October 2017

What’s Behind The Drywall?

Quality control guidelines from the experts at Builders Mutual.

Builders Mutual

Once the drywall installation is complete, does your homebuyer come closer to getting keys to a defect-free home, or does it simply mean that you no longer have to look at the problem? Quality control begins on the job-site with you, the general contractor.

Without quality control measures in place, costly callbacks eat away at profits and you risk customer dissatisfaction. If you haven’t met your homebuyer’s expectations, then you can be sure your homebuyer’s neighbors, coworkers, friends, and family will hear about it. Customer dissatisfaction can spread rapidly through social media channels–and scare off potential clients. Your reputation is on the line with every housing start. Let’s consider how to protect your business from the very beginning.

Do your homework on new subs.

Your quality initiative begins with the selection of subcontractors. Before you begin any project, have a well-written subcontractor agreement. Never begin without one! It should include plans and specifications, scope of work, quality of work, and insurance requirements. You can find an example from Builders Mutual here.

Develop long-term relationships with your subs. Continue to do business with those that impress you, and don’t tolerate those that fall short. When you have to find new subs, attend a Home Builders Association meeting to meet qualified candidates. Then, talk to other area builders to hear their recommendations. Always check references and inspect their prior work.

Near Boone, NC, a husband-and-wife team has made a great living for more than 10 years building two to three custom homes a year. They had always done their own framing, but recently they decided to hire a framer. Framers from all over North Carolina look for work in the mountains, where the housing market has stayed strong, so they had plenty of options. One framer, in particular, had 30 employees and carried workers’ compensation insurance but no general liability. This was the first red flag, but they considered overlooking it and asked for references. The framer proudly offered two references, each of whom the couple called. Neither reference had ever heard of the framer. Moral of the story: risky partnerships may camouflage themselves at first glance, but due diligence can help you avoid crisis.

Monitor subs before problems are buried.

Without a reliable supervisor, even the strongest team of subs may not make the grade. The best supervisors won’t hesitate to alert you if they suspect a problem; however, don’t overburden them. One job-site visit a day for 30 minutes is not nearly enough.  Give supervisors the opportunity to do their job right and pay appropriate attention to each location.

Emphasize their need to monitor the subs whose finished work won’t be visible after the drywall has been installed. Catch problems before they get buried, because the cost to repair and replace only gets more expensive as construction progresses. Ask your supervisors to document the progress of each job-site through written documentation like a daily log. One GC put technology to work for his business by documenting each phase of construction with digital photos.

Continue communication with your customer.

With these controls in place, you’ve laid the foundation for a well-built home, but you haven’t addressed customer communication. For custom builds, invite the homebuyer to the job-site during various stages of construction. Explain the quality measures you’ve taken to ensure a defect-free home. As an added benefit, you’ve discouraged unsupervised visits where a curious buyer may have an accident for which you may be held liable.

When construction is complete, address any punch list problems during a final walk-through. Then, accompany the homebuyer on a subsequent walk-through. To educate your homebuyer, offer information on what to expect with new construction. Homebuyers can expect the occasional nail pop or slight hairline crack without fearing a construction defect.

If they have a concern, your contract, which includes “right to cure” language, gives you the opportunity to correct the problem. Ask the homebuyer to contact you first, but ensure the homebuyer has a complete list of sub names and contact numbers. You may want to consider providing an extended warranty product. Even without it, though, remember that you may be required to repair latent defects discovered within a number of years of the purchase of the home because of your state’s statute of repose (varies by state).

Exceed your customer’s expectations by following up at three, six, nine, and 12 months without being prompted to do so. Finally, encourage customer feedback on your timeliness and communication and the quality of construction. With all of these quality control measures in place, your customers won’t simply be satisfied; they’ll be delighted.

Build your business upon sound business practices, with quality control at the core. This commitment will decrease callbacks, increase profits, and improve customer satisfaction.

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