Have you noticed the phrase "time is of the essence in this subcontract"? Most subcontracts include sneaky language such as this. The word "essence" in this phrase means "time is the heart of the subcontract." When reviewing scheduling contract language, realize the cards are stacked against you, as described below.

• Subcontractor agrees to diligently perform all parts and portions of the subcontract as directed by the GC.

• If GC is of the opinion that subcontractor is falling behind schedule, subcontractor shall take necessary steps to get back on schedule.

• All float time shall benefit only the GC.

• Other subcontractors may interfere with subcontractors work and coordination of the work is the subcontractor's responsibility.

• The GC is not responsible for any interferences resulting from other subcontractors or suppliers.

• GC shall make final determinations as to sequence of the work.

• GC may, from time to time, modify or alter the schedule, and subcontractor will not benefit from modifications unless subcontractor notifies GC in writing within five working days, requesting benefits.

Diligently perform

Subcontractors who "diligently perform parts and portions" of the job will most likely lose money. As one reads the scheduling language, ask if the language corresponds with the way the job is being bid. Was the job bid to do it in parts and portions or was the plan to complete the job in a continuous manner? If the language doesn't match the way you bid the job, call the GC and explain that you didn't bid the job that way and ask how you can revise the language properly.

Another option is to strike out "parts and portions" language and see what happens. As far as doing the work as directed by the GC, you may want to modify that to ready, "as agreed by GC and subcontractor."

Whenever I see the words "as directed by GC," I picture a GC superintendent with 10 fingers all pointing in different directions, yelling, "this areas ready and that's not, and the walls are ready over here but the ceilings are not."

The point is that if the GC "diligently performed" his work, our work could be "diligently performed" in a cost-effective manner. I want to suggest that all proposals you present include language that reserves your right to a mutually acceptable schedule.

If in the opinion of the GC you are falling behind schedule, there is most likely a reason for it and in many cases it may not be the subcontractors fault. Opinions are like noses-everyone has one and sometimes the GC's opinion stinks. Do you really want the opinion of the GC to be a contractual obligation? I can't believe that any subcontractor would leave his fate in the hands of someone else's opinion. Even if the opinion is right, do you want to contractually agree that the opinion is binding and that just because he is of the opinion you're behind schedule, you are?

I'm suggesting that any time you see the word "opinion" of the GC or owner, that you strike the language without even asking the GC for approval or change the language to read, "If in the opinion of the subcontractor the GC is behind schedule, the GC shall take all necessary steps to get back on schedule."

Float time

Float time is the time between the end of the construction activity and the final completion date. In other words, the construction activity is done, yet the completion date has not yet arrived. Most contracts indicate that float time belongs to the GC, and that the GC is the only one who may award float time to a subcontractor for various reasons. Subcontractors are not entitled to adjustments in subcontract time, schedule or price from any source by reason of the GC's use of float time. Float time, in my opinion, is a pool of time that benefits only the GC, yet the GC may choose to give the subcontractor some of it. The problem with float time is that the GC may use it to settle a dispute for delays caused by the GC. It's a negotiating tool as well as a way to balance an inaccurate schedule and may impact a subcontractor's claim for additional compensation or duration. I suggest that you strike out ‘float time' language that benefits only the GC.

If the GC wants subcontractors to coordinate the work activities of others, shouldn't we get paid for it? Contract language that requires subcontractors to coordinate with other subcontractors is broad language. Does "coordinate" mean that subcontractors are supposed to schedule each other's work? Agreeing to coordinate the work of others in the eyes of a judge or arbitrator may be much more broad than what you might think. Once a subcontractor signs a contract with a coordination agreement, he or she is basically agreeing to coordinate the job to a degree and may therefore share in any liability associated with such coordination. It should be the GC's responsibility to coordinate the work schedule and sequence, and it should be the subcontractors right to accept or reject the schedule and/or sequence. Including language that reserves the subcontractors right to reject or accept the schedule in a proposal will help but it won't solve the risk associated with coordination.

"Subcontractors may be working in the same area at the same time and such activities may cause subcontractors to interfere with one another." This language is basically telling a subcontractor that there will be interference and to be prepared for it, and if/when interference is experienced, the subcontractors must coordinate with each other; although the GC reserves the right to make the ultimate decision. In other words, be prepared for interference, and if it's not worked out between the subcontractors, the GC will work it out for them. The problem is age old: If the GC scheduled several subcontractors into the same area, the problem is the GC's schedule, not the subcontractor's. Most contracts include language that state, "The GC is not responsible for any interferences between the trades." I want to suggest that you consider adding, "unless caused by the GC."


Contracts allowing the GC to ultimately decide the sequence of work places the subcontractor at a disadvantage. If a subcontractor agrees to let the GC determine the sequence of work and the subcontractor later files a claim relating to sequence, the claim may be thrown out due to the subcontractor's prior agreement.

Some GCs manage their work better than others. However, most GCs include sequence language in their subcontracts because it is a catchall. Sometimes, jobs or parts of a job get out of sequence due to one reason or another. A good example of a job out of sequence is when the plastering contractor is required to start lathing and plastering before exterior windows and doors are installed. Another example is when the GC allows the electrical subcontractor to install conduit on the bottom of the floor joist before the drywall is installed on the bottom of the floor joist. I experienced a job where we had miles of cubical rooms to drywall, but only the walls were ready. The GC wanted us to rock the walls and not the ceilings because the lighting fixtures were back ordered.

Subcontractors should include language in their proposals and subcontracts that reserves their right to accept, reject or negotiate issues revolving around sequence and schedule.

"The GC may from time to time, modify or alter the schedule and the subcontractor will not benefit from modifications unless subcontractor notifies GC in writing." When pricing change orders it's important to include language in your change order proposal that describes how many additional days it will take you to perform the additional work. For example: "If accepted, this change adds 10 additional working days to the current construction schedule for plaster."

If the added work were only 12 hours you would state, "If accepted this change adds one-and-a-half additional working days to the current construction schedule for plaster." With every change there should be an adjustment in schedule; including this language on every change is a clear and concise way of notifying the GC of the additional time needed. As well, trades that are impacted by weather conditions should include language in their proposals and subcontracts excluding responsibility or liability related to unforeseen circumstances such as weather conditions in which one is not able to work.

It's also important to post the original schedule in order to compare the original against the revised schedule. Revised schedules that impact the original schedule should be brought to the GC's attention as soon as you get the revised schedule. I can't emphasize enough the importance of including language in your proposal, which reserves your right to a mutually acceptable contract and schedule. If your schedule is extended or reduced for any reason; advise and submit costs for such.

What happens if the GC doesn't perform its work diligently and falls behind schedule and uses subcontractor float time for his own benefit while not coordinating all the subcontractors causing interferences between the trades and at the same time impacting the sequence of the work? Nothing! Because they also have the right to alter the schedule from time to time to elude damages which become the subcontractors responsibility. Now that's a stacked deck with a heck of a hole card!

Remember: Teamwork begins with a fair contract.