Types of Construction Project Delays
Inexcusable vs Excusable


Delays on a project are costly and sometimes unavoidable. The reasons for these delays are all over the map and can include everything from poor planning, an indecisive owner, or natural disasters. Regardless, delays have an impact on every project participant- whether it be cost, schedule or merely the reputation of those involved.

Construction delays typically fall into two very general categories: Inexcusable delays and Excusable delays. 

Delays that are inexcusable:

Generally, inexcusable delays are delays that could have been avoided relatively easily by “someone” on the job. As a result of the delay, the owner may be compensated for the delay – often by the general contractor or subcontractor. This may come in the form of payment of actual damages involved, or via some other method prescribed by contract. There are many specific events that can cause a delay to occur and be categorized as inexcusable delays – here are some examples:

Delayed Project Start – Delayed procurement of materials, tools, or necessary equipment – Poor planning and scheduling – Late performance or execution by the general contractor – Late performance by subcontractors or suppliers – Quality issues and failures.

Excusable delays:

Excusable delays are a little more understandable. They happen due to circumstances beyond the general contractor’s control and they’re reasonably unforeseeable. When an excusable delay occurs, a contractor or sub may be given more time to complete the project. What is considered “excusable” will often be explicitly laid out in the contract. Here are a few examples:

Delays due to an Owner’s change orders, approvals or decisions – Poor weather conditions – Natural disasters – Errors in project specs – Unforeseen issues with the project property – Delays in permitting or government approval – Delays caused by third parties, unrelated to project participants

Whether a delay is excusable or inexcusable may depend on perspective. What if a subcontractor is delayed due to the fault of another contractor on the job? For example: What if the general contractor was in charge of procuring materials for a subcontractor and got the materials to the jobsite late? That subcontractor may be facing delays at no fault of their own. In this instance – what might be considered an inexcusable delay for the contractor could be an excusable delay for the subcontractor. Remember – it’s all a matter of perspective.

Both excusable delays and inexcusable delays can be considered what’s called a critical delay. Basically, if the delay will impact the date the project will be completed, it will likely be deemed a critical delay. As you can imagine, whether a delay is critical or non-critical is probably the most important distinction. Even when a contractor or sub has caused an inexcusable delay, if the issue can be fixed without forcing a critical delay, the ship can be righted and crisis can be averted.

Zlien Published 7-30-18

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