Even with careful, proactive planning, schedule delays are common in construction. Contractors must become skilled at navigating unexpected schedule changes due to permit delays, weather complications, subcontractor miscommunication, or other unforeseen events.

It is impossible to avoid all schedule changes. However, there are steps to help ensure your project remains on track. Permit delays can often cause complications. A proactive approach, and open communication, is key to staying on track with the target completion date. Here are tips to help navigate permit delays and keep your project moving forward. 

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How To Help Prevent Permit Delays

To prevent permit delays for your project, the best solution is to plan ahead. First, ensure the necessary permits are ready before you begin working on-site. This process takes a bit of coordination and forward-thinking— but experienced contractors are always looking a few steps ahead on the project.

Here are a few things you should always keep in mind to keep things on track with your work permits:

  • Finalize Plans: Since working drawings are required for permit applications, be proactive in finalizing these plans as soon as possible. Most cities require detailed blueprints with a clear outline of the work. One common permit delay is when the project owner changes submitted plans— resulting in a need for resubmission to receive a new permit. Any change in the original design can result in an increase in cost, as well as schedule delays due to new permits. Whenever possible, avoid these delays by working with the project owners to finalize plans before applying for permits.
  • Be Organized: Early in the project planning process, decide which permits are needed for the project. Knowing the correct forms to file is an effective way to save both time and money. Filing the wrong paperwork, or overlooking supporting documentation, is one common issue with permit delays. Take time to understand the permit application process and required paperwork, streamlining the process for every project in the future.
  • Anticipate Delays: You might not be able to predict the future, but schedule delays are standard in the construction industry. Anticipation is key. Plan for these delays by building in “cushion time” to use as needed. For example, it is smart to begin the permit application process early, giving you a chance to provide additional information to the city if needed. This process frees up your schedule to ensure the permits are available at the right time.
  • Beginning a Project: It might seem minor to start a project before the permits are in hand, but the city has the authority to put a hold on the project if you aren’t forthcoming about the construction. While it is good to be proactive with your schedule, remember that permit access is a non-negotiable step before work commences.

Most of the time, these proactive steps are effective in accessing the permits necessary to keep your schedule moving forward. But occasionally permit delays do occur despite your best efforts. It is important that you are ready to solve the problem if something throws you off your schedule.

Tips for Overcoming Permit Delays

What are the most effective strategies for managing permit delays when they occur? Consider these options to overcome the delays and keep the project moving forward:

  1. Know the Laws: As a skilled professional, it is important to understand local laws that regulate construction work, including building codes and zoning. Knowing the nuances of these laws gives you the advantage of adjusting plans if needed. If permit delays are due to compliance concerns, then you can quickly adapt your plan to keep the project on track.
  2. Open Communication: Not only do you need to maintain communication with the city permit department, but it is critical to communicate these details with subcontractors and crew members. Sometimes a conversation is all that’s needed to overcome miscommunication and clarify the construction plans. 
  3. Homeowner Expectations: While you are juggling communication with the permit department, it is paramount to keep homeowners updated about the current status. Openly communicate through all stages of the project. This also helps build trust with your client. 
  4. Municipality Relationships: If you regularly apply for construction permits, then it can be helpful to build relationships with the local municipality. This business-to-business relationship gives you a point of contact to call if you have questions or encounter delays.

While the permit process can sometimes seem like a burden, it plays an important role in safety and quality in the project. Building regulations create optimal circumstances so the construction is streamlined to project both crew members and property owners. Every great contractor knows that permit applications are an expected part of the process, which is why it is essential to build time into your schedule to obtain these necessary permits. 

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