It’s that time of year when spontaneous weather can delay even the most well-planned projects. No one looks forward to dealing with weather delays in construction contracts; delay is one of the most common causes of contract disputes. Unfortunately, delay claims are often poorly understood. This only makes them more frustrating to deal with. Taking the time to understand what is necessary to prove a construction delay claim will save significant headache should unplanned inclement weather hit.

When weather creates a construction delay, a contractor must establish these 4 things:

  1. The construction delay claim is within the contract terms
  2. The delayed activity was on the critical path (had a direct effect on the project end date)
  3. The weather that caused delay was more extreme than what’s “normal” for the season
  4. Which activities were delayed, what caused the delay, and for how long they were delayed has been documented

Weather and Construction Contracts

While no two construction contracts are the same, all should include what should happen when bad weather occurs.

Typically, an inclement weather policy in construction outlines two things:

  1. What a contractor will get when a delay occurs. For non-compensable delays, this is usually a time extension only. For compensable delays, it’s usually a time extension and monetary compensation.
  2. A time requirement for the contractor to provide notice of delay. While this will vary from contract to contract, it’s in a contractor’s best interest to notify an owner of delays as soon as possible. Even if the critical path is still being reworked or a delay is only potential, it’s important to keep all parties well informed.

Establishing a Schedule

To prove weather delays in construction contracts, a project schedule/ critical path must first be established and regularly updated before and during the project. For weather to cause a legitimate delay, it must affect an activity on the critical path (the timely completion of these tasks is critical to the project end date). If, at the time of severe weather, the activities affected were not on the critical path, the contractor should not get a time extension.

However, if an activity not on the critical path is delayed long enough, it can start to affect the project end date. For a construction delay claim to be made, the contractor must be able to show that a weather delay used up all of this activity’s float plus additional time. The activity would then be included in the project’s critical path.

If the established schedule experiences delays that affect the critical path, the contractor should oversee the creation of a new schedule. If possible, the new schedule should get the project back on track to be completed on time.

What is “Normal Weather”?

Almost always, a contract will only allow for weather-related delays when the weather falls outside of what’s “normal” for the season and area. This means that “normal” weather should be established and taken into account when creating a project schedule. Anticipated weather is typically drawn from historical averages. If average temperatures are usually below freezing, or if there is typically ice or snow during wintertime in your area, it’s important to include the necessary extra days in your schedule.

Document, Document, Document!

It’s important to document what’s happening on a construction site every day. The progress of critical and sub-critical activities should be noted. If any inclement weather occurs, you’ll need to have a record of what happened before, during and after to make a legitimate delay claim; you’ll need to demonstrate which activities were delayed and why.  Before a contractor can move forward in requesting additional days, he/she must first provide documentation of what abnormal weather occurred, how many days an activity was delayed, and how the critical path was affected.


Preparing for Bad Weather

While extreme weather can hit out of nowhere, it’s best to avoid delays when possible. Delay analysis in construction contracts indicates that delays have a significant financial impact on both the contractor and owner (this is an excellent resource if you’re interested in learning more about the effects of construction delays). You can’t control Mother Nature, but you can take some steps to lessen the effect of cold weather on your operation.

Powerblanket concrete blankets can be used to keep concrete at optimal setting temperatures when cold weather hits. Typically, concrete takes much longer to set during the winter, but concrete blankets will keep our operation moving full steam ahead. These and other products such as ground thawing blankets, bucket heaters, and snow melting mats are excellent options to help minimize winter weather delays in construction contracts.