potential property damage or construction defects is vital.

In cases where legal action is necessary due to a breach of contract or other issues with the previous contractor, homeowners may also want to consult with a lawyer specializing in construction litigation or consumer protection.

Tips For Ensuring Timely Project Completion

  • Plan the project in detail, including specific timelines and milestones.
  • Choose a reliable contractor with a proven track record of timely completion.
  • Regularly communicate with your contractor to monitor progress and address any issues promptly.
  • Minimize unexpected changes by making all design decisions upfront and sticking to them throughout the project.
  • Consider offering incentives for early completion or penalties for delays.

Detailed Planning And Preparation

If you work with a designer or an architect, they must have every step and specification planned.

In case you are self-supervising – detailed planning and preparation are crucial in ensuring that contractors complete projects on time.

Here are some tips for home builders to keep in mind:

  1. Define the scope of work clearly and precisely.
  2. Develop a comprehensive task list and set a realistic timeline for each task.
  3. Establish clear goals and performance metrics to measure progress.
  4. Identify risks and challenges upfront, and develop contingency plans to address them.
  5. Secure necessary permits, licenses, and materials well in advance.
  6. Allocate resources efficiently, including labor, equipment, and materials.
  7. Communicate regularly with the contractor to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  8. Track progress diligently using tools such as Gantt charts or project management software.
  9. Maintain flexibility while adhering to the overall project timeline.
  10. Provide feedback throughout the process to ensure that all parties remain accountable.

Establish a feasible schedule that considers the project’s complexity, the availability of resources, and potential unforeseen obstacles.

This will create a sense of urgency without putting undue pressure on the contractor, allowing them to work efficiently and effectively.

Provide the contractor with comprehensive information on what needs to be done, including detailed specifications, materials, and any relevant permits or regulations.

This will minimize the risk of misunderstandings and ensure that the contractor can focus on delivering the desired results.

Break the project into smaller, manageable tasks with specific deadlines.

This will enable you to track progress, adjust as needed, and hold the contractor accountable for meeting each milestone.

By following these guidelines for detailed planning and preparation, home builders can help ensure successful project completion within a reasonable timeline.

Working With Reliable And Efficient Contractors

Working with reliable and efficient contractors is one of the most crucial aspects of completing a construction project on time. Home builders should seek out individuals or teams with a track record of timely and quality work.

To ensure contractor efficiency, home builders can consider breaking down projects into smaller tasks that are easier to monitor and complete.

This approach allows for regular checkpoints, where progress can be reviewed and adjustments made as needed.

By taking these steps, home builders can help reduce risks associated with incomplete or late performance while ensuring they get quality results from their hired contractors.

Regular Updates And Progress Reports

Regular updates and progress reports are the most crucial aspects of ensuring timely project completion.

Throughout the lifecycle of a construction project, a lot can change, unexpected events can occur, and timelines may need to be adjusted.

To prevent delays and ensure all parties are on the same page, it’s essential to have regular check-ins with your contractor.

This includes tracking milestones, task completion dates, work-in-progress reports, and performance evaluations.

Of course, unexpected changes can still occur even with the best planning and communication.

When this happens, it’s essential to maintain open lines of communication with your contractor and work together to find the best path forward.

Discuss the issue, consider possible solutions, and make a decision that best aligns with your project goals and timeline.

Your contractor should provide regular, comprehensive updates on the project’s progress, including any completed tasks, upcoming tasks, and any potential delays or changes to the timeline.

This will not only keep you informed but also give you peace of mind knowing that your project is steadily moving towards completion.

Your contractor needs to keep you apprised of the project’s financial status.

This includes information on expenses to date, remaining budget, and any potential cost overruns. This transparency will enable you to make informed decisions and ensure your project stays within budget.

Suppose any changes to the original plans are required or desired.

In that case, your contractor should provide exact change orders, including the reason for the change, the impact on the timeline and budget, and any necessary adjustments.

This will help you stay in control of your project and ensure that any changes are well-documented and agreed upon.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Receiving stock photos or video updates of your project can give you a better understanding of the progress being made and allow you to address any concerns promptly.

This visual element adds excitement as you watch your dream project come to life.

For instance, if you’re building a custom home with a tight deadline for the move-in day. For example, for school schedules or other obligations, you’ll want to receive regular progress reports that detail everything from material deliveries to labor hours spent on-site each day.

It would be best if you were transparent about any issues or deviations in project delivery time frames so that both parties can make informed decisions on how best to resolve these issues before things spiral out of control.

Flexibility is key – sometimes, unforeseen circumstances or challenges may arise, and adapting and adjusting as needed is essential.

Minimizing Unexpected Changes

Minimizing unexpected changes is a crucial part of ensuring timely project completion.

One way to achieve this is by developing a detailed plan from the outset, setting realistic goals and objectives, and communicating effectively with your contractor throughout the construction process.

Another important aspect of minimizing unexpected changes is managing your budget effectively.

By tracking costs closely and avoiding unnecessary expenses wherever possible, you’ll be better able to stay within your budget and avoid costly overruns that could impact both your bottom line and your completion date.

Frequently Asked Questions About Party Wall Surveyors

No, some laws dictate how long contractors have to finish jobs based on the scope of work and contract terms.

Typically, the contractor and client agree on the timeline in advance.

Before hiring a contractor, research their reputation for timely completion and follow up with them regularly throughout the job to monitor progress.

It’s also essential to clearly outline deadlines and expectations in your contract.

If your contractor misses their deadline without good reason, you may be entitled to seek compensation or terminate the contract altogether.

However, it’s essential always to give the benefit of the doubt and address any delays or concerns with open communication.

Unforeseen circumstances like inclement weather or supply chain disruptions may sometimes impact construction timelines. However, the parties involved should communicate proactively about what adjustments I will make, ensuring project success regardless of these unexpected developments.


In a nutshell, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how long a contractor has to finish a job. It depends on the contract, legal obligations, and the nature of the project.

Keep your eye on the ball by staying involved, setting clear expectations, and maintaining open communication.

Remember, knowledge is power.

By understanding project timelines and knowing your legal rights, you’ll be better equipped to ensure timely and successful project completion.

We can help you establish if you need full service design or just advice. Free interior design consultant >