Cost and Quality Suffer When Jobs Aren’t Ready
To keep their costs down and maintain the quality of their homes, builders need to be aware of the importance of coordinating job readiness policies with their contractors, Quality Matters, the official e-newsletter of the National Housing Quality (NHQ) Program, reports in its latest issue.
“Job readiness” is the number one concern for contractors, and not being ready can lead to higher costs, scheduling conflicts and short cuts, in addition to general frustration for both the trade contractor and the builder.
“Builders and trades need to work together to provide a quality product at reasonable costs,” according to Bob Hill, director of certification and laboratory services at the NAHB Research Center, which runs the NHQ Certified Builder and Trade Contractor programs. “Trades will go to great lengths to accommodate jobs that are not ready, but doing so increases their costs and may compromise quality. We hear from trades all the time, and most of them agree there’s a lot of room for improvement,” he said.
“It all starts with an open line of communication,” said Hill. “The builder has an expectation that the trades will communicate their needs and concerns and vice versa. Builders and trades not only must agree upon job-ready conditions, but they also must recognize that not having a job ready negatively impacts the quality and cost of the job.”
Without effective communication, builders will have a hard time knowing what their trade contractors expect in terms of job readiness, according to Quality Matters. Since trade contractors are ultimately responsible for the quality of their work as well as safety-related issues, they should establish minimum readiness standards that apply to all their jobs. These “job-ready conditions” provide a vehicle for trades to communicate with builders and consistently train their crews.
Best practice calls for trades to include these policies in their bid packages and to review them personally with the job-site superintendent at start-up. This can help ensure that both the builder’s purchasing and construction staffs understand the job readiness expectations.
Considerations for developing job-ready policies should include:
- Has the previous trade completed his work and left the job site clean?
- Does the previous trade’s work meet specifications for tolerances — such as plumb, level, square, flat, dry, etc.?
- Are builder-supplied materials on site and in good condition?
- Is there any damage at the site that needs to be noted, such as a broken curb or window?
- Is there safe access to the site?
Each trade will add its specific items, tolerances and expectations to this list.
Job-ready policies should also define the steps that need to be taken if a job is not ready when the crew arrives, including conditions that can be worked around and conditions under which the trade will not proceed.
The policy should include who is to be notified if a job is not ready; who can authorize work to begin as well as make adjustments to accommodate the situation; and when any signoffs are required and by whom. For example, installing hardwood over a subfloor with high moisture content before it is ready will void the product manufacturer’s warranty. In this case, if the builder insists on proceeding, a best practice would be for him to sign off on that order, thereby accepting the warranty responsibility.
Trades may occasionally be tempted to ignore some job readiness issues or to forego proper procedures when there is a close relationship between the trade’s crew and the builder’s superintendent. Or trades may be worried about not getting future work. However, even though it may seem harmless in some instances, not following through on job readiness policies can cause problems for both the builder and the trade contractor over the long term and result in having to schedule warranty callbacks and compromising customer satisfaction.
As a best practice, the builder’s management should require trades to periodically report on job readiness — communicating to both superintendents and trades the importance of job readiness and allowing management to focus attention on recurring issues.
Keeping track of job-ready issues can bring other benefits. For example, one trade contractor compiled some data and met with the builder’s vice president of construction. He asked the builder how much he thought the job-ready issues had cost him over the last year. The builder estimated about $10,000. The contractor’s data showed more than $100,000. That got the builder’s attention, and things changed. Both the builder and the trade benefited from improved job readiness.
When a job is ready, everyone wins — the builder, the trades , and especially the home owner. Homes are completed on time and within budget, and callbacks are contained.
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