Identifying Construction Bugs

In-house sources of information that housing development company owners and managers can use to identify construction problems and mistakes include the following:

  • building inspection correction cards
  • superintendent punch lists
  • RFIs
  • red-lined plans
  • homebuyer walkthroughs
  • warranty complaint letters
  • subcontractor extras
  • subcontractor advice
  • meetings with field employees
  • incentive programs

The individual jobsite superintendents or project managers are not in a position to collect this information from all of a company’s projects…or to initiate a company-wide debugging program.

The development company owners and managers must first recognize the need to research the information…then delegate someone within the organization to do this research, collect the information…having the time and resources to accomplish this task.

Each source of information that should be researched…is described in more detail in the following ten sections.

Inspection Cards                                          

Building inspection corrections are code violations missed by the subcontractors and the jobsite superintendent(s)…yet noticed by the building inspector during inspections.  These violations are usually written on correction cards or paper “slips” issued by the inspector…a copy given to the construction jobsite.

These individual inspection cards can be collected at the completion of every project…organized and analyzed at the main office…and used to discover violations that can be proactively prevented on current and future projects…especially those building code problems that have occurred more than once.  Some things that some inspectors “call” and write-up…but other inspectors do not…reveal good construction practices that should be implemented on every project.

For example, if a particular building inspector requires that loose sawdust and wood shavings…produced from the framing straight-edging operation…be cleaned off the top flat surfaces of metal fireplace fireboxes…for the framing inspection…then adopt this as a standard policy on every project.

If another building inspector on another project wants the insides of FAU platforms in garages cleaned out of all debris for the framing inspection…do it for all projects.

If an inspector requires insulation at perimeter rim-joists, uncut factory edges of water-board drywall at bathroom floors, or electrical plastic outlet boxes on two-hour garage ceilings labeled 2-C for ceilings instead of 2-W for walls, adopt these as standard procedures on every project.

The goal is to identify the corrections building inspectors are “calling” on different projects and organize them onto a single checklist for use on all of the company’s projects.  This checklist…when followed…essentially relegates past building code corrections to one-time past occurrences…that will not re-surface again to cause time delays and non-productive repair work.

By analyzing the building inspection cards for every project…after project completion in hindsight…any subcontractor practices or materials causing building inspection corrections and thus time delays on the jobsite…can be identified as useful preventive information.

The builder should not allow a subcontractor to cut corners to save money or make a job easier…based on a calculated risk that the building inspector might miss the problem.

The old-fashioned concept that the builder should purposely leave a few things for the building inspector to find so that the inspector feels like they are doing a good job…is nonsensical.  The daily interest costs on construction loans are too large to waste five minutes playing mind-games with the building inspector.

The builder should aim for successful inspections every time.  After a few months of good inspections…demonstrating the builder’s commitment to achieving perfect code compliance…the building inspector can begin to relax about the high-quality of the construction and not look so closely at everything…making the building inspections go smoothly and rise above the adversarial “gotcha” mentality that exists between the builder and the building inspector on some projects.

The first step therefore toward the goal of debugging building inspections is to collect the inspection cards from all projects and then identify the issues that are occurring.  Each project manager and superintendent is then educated and informed about building inspection problems early on…upfront before the start of the next new project…so that everyone in the field is at the same advanced point on the learning curve.

Author: Barton Jahn

I worked in building construction as a field superintendent and project manager. I have four books published by McGraw-Hill on housing construction (1995-98) under Bart Jahn, and have eight Christian books self-published through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I have a bachelor of science degree in construction management from California State University Long Beach. I grew up in Southern California, was an avid surfer, and am fortunate enough to have always lived within one mile of the ocean. I discovered writing at the age of 30, and it is now one of my favorite activities. I am currently working on more books on building construction.

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