Homebuyer Walkthrough Sheets

            Homebuyer walkthrough sheets are a source for identifying quality-control items that slipped past the final phase of the construction…but were noticed by the homebuyer at the walkthrough.

            Some of these items are minor like missed paint touchup that are the result of time-crunch of completions, escrow closings, and move-ins that occur as closely sequenced events.

            But other items are actual bugs that show up repeatedly on several walkthroughs…and therefore require identification and attention in order to be eliminated going forward. 

Red-Lined Plans

            Red-lined sets of plans are plans (blueprints) that have been corrected or modified in the field because of errors or owner’s changes.

            For multi-unit production tract housing and condominiums, red-lined plans are usually generated during the construction of the sales models which constitutes the trial-run phase before full-scale production begins.

            The construction of the sales models provides the time-period in the project when the construction is debugged and the owner makes interior floor plan and exterior elevation changes.

            The red-lined plans are then given back to the architect and engineers for revision so that a correct, updated set of plans can be used for the remainder of the construction.

            Red-lined plans enable the builder to identify common mistakes to look for on future plans.

            For example, laundry closets typically dimensioned 30 inches deep by the architect might be too tight for some brands of clothes dryers when the inclusion of the dryer vent hose and the gas pipe are taken into consideration…resulting in the wood bi-fold door bottom metal guides rubbing against the fronts of the appliances…for lack of space.

            I have seen plans that mistakenly show a bedroom wardrobe closet opening width of 5 feet—6 inches…when standard 2-foot 9-inch wide closet doors do not exist.

            These types of errors should become part of a growing checklist the builder uses as they analyze the plans before the start of every new project.

RFIs (Requests for Information)

            Requests for information (RFIs) are written questions submitted to the architect or engineers…by the builder or a subcontractor (through the builder) and involve conflicts or omissions on the plans or in the specifications…or some issue in the construction. 

            RFIs can also simply be a photograph of a problem in the construction…using a cordless digital phone for example…which is e-mailed to the architect or one of the engineers along with a follow-up telephone call…but memorialized also in a written RFI to document the problem and the solution.

            RFIs from a number of past projects can be a goldmine of information that can be organized and analyzed to be used in a checklist format to proactively debug the design plans for similar current and upcoming projects.

            Because RFIs generally are described and illustrated in sufficient detail…and answered with equal specificity in addressing the problem or issue…RFIs are ready-made in that they can simply be applied to current and future upcoming projects to determine if similar conditions might produce similar questions or problems.

            Eliminating RFI’s proactively upfront before the actual construction begins can greatly improve all aspects of the project…from obtaining more accurate bids to avoiding time-consuming stoppages in the work.

            During the construction, quickly answered RFI’s eliminates the costly manpower inefficiency of having to temporarily move tradespeople around on the jobsite to other areas while a question or conflict is resolved.

            Having potential future RFI’s answered upfront while the project is still on paper is the best outcome for the builder, the designers, and for field personnel…in terms of time-management.

Address Plaques 2

Wrought-iron handrail crashes with house address numbers plaque.
House address numbers plaque spans across three bevel siding boards…leaving gaps.

Sample illustrations from the books: Perfect Housing Design & Construction.

Punch Lists

            Punch lists are lists of unfinished or substandard work compiled by the superintendent while “walking” the jobsite.

            These lists can be notes written on scratch pads using a rigid clip-board…or formal company checklists used during the successive phases of the construction.

            By examining punch lists for all of a company’s projects, any practices or materials causing problems on several projects can be identified…with the aim of ultimately reducing each problem to a non-repeating, historical issue relegated to the past.

Address Plaques 1

Pre-cast Handrail cap crashes with house address numbers plaque.
Another example of a light fixture extending down in front of the house address numbers plaque.

Sample illustrations from the books: Perfect Housing Design & Construction

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 then 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 some building inspectors “call” and “write-up”…but other inspectors do not.

            But building code violations highlight 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, or 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 and the city/county building department.

            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.  This makes the building inspections go smoothly and rise above the adversarial “gotcha” mentality that sometimes exists between the builder and the building inspector on some projects.

            One of the first steps 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 can then be 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.

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

            Without hitting this same nail on the head too many times, 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.

            Again, the development company owners and managers must first recognize the need to research the information…then delegate someone within the organization to do the research, collect the information, and have the time and resources to coordinate and disseminate this information.

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