Project planning in construction is key if you want to have a successful job.
One method of planning involves creating a construction project schedule.
The schedule can be a valuable tool for the project team to understand the construction timeline.
In this article, you will find an example construction schedule as a general contractor (GC) and subcontractor.
I want to show you what a construction schedule should look like. Additionally, I’ll cover how to create a construction schedule.
At the very end, I’ll provide you with some best practices to follow.
Knowing how to create a schedule is a core skill for construction project management.
Example Construction Schedule – General Contractors & Subcontractors
Let’s look at a schedule from the perspective of a subcontractor.
Fun fact, this is an actual schedule I prepared for a project I am working on while writing this article.
I created this as an internal reference for my team members and subcontractors.
I also used the schedule to calculate the working days required for my team to complete each phase.
This information was passed on to the general contractor to create the complete construction schedule.
I made the schedule using Microsoft Project, which is a powerful project management tool.
I suggest you find a project management software you can use and become proficient at it.
Once you understand the basic idea behind building a construction schedule, the concepts remain the same. You only need to learn how to use the different software.
In this schedule, you’ll notice that it’s specific only to a single trade. This is because it’s from the perspective of an HVAC contractor.
The project scope was to replace the HVAC system for some commercial buildings.
As the mechanical contractor, I only needed to include anything that fell under my scope of work. The rest is the responsibility of the general contractor.
Once I could determine the sequence of work and got my durations, the schedule was completed.
Note that this might not be accurate because I don’t have all of the work included in my schedule. This mainly tells me how long the work will take per phase.
Example Construction Schedule for General Contractors
This schedule was created using Google Sheets. You can click here to see the schedule on google sheets.
The construction schedule template is available for free from the Google Sheets platform. You can find it in the template library when creating a new spreadsheet.
Here is the schedule:
You’ll notice that this schedule includes more than just construction activities.
It’s broken into three phases:
- Active Construction
- Post Construction
As the general contractor, you should include items that affect the construction schedule.
Your pre-construction tasks will always drive when construction can begin.
Includes items such as:
- Material Procurement
There’s a decent amount of paperwork required before construction begins. This is a busy time for the construction project manager, project engineers, and admins.
Additionally, as the GC, you need to have all construction activities covered in your schedule.
Note about this example.
In my opinion, the template is best suited for a look-ahead schedule. I don’t advise using this to create a larger construction schedule.
Also, the durations in this schedule are not realistic for an actual project. Each of these activities would take much longer to complete.
For this construction project schedule example, I reduced the activity durations to fit more tasks.
How to Create a Construction Schedule
Follow these steps as you create your first construction schedule.
- Determine the Project Scope
- Break Down the Project into Smaller Tasks
- Establish Task Dependencies
- Assign Durations to Each Task
- Create a Gantt Chart
- Review and Revise the Schedule
- Monitor and Update the Schedule Regularly
1. Determine the Project Scope
After you receive a new project, you need to study the scope of work. Once you get the scope down, you should know what activities will be required to complete the project.
Review the construction project plan in its entirety. Do this regardless if you’re working as a general contractor or subcontractor.
You can anticipate when you will need to perform your work if you know the entire scope.
You should also know the project contract completion date (CCD) or the project end date. This related information is valuable for determining realistic durations for each activity.
With the durations in place, you can determine how much labor you need to dedicate to each activity.
The next step is developing the work breakdown structure or WBS.
What is a Work Breakdown Structure?
A WBS will allow you to create a high-level overview of the entire project phasing. With a WBS, you will break down each segment of work which you can reduce down to individual activities.
When it comes to scheduling, you shouldn’t include too much detail. Keeping it simple will be much better.
Plus, it’s difficult to capture every single task in a construction project since things can shift so often.
I often build out my WBS before writing down the individual tasks. It helps me to visualize how the work will carry out as well.
The image below identifies the WBS structure for the example construction schedule.
The WBS is broken into the following items:
- Material Procurement
- Site work
- Walls & Framing
- Interior Work
- Building Power Connections & Testing
- Post Construction
I recommend following a similar structure when creating your overall project schedule.
2. Break Down the Project into Smaller Tasks
Now that you have the WBS built, you can begin adding the individual project tasks.
Starting with the pre-construction planning phase, begin by identifying some of the general requirements for your project.
You can review the project specifications and general requirements to determine what will be required.
You’ll also need to abide by your local state requirements for any permitting for the job.
My rule of thumb is you should include these four items:
- Notice to proceed date
- Permitting duration (estimated if required)
- Submittals (only complex submittals that may impact the schedule)
- Material and Equipment Procurement Lead Times
These items are major activities in any construction project.
In the example for the subcontractor schedule, you can see how the material procurement alone takes 150 working days.
Before you can even order the equipment the submittals need to be approved. If you have an owner who’s slow to respond, the submittals can take months to complete.
Next, you have the construction phase activities.
This is the work that is physically being done on the job site.
When you begin entering the construction activities, you want to keep the descriptions vague.
Too much detail will give you some trouble later when you need to update the schedule and shift things around. You don’t want to create more work for yourself.
Let’s look at a snippet from the GC example building schedule.
I try to keep the description very brief so there’s not too much information to digest.
Important Note: When adding the activities to the schedule, you need to sequence the work properly. This will help when developing the Gantt chart so the schedule flows. If you don’t know the work sequence, reach out to your subcontractor or superintendent for more information.
Last we need to include the post-construction activities.
This section is typically only a few activities long. Here are the activities that I suggest you include in your schedule.
- Pre-final Inspection
- Punch List Items
- Final Inspection
- Substantial Completion Date
- Contract Completion Date
These are all standard tasks that need to be completed for a commercial construction project. The inspection dates also tell the owner when you’re ready for them to see the job site.
The sooner the customer can confirm your work is complete, the sooner you get paid and close out the job.
3. Establish Task Dependencies
After including the activities in your schedule, you need to add dependencies.
These dependent tasks rely on the completion of the preceding task before it can begin.
Most scheduling software like MS project has a built-in feature that lets you link or ties activities to one another.
Once you link the different tasks, the software will prevent the subsequent task from starting before the preceding one.
You’ll begin linking all the tasks together, the program will begin to create a Gantt chart you’re accustomed to seeing.
The image below is a snippet from the MS project schedule. This program uses “Predecessors” for the task dependencies.
The dependencies shown as a number in the MS project schedule. Any number that’s shown in that column is an activity linked to the task.
When we look at the Gantt chart, we can see all the lines connecting the activities. This is a visual representation of dependencies.
This is one of the benefits of using scheduling software, it helps with tracking dependencies on the Gantt chart.
Now, I’m not taking away from spreadsheets. They’re also powerful tools for scheduling, but best if used for a small section of the schedule.
It’s easy to follow a schedule from a spreadsheet if it only includes a cluster of activities. This is why you normally see 3 or 5-week look-ahead schedules.
4. Assign Durations to Each Task
Now that you’ve created all of your tasks and set your dependencies you’ll need to add durations.
You’ll begin to see the schedule come together once you add durations.
Work with your superintendents and subcontractors to determine your durations.
By getting input from the field crew, you create a realistic schedule. Your team won’t be stressed to meet a deadline if you set the durations too short.
After adding the durations, you’ll see how close you are to the CCD. The difference between your estimated completion date and CCD will act as a “float”.
The float is the flexibility that you have in the schedule if things go wrong.
Avoid negative float because you’re now risking liquidated damage (LD).
LDs typically come if you don’t complete a project by the deadline. Every day you go beyond the deadline you pay a daily fee as compensation to the owner.
5. Create a Gantt Chart
If you use a scheduling software, the Gantt chart will develop as you enter all your tasks.
Spreadsheets on the other hand will require manual entry to create the Gantt chart.
In the example schedule for GCs that I provided, you can see that the Gantt chart is just highlighted cells. This indicates days that worked.
Important Note: When you’re looking at the Gantt chart, it should appear in a descending fashion. This way it’s easy to read and clean. A schedule that does not follow this order will appear chaotic and difficult to read.
I made this mistake when starting out in the construction industry.
6. Review and Revise the Schedule
With anything you do, you should double-check your work and make sure the schedule makes sense.
Ask your crew members to sit down and review the schedule with you. If it looks ok to your team, then you can prepare it for distribution.
Remember, once this schedule goes to the owner or customer, you’re locked in. So, give yourself enough time to complete the work.
I fluff the duration of the construction activities to get it as close to the CCD as possible. This can also act as a contingency plan if things go wrong you have days to correct the issue.
If you finish before your schedule it looks better than if you are behind schedule.
7. Monitor and Update the Schedule Regularly
Now that you have a schedule completed, this will be considered your baseline.
You will build upon your baseline schedule regularly and create new versions. Use the baseline to view the variance from the updated schedule.
It’s your decision but I utilized two types of schedules in my projects while working at a general contracting construction company.
The standard Critical Path Method (CPM) schedule and a 3-week look ahead schedule.
The CPM schedule is what we have covered in this article so far.
I would update the CPM schedule once per month, and the 3-week look ahead I updated weekly.
The CPM schedule only went to the client while my look ahead went to the subcontractors.
My look ahead schedule was on excel and looked similar to the example schedule. This type of schedule used Excel which provides flexibility over most scheduling software, I didn’t need anything fancy.
It provided the necessary information to my subs so they can quickly determine when I need them onsite.
Having to look through a large schedule each time can be time-consuming.
Additionally, the look-ahead can be a much more detailed project schedule to provide exact dates to the field guys.
You now know to build your very own construction schedule.
Construction Scheduling Best Practices for Your Next Project
Before you go, I want to provide you with 4 scheduling best practices to remember.
- Involve All Stakeholders: Including your stakeholders in the scheduling process will ensure everyone is aware of the construction project timelines. The stakeholders are the owner, engineer, construction manager, contracting team, and subcontractors.
- Establish Clear Milestones: Identify the milestones in your project to help keep everyone on track to complete the project on time.
- Be Realistic: You need to work with your project team to determine the activity durations. If you fail to set the proper durations, you’ll put your team in a bind trying to meet the deadline you set.
- Communicate: Communicate the schedule regularly, and make sure everyone knows their work tasks and deadlines.
- Have a Contingency Plan: If you allow for float in your schedule you can protect yourself from unforeseen conditions. Be ready for anything that may go wrong during the project. You never know when poor weather conditions will result in work delays.
Also, I suggest you check out my article on construction planning. This way you can learn the other requirements during the pre-construction phase.
Thank you for reading.
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