what is retainage in construction

Are what is retainage in construction you new to the world of construction? Or maybe a seasoned pro looking for ways to better manage your cash flow? Either way, if you’ve ever heard the term “retainage” thrown around on a job site or in a contract, but weren’t quite sure what it meant, then this blog post is for you! In today’s fast-paced construction industry, understanding retainage and how it can impact your bottom line is crucial. So grab a cup of coffee and let’s dive into all things retainage in construction.

What is retainage?

Retainage is a form of interim financing in construction contracts whereby the builder agrees to finance a portion of the project costs. The builder agrees to bear the risk of cost overruns and to complete the project according to the agreed-upon schedule. In exchange for this, the builder typically receives a higher interest rate on the loan.

The purpose of retainage is to protect the lender from loss in case of default by the borrower. By agreeing to finance a portion of the project, the builder provides some security for the lender in case of default. In addition, retainage gives the lender a financial interest in seeing that the project is completed on time and within budget.

Retainage is also used as a means of ensuring that contractors perform their work properly and meet all contractual obligations. By withholding a portion of each payment until the work is completed satisfactorily, owners can be sure that contractors have an incentive to do their best work.

How does retainage work in construction?

In construction, retainage is the portion of a contract price that is withheld by the owner until completion of the work. The theory behind retainage is that it provides an incentive for the contractor to complete the work and also serves as a form of protection for the owner in case the work is not completed.

Retainage is usually a percentage of the total contract price, and is typically 10% or less. The amount of retainage may be negotiable between the owner and contractor, and will be specified in the contract.

Once work has been completed and accepted by the owner, the retainage will be released to the contractor. In some cases, release of retainage may be contingent upon receipt of final paperwork from the contractor, such as a lien release or certificate of insurance.

What are the benefits of using retainage in construction?

Retainage is a common practice in the construction industry whereby the contractor invoices the owner for a percentage of the value of work completed to date, but does not receive payment for that work until after substantial completion of the project. The retainage percentage is typically 10%, but can be higher or lower depending on the contract.

There are several benefits to using retainage in construction:

1. Retainage provides an incentive for the contractor to complete the project on time and within budget, as they will not be paid in full until these milestones are met.
2. Retainage protects the owner from having to pay for defective work, as the contractor will not be paid until all defects have been corrected.
3. Retainage ensures that the contractor has adequate resources to complete the project, as they must front the cost of materials and labor before being reimbursed by the owner.
4. Retainage allows owners to take advantage of early payment discounts offered by suppliers, as they can pay for materials with their retainage funds before receiving reimbursement from the contractor.

What are the risks of using retainage in construction?

One of the risks of using retainage in construction is that it can lead to cash flow problems for contractors. This is because when a contractor agrees to a retainage clause, they are essentially agreeing to be paid less up front for their work. This can put them in a tight spot financially if they have already incurred costs associated with the project. Additionally, if the project is delayed or goes over budget, the contractor may not be able to recoup their losses due to the reduced upfront payment.

Another risk of using retainage is that it can create tension between the contractor and owner. This is because the owner is essentially holding on to money that the contractor has earned, which can cause frustration on both sides. Additionally, if there are disagreements about the quality of work or other issues, the retainage can act as a bargaining chip for the owner and make it difficult to resolve disputes.

How to avoid problems with retainage in construction

There are a few things that you can do in order to avoid problems with retainage in construction. First, you should try to get a clear understanding of the contract terms regarding retainage. Second, you should keep good records of the progress payments made to subcontractors and suppliers. Finally, you should maintain close communication with your project manager or owner to ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding retainage.


Retainage in construction is an important tool used by contractors to protect their financial interests and ensure they are paid on-time. It allows the contractor to manage cash flow more effectively, while also protecting them from potential losses due to non-payment or late payment of invoices. As a contractee, it is important that you understand how retainage works and why it exists so that you can make informed decisions when negotiating and entering into contracts with contractors.

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