Owner Builder: Construction Scheduling

"What is construction scheduling?" It is a management forecast of when and how long trade contractors and suppliers will be on a building project. This is normally a job done by the general contractor. Since we have established that the owner builder is the general contractor, scheduling has become your job.

Why is Scheduling Important?

How many times have you scheduled to meet a service person at your house? Did they give you a specific time? Did they show up on time? Frustrating, yes? Did you lose money because of it?

Frustrations and monetary considerations are amplified on a construction project. If the cabinet installer is scheduled to begin work on Monday on your home and arranges all of their other work for Tuesday through Friday, you must be ready. When he shows up on Monday and the paint isn't complete, he loses money. Also, he has already committed to other clients Tuesday through Friday. You will not have cabinets done till next week.

Now consider the domino effect. Click...Countertop measure cannot be done so your tops will go in AT LEAST a week late. They may take longer. Click...the backsplash cannot go in until the tops are complete and the sink and plumbing cannot be completed. Click...electrical cannot be trimmed because the backsplash must be in before face plates are installed. Click...the electrical tag inspection cannot be conducted until trim is complete so you cannot order your meter. Each step along the way, you run the risk of being put off a few more days to pay for inconveniencing the next trade.

If an owner builder does not stay on top of construction scheduling, they can easily extend the project by 2-3 months.

How Can I Stay On Schedule?

Establish with the contractors when they can start, how long it will take them to complete their work, and how much lead time they require to be on the job. In addition, get commitments from the subcontractors that they will hit established timelines. This should be done during the bid process , before contracts.

It takes everyday follow-up on progress to remain on top or your construction scheduling. If the framing crew told you it will be 10 days to complete work but 4 days into framing you notice they are still just standing walls, it's time to meet with the boss and reconfirm their completion date.

Demand honesty
.There are legitimate reasons to fall behind. If they can't meet their date, you have some phone calls to make.

Sometimes 3-5 days is enough time to inform those depending on you, that a schedule adjustment is neccessary. That can be the difference in getting them in 1-2 days late or a week.

Review construction scheduling on our bid process page.

Construction Management

The owner builder will have schedule delays and problems just like a general contractor and just like a general contractor can use certain management tools to catch up.

There are particular trade partners that are on board with playing catch up. They will help you make up days if possible. Recognize that and make it worth their while. A drywall hanging crew that works through the weekend to make-up two lost days and ensure you don't have to reschedule your trim package, paint and cabinets may have saved you many hundreds of dollars. A crisp 50.00 bonus may be in order.

Sometimes getting the crew pizza's and soda is enough to motivate a few extra hours of work. Let them know you appreciate the extra effort.


This is one unfortunate thing the owner builder may have to do. Firing a trade contractor for non-performance is never a pleasant task. Sometimes, however, there is a contractor that will not complete their work. They will make excuses and break promises. Tomorrow, tomorrow, Monday, first thing tomorrow, turns into... My truck broke down, my kid got sick, my wife got sick, I got caught up at another job, back into tomorrow, tomorrow...This has a devastating effect on construction scheduling.

Bottom line, the owner builder's success is not important to this person. If he has not done the initial work, the subcontractor should be fired. There are other contractors. If the initial work is done but the original trade contractor won't complete the pick-up tasks, an owner builder may hire a licensed hourly tradesman to finish the work. The cost can be covered by the subcontractor that did not finish the work through a back charge. A well written subcontractor agreement, will prevent most disputes. Contact and reschedule trades and suppliers. Identify those that will help you make-up lost days and keep them informed of progress.

Construction Scheduling and Management Software

Scheduling is a function of owner builder construction management. There are a number of construction scheduling programs available. Some software is even designed specifically with small companies and owner builders in mind. They all are fairly pricey but may be just what you need to keep your project organized and on schedule.


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