Imagine that you worked with your Knoxville-area landscaping contractor to kick-start your latest landscaping project. They shared a start date with you and you’re excited for the time when you’ll finally get the backyard oasis of your dreams. But then, the delays begin.
What you may not know is that a project’s “start date” can be a confusing phrase because oftentimes it means something different to you than it does to your contractor.
Here are 5 common (and frustrating) causes of delays in the landscaping construction process, and what you can do about it:
1. Material Delays
Supply chain issues are a common cause for delays in a variety of industries today. Landscaping supplies are no different. Even with proactivity of advanced ordering and careful planning, a product that was readily available during the planning phase of a project may not be in stock when it’s time to place an order. In an ideal world, a landscaping contractor would order in advance and have vendors hold materials until that designated “start date,” they provided. However, most vendors don’t offer such services for a variety of reasons, leaving contractors at the mercy of the vendor’s restocking timetable.
Another cause for delay in starting a landscape construction project can be the wait for permits from municipalities. The COVID-19 pandemic sparked a building frenzy in East Tennessee and elsewhere and most city governments didn’t increase planning and engineering department staff to handle the onslaught of building permits. This means that the process is taking longer. Although a good project manager will be proactive about submitting for permits as early as possible, most municipalities have a limit on how far in advance you can submit so oftentimes, it’s within 30 or 60 days from the start. If there’s an unusually long delay, the start date may be negatively impacted. Additionally, there’s an ongoing shortage of surveyors in the industry so project managers have to work around those related delays.
3. Cascading Project Delays
You might also experience a delay in your “start date” because of the domino effect from delays related to projects that were scheduled ahead of yours. A good landscaping project manager in Knoxville will stay in frequent communication with you if delays crop up that would push back the start of your project. If you’re not hearing from your project manager leading up to your start date, you may want to check in and confirm things are still on track.
4. Equipment and Labor Woes
Most landscape contractors in the Knoxville area are locally owned and operated small businesses. While the benefit of this is honoring a “shop local” mentality, small businesses are put in a tough spot when unexpected delays occur. For example, even a well-maintained machine will break down now and then, and repairs can sometimes taking days or weeks to finish. Couple that with a tough labor market that’s left landscaping companies understaffed, the realities of life — illness, vacation and COVID quarantines — can all impact your “start date.”
If there’s one constant in the landscaping industry, it’s that mother nature doesn’t care about start dates. Weather delays are by far the most common variable when it comes to effectively scheduling a start date. Although a rainstorm can pass by your neighborhood quickly, it may take an additional day or more for your yard to dry out enough for work to begin. Additionally, high heat or bitterly cold temperatures can slow down workers who may need to take more frequent breaks to safely work in the harsh conditions.
Advice for Homeowners
With so many possibilities for delays, what’s a homeowner to do during a construction project? At Carex Design Group, we encourage our clients to be as patient as possible, although we know it’s not always easy!
It also helps when homeowners can provide the project manager with confirmed decisions on products and design choices early in the process to provide ample time for ordering material. It’ll also ease delays if homeowners can stick with initial decisions whenever possible because last-minute changes will often prolong the construction process.
If your project is taking longer then anticipated, your instinct might be to ask a contractor to “hurry up.” Although this is a natural urge, it may not be the best approach. There’s often a direct correlation between quality of craftsmanship and time. It’s a reality that some things take longer than others during construction. Rushing can sometimes lead to “shortcuts” being taken that cause problems down the road.
As hard as it might be, we encourage homeowners to be polite, be patient, and stay informed.
Carex Design Group’s Commitment
Because of all of these variables, most quality landscape construction managers will avoid sharing a “start date” in favor of providing a more general estimate of when a project will begin. You may hear them say “we plan to begin the week of September 12th” or “we have your project slated to begin in December.” While these generalities can seem evasive and make you nervous, you’ll likely have a better experience in these cases because the project manager is appropriately managing expectations.
While not everything always goes as planned, no one likes delays without explanation. That’s why having good communication and keeping clients updated regularly is great practice, and one that we believe in deeply. At Carex Design Group, our role as the project management team is to communicate effectively with our client, landscaping crews, industry suppliers and others involved in a project to effectively manage client expectations.
If you’re ready to get started on your next landscaping project, fill out our contact form or call Bob at 865-765-5550.