Construction Quality Control
builders often start the home building process thinking they
will demand and get perfection . . . a perfect new home! This delusion may last
through the planning stages, but when construction begins, reality
sets in. That's where the "superintending" take over with the primary task being construction quality control.
YOU WON’T GET PERFECTION
Let’s get one thing straight. You
get perfection. The question is,
how far from perfect is acceptable?
Obviously, there is a possibility
of some disagreement between you and your subcontractors on
this key point.
This represents the historical conflict
between buyers and builders.
Suppose you hire a builder to build you
a home. During the time the home is being built, this
home building project is the most important thing in your life. It
consumes you. Every day you can’t wait
to get off work so you can go by and see what has happened during
Just let two or three days go by without any
progress, and you really start to get antsy. You’re on the phone to
the builder, “I thought the drywall was going to be hung
You noticed some studs that weren’t perfectly
straight. You point that out to the builder. You’re excited.
You want everything to be perfect.
builder knows it won’t be. He knows that
your home is not being stamped out in a factory. It is being
constructed from thousands of pieces of materials - materials
that warp, and shrink, and crack like wood and concrete. And
constructed by dozens of skilled and semi-skilled craftsmen and
tradesmen. There will be some squeaks, and bumps, and warts.
HOW GOOD IS GOOD ENOUGH?
The question is: How good is good enough?
Builders think in terms of industry standards. Industry
standards regarding construction quality controls are what is considered acceptable quality in your
These standards vary from place to place,
and there is a wide range of quality in any area. If you don’t think
so, just go out and look critically at the quality of construction
in your area. You’ll
find homes that are beautifully built. You’ll also find
homes you can’t believe are passing inspections.
owner builders believe home building construction standards aren't what
they used to be. Take a look at this article from
Fine Homebuilding magazine on the subject. It’s
sad to say, but the old saying is true: “The squeakiest
wheel gets oiled.”
who are willing to accept shoddy quality will probably receive
just that. On the other hand, people
who demand perfection will destroy any relationship they have
with their subcontractors and will get an ulcer to boot.
So how do you, the owner builder, determine what’s acceptable? The National
Association of Home Builders published a booklet in 1974 called
Quality in Construction (now out-of-print). It attempted to set
acceptable quality industry standards for residential construction.
The major home warranty companies have established approved quality
standards. One word of caution: all
of these standards were developed by builders or by people thinking about the possibility of paying
claims for construction defects! Need we say more?
LOOKING AT THE INDUSTRY STANDARDS
The best rule to follow is this: be
reasonable. The fastest way
to educate yourself is to look at other construction in your
area. See what is possible. See what seems to be standard.
what you are getting is substandard work, stand your ground.
Do not accept or pay for it until it is up to acceptable
standards. This will be an on-going process throughout the project.
example, suppose you are under construction.
You go by the construction
site and see something that doesn’t look quite right,
but you aren’t quite sure.
Just go by some other construction
sites and compare. If a subcontractor insists that, "everybody
does it like this" or something similar, and you are not
convinced, get another opinion.
Take a picture and compare the
problem area to other construction. Show it to a trusted supplier
or another sub. Here's a hint. Subs that normally do the work
immediately before or after the work in question are familiar
with what is "normal" or acceptable as an "industry
General Insights About
Construction Quality control
As the owner builder in charge of construction management,
particularly quality control, here are some basic ideas about
construction quality control that you will find helpful on your
daily visit to the job site.
EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED
All of the parts of the home work together
as a unit. Nothing
is isolated. Everything that is
added or done to the home during the construction process is
affected by the things that have happened before, and will directly
affect the things that happen later.
For example, the framing
may be out of level if the foundation is not correct. If the
problem is not caught and corrected at the framing stage,
it will continue on to affect the finish walls, trim, cabinets,
The lesson here is that when you're involved in construction quality control and you find something that is obviously out-of-whack, look at everything that is connected to it. You may find ancillary defects up and down the line!
THINGS COMMON TO EVERY CHECK LIST
things can be said about every step of the process. Although
we’ll show each in the check list as they apply, we’ll
say them once here - knowing that they apply all the way through
the construction process.
1. Make sure that what is happening in the field on your home
is what you had anticipated in the plans and specifications, and
is what your subs agreed to in their contracts. Check
all materials to see that they are what you specified and ordered, that they are of acceptable quality, and that they are installed in the correct locations.
2. Check all measurements.
3. Check the quality of craftsmanship
- straight cuts, tight joints, plumb, level, etc.
SOMETHING NEW EVERY DAY
In the home building business, you’ll
learn something new every day. Just try to
be loose and in control. When others obviously know more than you,
use their knowledge (being ever careful of the con artist).
To paraphrase Ford Motor Company, construction quality control is job one!
What you don’t know,
you can easily find out. Our goal
is to help you feel comfortable with what will be happening in
the field during construction - what you can expect to see, levels
of acceptable quality, and so forth. Again, here is where you’ll
learn what to look at and what to look for.
Your most important tools as
the construction manager/superintendent will be a good tape measure,
a large carpenters’ square,
a five or six foot level.
You might also want to take your laptop computer (keeping estimates, quotes, contracts, etc. in one place), and a digital
camera to document your progress and any problems.
Keep them in your car and use them often. Do not
be ashamed to let the subs see that you are checking their work
carefully. It will put them on notice that you are expecting,
and will demand, that the work is up to snuff.
Other areas of responsibility in Construction Management are
Purchasing, Scheduling, Inspections, Cost
Control, and Cost Accounting.
Click here to go back to Construction Management.
For additional insight into Quality Control,
see Lessons Thirteen , Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, and Seventeen
of our online course
Successful Home Contracting.
to the Home Building Answers' Home Page
from Construction Quality Control