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Construction quality is a crucial factor in growing your business, maintaining a professional reputation, and staying profitable.
But not everyone is able to control the quality on their projects. In fact, research shows that over half (54 percent) of construction defects “can be attributed to human factors like unskilled workers or insufficient supervision” and 12 percent are based on material and system failures.
Naturally, most contractors and tradesmen are proud of their craftsmanship, but they also know things rarely happen the way they’re supposed to. Particularly on large or complicated projects. The construction industry is a fickle one and some things can’t be predicted.
That’s where a quality control process should help and no quality control process would be complete without the right checklists. As your company grows, it will become even more important to have a consistent quality assurance policy so each project - large or small - is of the same high quality.
This post aims to help you improve the quality of your construction project to avoid costly QA failures and mistakes.
You’re ready to dig in and get your hands dirty, harden those callouses, and stand back in triumph as you admire the finished work you and your crew have just completed.
We have included a downloadable construction quality control checklist to keep handy while on the job but here are 10 steps you can take to ensure quality on your next construction project, right now.
Table of contents
- Start With The Right Workers
- Invest in Technology
- Use The Right Materials
- Ensure Safety and Compliance
- Check and Check Again
- Protect Completed Work
- Avoid Scope Creep
- Audit and Test
- Repair deficiencies immediately
- Have Supplier and Vendor Expectations from the Start
How to Ensure Construction Quality Control
1. Start With The Right Workers
It’s no secret that the construction industry and trades are experiencing a labor shortage. Research from 2019 found that skilled trade workers are difficult to find “with 80 percent of contractors reporting last year that they had difficulty hiring craft workers... and 35 percent said they believed it would become harder in the coming year.”
Carpenters, concrete workers, pipelayers, sheet metal, and iron workers were among the most difficult to find but nearly all categories were at or above 50 percent of contractors unable to find quality skilled workers.
When starting your project, make sure you have the most qualified players on your teams. Assign the right people to the right jobs and ensure your supervisors or foremen are clear on the quality expectations. Give them authority to manage their crews as needed to adhere to those expectations.
Ensure that the construction team understands the project quality requirements. This begins when workers start on the project, where they should first attend a project induction. Apart from safety, this induction is a time to explain that poor quality won’t be accepted or tolerated. High-quality standards should be set from the start of the project. Workers must be encouraged to take pride in their work.
2. Invest in Technology
Research by KPMG found that technology will be key to success for the construction industry in the future. They identified three segments of the construction industry when it comes to technology:
- Top 20 percent: Innovative leaders
- Middle 60 percent: Followers
- Bottom 20 percent: Behind the curve
In their Global Construction Survey 2019, KPMG found the need for those to adopt technology in the bottom 20 percent of adopting technology “is considerably more urgent, if not existential.”
For some construction companies, doing this may seem intimidating or even impossible. Some of the common reasons we see are fear of how to convince their workforce to get onboard and concern about it being difficult to adopt, among other reasons.
However, technology doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul of your processes. Rather, you can ease into it with a simple time-tracking solution that simplifies payroll and scheduling, for example, and then gradually increases to include job management, GPS tracking, and reporting.
The most important thing is to invest in a technology that has five-star customer support so you’re not left hanging when you have questions or need help. The right company will understand construction needs which are unique from other industries.
3. Use The Right Materials
Once you have your contract and understand what your customer expects, make sure you don’t compromise on materials. Check that all materials incorporated into the structures and buildings meet the quality requirements and the project specifications. Ensure that you order materials of the correct specifications.
For example, make sure your electrician knows what type of Romex to bring for the specific job they’re doing. Check the materials when they arrive to ensure that they aren’t damaged and that they’re of the correct specification.
Reject items which are damaged or aren’t correct and advise the supplier immediately, then mark the items clearly as being non-compliant so they aren’t accidentally used.
4. Ensure Safety and Compliance
Not only do proper safety and compliance policies keep your workers safe, but they prevent inadequate work or improper work from being done on your project. For example, a tired worker is more likely to take a shortcut here and there - or even forget something entirely - so use a reliable time-tracking method to ensure they take the required breaks and don’t do too much overtime.
5. Check and Check Again
The old saying, “If you want something done right, do it yourself,” can’t apply to owner/managers on-site, all the time. You have your hands full with tons of other things to do from paperwork to new job estimates.
Sure your supers or foremen understand what’s expected but if you’re not there to check on each stage, you may end up with construction deficiencies that will need even more work in the next year or two.
That means it’s worth it to check in now and again to make sure everything is the way it should be and address issues that might have slipped through the cracks.
Keep communication in mind, as well. Managing subs is a major challenge, so having proper communication - as well as checks and balances in place - will help a ton. Make sure you've sent the correct needs and specifications to your sub(s).
For example, if your framing team set the joists at a certain measurement, the plumbing contractor would need to know so they can provide the correct mounts for drains that run under the house. You wouldn't want them to show up with the incorrect materials and be forced to delay the project.
6. Protect Completed Work
It’s the bane of a contractor’s existence: Weather. But things happen and we can’t control it. Even careless subcontractors can cause damage to finished surfaces.
Where possible surfaces that can easily be scratched or damaged should be covered by timber, cardboard, or other materials until the work is complete. Some products arrive in plastic wrappings and these wrappings should be left in place until the section is ready for handover.
7. Avoid Scope Creep
Even some of the industry’s largest companies can get swept away with scope creep. When your client makes change after change, before you know it, the scope of the project has ballooned to an unreasonable level and you have workers cutting corners and using lower quality materials. Talk with all of the stakeholders about the scope and make sure everyone is on board.
It’s important to understand the client’s quality standards and specifications. These standards should usually be clearly stated in the construction document and in the project specifications and construction drawings.
If in doubt, ask questions.
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8. Audit and Test
From time to time, tests must be done as part of the contractor’s quality management plan, or as part of the project’s or the client’s quality management plan. These tests are to ensure that items or structures have been constructed correctly. Sometimes tests fail. This means that the work must be redone.
What’s important is to designate the right people to the right quality control so you don’t have a confusing workflow that has the wrong people auditing the wrong things at the wrong times. Reports become lost, tests get ignored, and work remains substandard.
9. Repair Deficiencies Immediately
As mentioned with testing and auditing, make sure you have a concrete policy to address deficiencies whether it be level of craftsmanship or inadequate materials. If left too long, deficiencies will become ignored and result in more work later on.
10. Have Supplier and Vendor Expectations from the Start
One of the main causes of projects running over time is the reliable delivery of supplies and materials. Make sure you work with vendors and suppliers you are familiar with and who have a good reputation.
Make sure before proceeding with them, that they will be able to fulfill the needs you’ll have for your project, to the end.
While some things can’t be controlled, there should be a process in place for what to do in the event of a delay and your vendors and suppliers should be able to clearly understand what is expected.
Good quality construction is essential. Great quality construction is a team effort and requires skilled workers, committed management, reliable suppliers and good subcontractors. Everyone should be proud of their work, and proud of the work done by others on the project.
By practicing these 10 steps, you’ll be well on your way to providing consistent, high-quality construction work you and your crews can be proud of. We have developed a general checklist you can download for free to help you get started improving your quality control on your construction projects so you can grow as a company.