What is practical completion?

The following Construction practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • What is practical completion?
  • What does 'practical completion' mean?
  • Latent defects
  • Patent defects
  • What are trifling defects?
  • Irremediable defects
  • Other contractual requirements prior to practical completion
  • What happens at practical completion?
  • The significance and effects of practical completion
  • Practical completion in standard form contracts
  • More...

What is practical completion?

Practical completion marks the end of the construction period of a project, when the works are 'finished' and the employer can occupy and/or use them. Practical completion also typically marks the start of the defects liability period/maintenance period.

As explained below, practical completion is an important stage in a construction project because it has significant commercial, contractual, financial and practical implications for both the employer and the contractor. Whether a construction project has, in fact, achieved practical completion is a frequent source of disagreement and disputes within the construction industry.

Practical completion is also known as ‘substantial completion’ or simply ‘completion’ in some contracts.

What does 'practical completion' mean?

Many problems that occur on construction projects in relation to practical completion arise out of the difficulty in knowing what the term practical completion means.

It is quite typical for the expression 'practical completion' to be used in building contracts with little or no clarification as to what it is intended to mean, ie what state the contract requires the works to have reached in order for them to be certified as practically complete. Surprisingly, many of the standard forms that are widely used by the construction industry do not define the term practical completion, despite referring to it as a concept and placing significance on the certification of it. See Avoiding problems with practical completion below

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