Everyone involved with a construction project hopes to avoid challenges or hiccups along the way. What warnings or red flags should you look out for if “smooth sailing” doesn’t seem to be the direction your project is going? We came up with a list of 12, but let’s start with the first half:
RED FLAG #1: Incomplete Bidding Documents or Qualifications
When specifications require the contractor or its employees (project manager or superintendent) to submit “similar project experience,” verify the submitted documentation. Visit the contractor’s website, check references with Owners and subcontractors, search Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook. You’ll never again have more leverage with a contractor than you do before you sign the contract.
RED FLAG #2: Incomplete Initiation Documents
Executing initiation documents, such as submittal and preliminary construction schedule, subcontractors and products list, LEED action plan, performance and payment bonds, and certificate(s) of insurance, before the contractor mobilizes is critical to starting the project on the right foot. These documents are not just “hoops to jump through.”
RED FLAG #3: Slow Mobilization
Most contractors are eager to begin construction since it provides operating cash flow. If your contractors are slow to begin (or mobilize), they may be revealing a general lack of initiation or an incomplete project plan.
RED FLAG #4: Slow Submittals
In general, subcontractors will not begin work until they have an executed contract from the contractor. If you do not have a flurry of submittals in the first month, it may indicate your contractor is unable to get subcontractors to commit for their proposed bid amount—a tell-tale sign their bid may not cover the cost of the work.
RED FLAG #5: Changing Subcontractors
Once contract(s) have been executed, the construction team (contractor, subcontractors, and suppliers) should be fixed, barring bankruptcy, legal action, or other unforeseen catastrophic event. Changing subcontractors for other reasons usually indicates your contractor is “shopping the job”— attempting to reduce costs and pocketing the difference.
RED FLAG #6: Installation Proceeding Without Being Previously Approved
Contractors propose submittals (product data, shop drawings, etc.) indicating what products they intend to furnish and how they intend to install those materials. If products are delivered to the site and (even worse) installed without being properly submitted and reviewed by the architect, this may indicate your contractor is worried about the progress of the schedule and attempting to cut corners. The architect’s review of submittals is a critical quality-control measure that should not be omitted.