Measuring Construction Quality

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Measuring quality is essential to improvement. With measurements, you can see trends, problem areas and gains made through improvement efforts.

October 01, 2001
Edward Caldeira Director of Quality Services, NAHB Research Center

Measuring quality is essential to improvement. With measurements, you can see trends, problem areas and gains made through improvement efforts. Consider using some of the quality measurement methods below to monitor how well your trade contractors are doing.

Trade Contractor Inspections: In this approach, field superintendents count the number of items on punchlists or tally the number of pickup marks made in the home. Classification of items provides excellent detail for future analysis, but achieving measurement consistency among inspectors might be a challenge.

A simpler variation is to rate quality performance on each job. At Schuck and Sons, a Phoenix-area framing contractor, every job is rated (0 to 4 demerit points) in each of nine categories, such as dimensioning, hardware installation, and plumb and level. The data provide sufficient detail to identify problem areas, but pinpointing specific quality issues requires a review of raw inspection reports.

Code Inspections: Code correction items are easy to record as additional information on existing inspection forms. Count each correction item even when it does not result in a red tag. This measurement is important especially when working with government officials to streamline code inspection.

Builder Satisfaction Ratings: Most useful when done monthly, builder satisfaction ratings allow builder field superintendents to rate their satisfaction with contractor quality. Usually quality is one item in an array of performance measurements, such as on-time performance and safety.

Homeowner Closing Inspection: The importance of closing homes with zero defects places special emphasis on monitoring the number of closing correction items. A related measurement is the number of items found on the quality walk in preparation for closing.

Homeowner Satisfaction Ratings: Some builders ask homeowners for feedback on their satisfaction on specific aspects of their homes. Properly designed, homeowner ratings link directly to specific trade contractors. For example, a survey that asks about interior woodwork workmanship quality can measure the quality of finish carpenters. The usefulness of the approach is limited to finish trades.

Warranty Callback Items: The number and/or cost of warranty callback items can provide an overall measurement of quality trends. Warranty measurements are useful for tracking overall quality trends and surfacing problem areas that might have been overlooked. The actual measurement can lag behind construction by a year or more, so it needs to be combined with other quality measurements.

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