Contractors See Benefits of Quality Certification

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The home building industry was dragged through the mud by the media a few years ago based on problems associated with the improper installation of some exterior insulation and finish systems (EIFS).

April 21, 2000

Rightly or wrongly, the home building industry was dragged through the mud by the media a few years ago based on problems associated with the improper installation of some exterior insulation and finish systems (EIFS) in a number of new-home communities. There was a lot of finger pointing when the problem surfaced, but one result has been a good thing -- a serious recognition by home builders and the NAHB that the quality of homes the industry builds depends on the workmanship of subcontractors.

To that end, the NAHB Research Center has adopted a strong focus on implementing quality certification programs. In January, PB profiled the pioneering work done by Delcor Homes of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., to become the first home builder to achieve the quality assurance milestone of ISO 9000 certification. There are plans, says Delcor president Phil McCafferty, to work with the NAHB to develop a template for other builders looking to implement quality assurance programs.

But before that, under the guidance of Tom Kinney and Ed Caldeira at the Research Center, a program to certify the quality systems put in place by insulation subcontractors had been launched and running for a few years. To date, 70 insulation contractors have participated in the program, in which the Research Center acts as a third-party auditor of quality programs. Now comes news that contractors in the program are seeing benefits in terms of reduced numbers of callbacks and increased consistency of work by installers.

"Some of these companies are going out and marketing their certification to builders with mailings," says Tom Newton, a communications manager with the insulation group at CertainTeed Corp., Valley Forge, Pa. "They are saying to builders, if the bids are the same, I have something extra to offer."

CertainTeed is a partner with the Research Center in helping train installers at companies seeking quality certification. Recently they teamed up to survey these contractor owners and managers about the benefits they have seen. The result: More than 80% said they found the program to be of medium-high value or greater. According to Newton, most firms had witnessed improvements in key areas -- callbacks and installer retention.

Other key findings from managers and owners:

  • 53% of respondents said the program helps installers work smarter.
  • 58% saw increased levels of quality control as the chief benefit of the certification program.

    The survey also gathered comments from the quality managers at the participating companies. A vast majority agreed with the statement that certification programs "show we care about the customer" and that external perceptions of their companies had improved to the level of "quality leader."

    Coming just a few years after the EIFS controversy, these results are encouraging to staffers at the NAHB Research Center. For the past year or so they have been working on a similar quality certification program for framing contractors. Caldeira expects the Research Center will announce the success of framing pilot projects this summer and then to open the program to other interested firms.

    Editor's note: Those interested in learning more about the Certified Contractor Program can contact the NAHB Research Center at 400 Prince George's Blvd., Upper Marlboro, MD 20774; phone: 301/249-4000, or on the Internet at

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