What you need to know about your work schedule

What is a work schedule?

A work schedule is a construction schedule that allows the contractor and the homeowner to set the start and end date of construction, as well as all the activities required for a successful renovation. This schedule thus includes all the different stages that allow you to carry out your project. A schedule is subject to weekly updates following the various events that may arise during construction.

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What can impact a work schedule?

Construction materials

Several factors can influence or impact a work schedule. First of all, materials are necessary in order to install them. If, for example, a customer chooses a ceramic tile or a special bath that requires a particular order deadline, the schedule will then be partially defined from the date of receipt of these materials. Every schedule has a critical path: this includes the set of activities for which changes to the duration of an activity impacts the delivery date of the project. 

Availability of labor 

Next, the availability of labor is another major element in a work schedule. The different trades must be well coordinated so that everyone can go to the site, in a logical order, to carry out their work. For example, the plumber and the electrician must come by before closing the walls. In addition, they may have to come back to complete the plumbing and electrical finishing once the walls are closed and the painting job is completed. The vast majority of contractors work with specialized subcontractors in different trades. These subcontractors must therefore be available at the right time. If the site is delayed for any reason, the next subcontractor may not be available the same day. 

Site conditions

Site conditions can also be a risk factor in respecting the schedule. For example, when demolishing the walls and ceilings of a basement, we discover an awful lot of (non-legal) junction boxes. We must therefore call the electrician to clean up the electrical installations. This can involve several works, such as opening walls on the floor above, redoing the electrical wiring, replacing circuit breakers or even the electrical panel, etc. We then have to push back the next activity on the schedule, which causes additional delays that impact the completion date.

Decision times

Finally, a homeowner’s decision times can impact the work schedule. If, for example, the contractor gives the homeowner a choice and tells them that they must get back to him within five days and the client is not able to make his decision in time, it is possible that the schedule will be delayed since these subcontractors may no longer necessarily be available. 2e will then have to update the work schedule according to their availability. 

A work schedule is a constantly evolving document that must be updated regularly. Because of the interdependence between the different activities that it includes, a delay of three days caused today on the overall schedule, does not necessarily mean that the final delivery date of the project is only postponed by 3 days — the impact can be much more.

How can a change in the schedule affect the price of my renovation?

Currently, prices of materials and subcontractors fluctuate rapidly on construction sites. A simple construction delay can now lead to additional costs. Unfortunately, a subcontractor suddenly costing more is an unpredictable situation for the general contractor. It isn’t their fault if they have to charge more because this increase is linked to a price increase from his suppliers!

Should I plan time contingencies for my renovation project?

We must always allocate a budget contingency to our renovation projects, but also a time contingency. As mentioned in the previous examples, there are multiple reasons that can cause a slowdown or delay on a construction site.

To be conservative, it is quite normal to allocate a contingency of 20 to 30% additional time over the total duration planned for the work.

What is the difference between substantial completion and final completion?

When completing a renovation project, substantial performance will be determined when the contractor tells the homeowner that their work is complete, or that their progress is at 95%. From this moment, the homeowner is able to take possession of the premises and the contractor's construction insurance no longer covers the construction site, which is now closed.

Then will follow a visit of deficiencies with the presence of the various stakeholders, in order to determine all the imperfections, small corrections or final touch-ups to be made — this is a partial or provisional acceptance of the work. When the deficiencies are corrected, the contractor officially hands over the project to the client — this is the final acceptance of the work.

What happens if my contractor does not show up on site one day?

First of all, it's normal for any project not to be running at full steam ahead all of the time. Contractors work on several projects at the same time and this allows them to manage their time efficiently, and to be as competitive as possible in their bid, considering that their employees work full time.

Difficulties with material deadlines

Many contractors currently have difficulty obtaining their materials within the standard deadlines. So there are some job sites that are put on hold for a few weeks while waiting for material orders that are preventing the contractor from advancing the work. This is unfortunately part of the reality today. So you have to be understanding of this kind of unpredictable situation. 

Availability of subcontractors

During a renovation project, several stages follow one another. Their order is important and cannot be as we see fit. It sometimes happens that certain subcontractors are not necessarily available immediately and this can therefore cause small delays. A general contractor is used to working with his team of subcontractors, with whom he has built a relationship of trust over the years. It therefore cannot be always possible to change subcontractors to fit the work schedule.

For example, the plumber that a general contractor has worked with for 10 years may not charge the same upfront price as an unknown plumber contacted today to do work the next day. There is not only a relationship of trust that has been built between these two entrepreneurs over time but also a professional, collaborative way of working and communicating.

Do I have to claim credits from my contractor if he has not respected the initial project schedule?

If this is not a clearly defined clause in the terms and conditions of the contract with the general contractor, we could also ask the following question: does a contractor have to charge additional fees because he has completed the work ahead of the initial work schedule? The answer to the first question is not so simple: it is obvious that in the context of a dispute due to significant delays on the construction site, it can be justified that the delays have harmed one of the parties causing impact costs (e.g. administration costs on the contractor side, potential loss of rent on the landlord side).

Because of the elements mentioned above, it often happens that the initial schedule is not respected and the causes of the delay must be analyzed methodically. An amicable agreement is always the best solution. It is not at all in the interest of the contractor to fall behind on a construction site. On the contrary, it is a frustrating situation where his profits are slowly burning.

The duration of the work, as well as the quality of the latter, has a significant impact on the overall cost of the work. The shorter the time allotted to complete the work, the higher the cost of the work. For example, the City of Montreal includes in its general conditions a payment clause of $50,000 per day of delay, and this, in several of its projects. To protect themselves, contractors who bid allocate a contingency, with very large amounts, to cover themselves. As a result, these projects are much more expensive for the City of Montreal and the deadlines are most often respected.

If respecting deadlines is a very important factor for your project, it is important to get ahead as much as possible. If in any case, the window of opportunity for carrying out the work comes to be challenging, the contractor must be notified and contractual clauses defined accordingly.

Read our How to navigate change orders for your renovations guide for more tips on how to prepare for your renovations.