Currently Reading

Construction Quality, Part 2: Getting the Results You Paid For

Advertisement
Quality Matters

Construction Quality, Part 2: Getting the Results You Paid For

You’ve created standard work specifications. Now you need to make sure people follow them. Part two in a two-part series


By Richard Baker May 8, 2018
Crew members on construction jobsite meeting
Take these steps to ensure crews meet the quality standards you've set. (Photo: BartCo / iStock)
This article first appeared in the May 2018 issue of Pro Builder.

In Part 1 of this series of articles we discussed the role standard work specifications can play in lowering warranty costs and suggested ways to create those standards. But standards only have value when workers follow them. To ensure that happens, you must train crews and check results. 

 

Setting a Realistic Timetable for Completing Construction

In the end, you want everyone on your jobs installing the required products and following installation checklists. Reaching that goal depends in part on the size of the builder. A regional or national company that builds in several communities may have dozens of independent subcontractors, each of which has to learn new ways of doing things.

The good news is that this is a well-worn path, with some national builders successfully implementing standard work specifications, with regional variations where necessary, across dozens of metro areas. Every site supervisor understands the standards, whether they’re in Southern California or Northern New Jersey. All subs must complete and sign the checklists, as must all third-party home inspectors. This builds a culture of shared expectations.

How long does it take to get everyone onboard? On a recent proposal for a national builder to create standard work specs for a half-dozen building assemblies, we figured about 18 months to create standards and train installers in all markets. That timetable was for a corporate structure with multiple divisions, each operating as a relatively autonomous business unit. In contrast, a local builder completing 50 homes per year should be able to create and implement the same standards in a few months.

 

Involving Subcontractors Early On to Ensure Consistent Quality

The main roadblock is natural human resistance to change. The mere fact that a builder pays attention to these details can create conflict, as workers and subs find themselves held to what they see as (but what may not actually be) higher expectations. Some subs may respond in unexpected ways. If the new stucco checklist specifies self-furring lath, the builder will expect a higher lath price but will be surprised if the installer wants to charge for a thicker coat of stucco. If the builder assumed that that thickness was being installed all along, some uncomfortable discussions may be needed to sort it out. 

You can minimize these conflicts by involving select subs in defining standards and by helping them understand that more consistent quality will benefit them. At the same time, however, you also need to include some accountability.

Builders take various approaches to this. In the stucco example, you could spot-check thickness on randomly selected homes. If you have concerns about the quality of your concrete flatwork, you could ask for batch tickets from the concrete supplier. The advantage of the latter is that it’s less confrontational. If there’s a problem, such as too much water in the mix, the concrete supplier will be motivated to correct it, improving the strength and durability of the finished product.

Another tactic is to scrutinize variance purchase orders. If the framer runs short on 2x4s, the builder may start requiring that the purchase order explain why they’re short. This simple step can reduce cost overruns by a percent or more.

Many builders ease into this by implementing a few critical processes at first, then using the lessons learned to make implementation smoother going forward. But regardless of how fast or slow you proceed, the best way to stay motivated is to remember the rewards for seeing the work through: lower warranty costs, happier customers, and more profit. 

Richard Baker drives quality and performance in home building as program manager of the PERFORM Builder Solutions team at IBACOS.

 

Related Stories

Quality Matters

Improve Thermal Performance and Lower Costs

An optimized value-engineered approach to framing kills two birds with one stone

Indoor Air Quality

How to Achieve Affordable Balanced Ventilation

Makeup air is a cost-effective option that yields long-term benefits

Quality Matters

Mitigate Cracks With the Right Detailing

Creating adequate separation between materials is critical to mitigating cracks (and worse) along cementitious surfaces

Advertisement
Advertisement

More in Category




Advertisement
Advertisement

Create an account

By creating an account, you agree to Pro Builder's terms of service and privacy policy.


Daily Feed Newsletter

Get Pro Builder in your inbox

Each day, Pro Builder's editors assemble the latest breaking industry news, hottest trends, and most relevant research, delivered to your inbox.

Save the stories you care about

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet lorem ipsum dolor sit amet lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.

The bookmark icon allows you to save any story to your account to read it later
Tap it once to save, and tap it again to unsave

It looks like you’re using an ad-blocker!

Pro Builder is an advertisting supported site and we noticed you have ad-blocking enabled in your browser. There are two ways you can keep reading:

Disable your ad-blocker
Disable now
Subscribe to Pro Builder
Subscribe
Already a member? Sign in
Become a Member

Subscribe to Pro Builder for unlimited access

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.