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Navigating Construction Dispute Resolution: A Builder’s Guidance

Residential construction projects come with their share of challenges, and effective construction dispute resolution is paramount for maintaining positive relationships between you and your builder. While Owners’ Ace is not an attorney, nor do we offer legal advice, I do believe as an experienced builder that providing clear guidance on contract terms and dispute resolution strategies can significantly reduce the likelihood of conflicts and enhance project success. In this article, we will explore the importance of early resolution and expand on the mediation and arbitration processes, including their pros and cons. Additionally, we will explore legal remedies that can be pursued if mediation and arbitration do not lead to a satisfactory resolution.


construction dispute resolution

Clear Communication

Open communication is the cornerstone of successful construction projects. Establishing clear expectations from the project's outset helps prevent misunderstandings that may lead to disputes. When discussing contract terms, emphasize the importance of addressing concerns and issues early on to foster a collaborative and constructive working relationship.


Comprehensive Contracts

To lay the groundwork for effective construction dispute resolution, ensure your contract is thorough and unambiguous. Specify the following:

  • Scope of Work & Specifications: Clearly define tasks, materials, and quality standards.

  • Payment Terms: If you have a lender, a draw schedule will often be provided.  If not, outline a detailed payment schedule tied to project milestones and potential additional costs.  Be clear on how and when the final payment will be distributed.

  • Timeline: Set a realistic construction schedule with milestones and communicate potential delays.

  • Insurance: Be clear on what type and how much insurance your builder maintains. Lenders will often require Certificates of Insurance to ensure the value and effective dates.

  • Change Order Process: Establish a transparent procedure for handling changes, including approval, costs, and timeline adjustments.

  • Dispute Resolution Clause: Include a clear construction dispute resolution clause specifying the steps both parties will take if conflicts arise. Encourage resolution attempts before progressing to mediation or arbitration.


Resolution Before Mediation or Arbitration

Encourage parties to attempt resolution before escalating the dispute to formal processes. Early resolution can be achieved through:

  • Direct Communication: Engage in open and honest discussions to understand concerns and explore mutually agreeable solutions.

  • Negotiation: Seek compromises and find middle ground to address issues without third-party involvement.

  • Facilitated Meetings: Consider engaging a neutral third party, such as a project manager or mediator, to facilitate discussions and guide parties toward resolution.


resolving a construction dispute


This is a voluntary process where a neutral third party facilitates discussions to help parties reach a mutually acceptable agreement. Mediation sessions involve open communication, exploration of interests, and collaborative problem-solving. The mediator does not impose decisions but helps parties find common ground. Here are some pros and cons:



  • Informal Process: Mediation is less formal and adversarial compared to litigation.

  • Preservation of Relationship: It often preserves relationships between builders and homeowners.

  • Cost-Effective: Generally, mediation is less expensive than litigation.

  • Speed: Resolutions can be achieved more quickly than in court. 


  • Non-Binding: Agreements reached in mediation are not legally binding unless both parties agree.

  • Potential Imbalance: One party may have more negotiating power, affecting the fairness of the outcome.



This is a more formal process where an impartial arbitrator or panel of arbitrators reviews evidence and typically makes a binding decision. Arbitration involves a hearing where both parties present their cases, and the arbitrator(s) render a final, binding decision. Here are some pros and cons:



  • Finality: The decision is typically final and binding, reducing the potential for ongoing disputes.

  • Expertise: Arbitrators typically have expertise in construction matters.

  • Confidentiality: Proceedings can be kept private. 


  • Cost: Arbitration can be expensive with fees for the arbitrator(s) and legal representation, but less expensive than litigation.

  • Limited Appeal: The ability to appeal the decision is limited.

  • Potential for Adversarial Atmosphere: The formal process can create a more adversarial environment, which often makes it difficult to continue an ongoing business relationship.


legal remedies to a construction dispute

Legal Remedies

If mediation and arbitration fail to produce a satisfactory resolution, legal remedies may be pursued. Consult with a construction law attorney familiar with the laws in your jurisdiction to explore potential courses of action, which may include:

  • Litigation: Filing a lawsuit in court is a formal legal process where a judge or jury renders a decision based on evidence presented by both parties.

  • Breach of Contract Claims: If one party fails to fulfill their contractual obligations, a breach of contract claim may be pursued to seek damages or performance.

  • Specific Performance: In some cases, a court may order specific performance, requiring the party to fulfill their contractual obligations.

  • Damages: Seeking monetary compensation for losses incurred due to the dispute.


While legal remedies provide a final resolution, they are often time-consuming, costly and can strain relationships further. It is advisable to explore these options only when other methods have proven unsuccessful.



By incorporating these strategies into your construction project, you can build positive relationships, complete your project successfully, and minimize the potential for disputes. Encouraging early construction dispute resolution and employing mediation and arbitration, when necessary, can pave the way for effective and amicable solutions. However, understanding legal remedies is essential to providing a comprehensive approach to dispute resolution in residential construction projects.



Additional Resources

Here are some more resources that you can use to research further on the topic of residential construction dispute resolution:


American Bar Association (ABA) - Construction Law Section

The ABA Construction Law Section provides valuable insights into construction law and dispute resolution. Homeowners can find articles, publications, and resources related to construction disputes.


CMAA offers resources on construction management and project delivery methods. Homeowners can explore articles and publications to gain a better understanding of construction processes and potential disputes. provides a collection of articles specifically focused on construction mediation. Homeowners can gain insights into how mediation works and its benefits in resolving construction disputes.


The AAA provides rules and procedures for construction arbitration and mediation. Homeowners can learn about the process and understand how these alternative dispute resolution methods function.


NAHB offers resources on dispute resolution specifically tailored for homeowners. Information includes articles and guides on navigating disputes during the home construction process.


JSTOR contains a collection of scholarly articles on construction law. Homeowners can access academic insights into legal aspects and dispute resolution within the construction industry.


This organization focuses on advocating for better construction practices and assisting homeowners facing construction defects and disputes. Homeowners can find valuable information and support through their resources.


FindLaw provides legal information on construction defects and homeowner rights. It covers topics related to resolving disputes and understanding legal remedies available to homeowners.


Remember, it's always a good idea to consult with legal professionals for personalized advice based on the specific circumstances of a construction dispute. These resources can serve as starting points for you to educate yourselves on the topic.


“I have known Jon for many years. He and his team at Owners’ Ace are an invaluable resource to anyone looking to design and build a custom home. Having their assistance makes a complex process so much easier and successful. I recommend Owners’ Ace to my clients and to anyone looking to build their dream home.”

BG Holmberg, Top Custom Home Realtor in Tampa Bay Area

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