Substantial Completion vs. Final Completion: When Is Your Church Construction Complete?

After spending months watching your church grow from the ground up, we know you’re awaiting the day when your congregation can gather in your new building.

At Churches By Daniels, we understand that you don’t want to wait for your contractor to finish the tiny details of construction before you can occupy your church building. Thankfully, you don’t have to.

Your construction project goes through two phases of construction—substantial completion and final completion. When your project reaches substantial completion, you can occupy your building while the last construction items are finished.

Here’s everything you need to know about the differences between substantial completion and final completion for your church construction project.

What Is Substantial Completion?

Substantial completion is a legal term used to define when a construction project is sufficiently done, and the owner can occupy the building for its intended use.

Once a project has reached substantial completion:

  • The owner is responsible for the project rather than the contractor.
  • The owner must pay the contractor the remaining balance for the project.
  • The owner can occupy and use the property.

Once the parties have agreed to the terms of substantial completion, they will sign a certificate of substantial completion.

The top portion of this certificate names the owner, architect, and contractor, and the parties specify what has been substantially completed. Then, they list any items the contractor must complete or correct, the amount the owner will pay for the remaining work, and when the work will start and end.

Who Determines Substantial Completion?

You might wonder who can deem your church project as substantially complete. Usually, one of these three scenarios determines your building’s substantial completion:

1. Certificate of Occupancy

Your local jurisdiction will assign a certificate of occupancy to your church when your project is substantially complete. You and your contractor can agree to use this document’s date of issue as the completion date.

2. Substantial Completion Checklist

You and your contractor can create a list of construction items and events that will define substantial completion when they are finished. Your contractor should include this list inside the construction contracts.

3. Contractor Expertise

You can rely on the professional expertise of your engineer, architect, and construction manager to advise you when your building has reached substantial completion.

4 Effects of Substantial Completion

Just because your project has reached substantial completion doesn’t mean the work is finished.

That’s why signing a certificate of substantial completion comes with its fair share of advantages and risks. It requires each party to trust that the other party will fulfill what they have agreed to do and creates clear expectations for the building’s anticipated outcomes.

Substantial completion also begins a series of events that are critical to the building process. Here are a few to note:

1. Starts Close-Out

Once your project reaches substantial completion, your project will enter the post-construction process. You and your construction manager will walk through the building and create a punch list for contractors to complete.

2. Enacts Warranties

Substantial completion determines when you can make claims and act on warranties. This precise date allows you to confidently use your warranties if anything goes wrong and effectively care for your church building for years to come.

3. Ensures Timely Payment

The date of substantial completion is also the day your contractor’s final payment is due.

As the building’s owner, you might be skeptical about paying your contractor until the unfinished details are complete. That’s why it’s crucial to work with a reliable, honest church builder who you can trust to finish the job accurately.

4. Reduces Liabilities

A substantial completion agreement usually reduces your contractor’s liabilities. Of course, this depends on the cost and risks associated with the work that’s added to the punch list.

What Is Final Completion?

Final completion occurs after substantial completion, when the work on the punch list is complete, and the owner of the building deems that the construction project is 100 percent finished.

At this point, your construction manager will perform a final inspection of the building, and your contractor receives the funds due for work finished between substantial completion and final completion.

During final completion, you’ll receive the keys to your church. Now, the building belongs to you and your congregation!

Partner with a Reliable Church Builder to Navigate the Post-Construction Process

We understand you want to work with a trustworthy contractor who can help you navigate the post-construction process and accurately complete your construction project.

We want to watch your ministry succeed. Our design-build team collaborates to provide you with cost-effective solutions and timely project completion throughout the entire building process, including close-out.

Learn more about how we can partner with you during the post-construction process, so you can gather with your congregation in your beautiful, new church building as soon as possible.