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This article first appeared in the PB September 2006 issue of Pro Builder.

Keystone Custom Homes keeps its trades accountable to "doing it right the first time," demonstrating that the pen is mightier than the saw in ensuring construction quality. Upon arrival and departure from the job, trades are required to sign off on the condition of the work site and quality of work completed.

"The QA [quality assurance] form goes on a clipboard that is nailed to the wall after the house is framed," says Jeff Rutt, Keystone's president. "Each trade has one."

And trades working with the Willow Street, Pa., company are required to report on whether the job site was suitably prepped for their arrival, encouraging teamwork between trades.

"What we used to hear in trade partner meetings is 'Keystone messed this up. Keystone didn't have clean access to the job site,' says Mike Cahill, Keystone's vice president of construction. "But I'm not the one putting the stone in the driveway. That's your trade partner who was in before you.' This recognition gets the trades talking to each other."

Keystone has a checklist of items that each trade must sign, confirming that the work has been completed to spec. If it hasn't, the trade will be asked to come back and fix it. The act of signing off on work — knowing that someone will see his or her name attached to the condition of the job site afterward — holds subs responsible and puts their reputation and good name on the line.