How to Deal with Problems on the Construction Site

Job-site delays and problems are inevitable, but how you deal with them contributes to the future success or failure of the project. Your efficacy in conducting the orchestra of contractors and deliveries that must access your worksite can vastly reduce construction time and costs. We take a look at the best way to deal with impending disasters and help smooth the way to construction glory.

Prevention is better than cure

Pre-empting problems and discussing possible resolutions prior to the start of the build is the best way to have a framework for dealing with difficulties in place before constructions begins. This means that you should discuss with your contractors:

Date of completion and consequences of delays: This will include identifying possible delays and discussing ways to prevent them from happening as well as what the responsibilities of both parties are should delays occur.

Exclusivity: If you are bound by deadlines, then discuss whether your construction crew is working only for you or if they have other projects on the go that can influence their ability to meet their commitments to you.

Discuss the scope of the work: Your quote should include everything from preparation to completion and clean-up as well as the protection of other areas of the building or property. There should be no misunderstanding about what work is to be done and who is responsible for doing it.

Workmanship: The biggest construction-site beef is shoddy workmanship. Your builder must know the standards you are expecting prior to commencing and you must do the research to ensure that your contractor is capable and experienced.

It is especially important to establish culpability if you are building to energy-efficiency standards. If the building’s performance does not meet expected levels, you may find each contractor blaming the others for an ineffective building envelope. Agree beforehand on measures that will be taken if, once the house is complete, energy audits show poor workmanship to be the problem.

Contracts matter: Verbal contracts are subject to interpretation, so get the salient points down in your contract. Include everything starting from the entire scope of work that is to be done to the exact materials that are to be used. This contract will be the only thing you have to back you up in a dispute, so make sure it is exhaustive.

Constructive Criticism

It’s impossible to foreshadow each and every delay or problem and if you find yourself in a situation that can’t be resolved, there are several courses of action you can take.

Resolution is the best medicine: Effective communication is the key to conflict resolution. Meet with your contractor and really listen to their side of the story and then try to find a resolution that works for both of you. Most construction contracts include a binding arbitration clause. For arbitration to work in your favor, you must have a contract that is water-tight and proof that the contractor has violated the terms of the contract. You can seek arbitration through the Better Business Bureau.

Ask for a refund: If there is no way to resolve your differences, then send the contractor a registered letter which threatens to end the contract and ask for a refund on your down payment. This is only permitted in some provinces, so check with your lawyer first. Send a copy of the letter to the consumer protection department of your local government, or to the contractor’s bonding company for added clout. Bonding companies can offer restitution in cases where contractors disappear or don’t build to code.

Report poor workmanship: Lodge a complaint with the licensing department to help future consumers to make informed choices. The licensing office is also able to take action against errant contractors.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) standards: If your construction company has not built to code, report this to the inspector and the contractor will have to make adjustments at their own expense.

Keep a record: Take pictures and keep records of each time your contractor did not stick to your contract. That way, if your construction site turns into an unmitigated disaster, you are able to fire your contractor without getting sued for breach of contract.

File a complaint: If you are unable to resolve your dispute and get stuck with poor workmanship or an incomplete project, you can help future consumers by registering a complaint with online consumer guideline sites like, and

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