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What are differing site conditions?

Whether it’s a large-scale construction project or a private property renovation, you’ve likely hired contractors and subcontractors to carry out your project. And behind your construction project probably lies a contract that spells out both worker and client obligations. But what happens when a worker encounters an unforeseen complication?

Any unanticipated obstacle that might cause deadline setbacks or additional costs to the construction project is a differing site condition. It can come in many forms, some of which include buried debris or rocks, unanticipated utility lines, muddy soil or excess groundwater.

Types of differing site conditions

Also known as a changed condition, differing site conditions are normally categorized into two types:

  • Type 1: Type 1 differing site conditions involve encountering conditions that differ from the ones laid out in the contract. Thorough contracts should describe the current site and list any potential and specific obstacles that the construction site might contain. Any unplanned condition not included in the contract is a Type 1 differing site condition.
  • Type 2: Type 2 differing site conditions are conditions that differ from any normal expectations not listed in the contract that you might expect to encounter at the job site. These conditions go against what you would normally expect to run into while working on a construction project.

The consequences of a differing site condition

It’s not out of the ordinary for a construction project to go awry every once in a while. But when your contractor or construction site worker encounters a differing site condition, it can end up stalling the project and may even cost you additional money to fix the problem. You may even face additional costs if a contract dispute comes up.

Avoiding the price of a differing site condition

Regardless of the type, most solutions to disputes surrounding differing site conditions can be found by answering a central question: was the condition foreseeable or not? While a contractor or worker might try to fight you on the answer to that question, there are ways to avoid disputes altogether.

The best way to prevent a contract dispute over differing site conditions is to be as transparent and honest as possible in your contract. You may even benefit from having a differing site condition clause to protect yourself and keep the cost of your project from reaching unanticipated or unaffordable heights.

It can also greatly help to have a set of experienced eyes review your contract beforehand to ensure you have all your bases covered.

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