Many construction projects have poor quality work. Poor quality work costs time and money to repair and sometimes contractors have to return long after the project has been completed to repair defects which only became apparent after the project was completed. It negatively impacts the contractor’s reputation and may prevent the contractor from winning further projects with the client. In some cases, poor quality can be dangerous. There are several cases of serious injury and death caused by faulty electrical and gas installations and buildings that have collapsed.
I’m frequently amazed at how some construction workers and contractors have no pride in the quality of work they produce. Many homes, hotels, apartments and shopping malls I’ve visited show signs of poor quality.
How to ensure good quality on your construction project.
By implementing these steps you can ensure your project achieves the best quality – a quality that you will be proud of.
- Understand the project specifications. 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.
- 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.
- Employ people with the required skills and provide training where necessary. Employing people without the required skills will inevitably lead to poor quality. Ensure your crews have the required skills and provide training and mentoring where necessary to improve their skills.
- Never accept poor quality. Projects are rushed. There never seems enough time. It’s tempting and easy to ignore poor quality. But looking away or condoning unacceptable quality inevitably means that you’re seen to be disregarding quality. Those that witness your acceptance of poor work will assume that this quality standard is acceptable and will follow the example and these poor standards. Soon the general quality on the project will be poor.
- Check and check again. Mistakes happen easily in construction. Everyone is under pressure and it’s easy to miss something on a drawing or leave an item out. Indeed, I’ve had structures constructed where reinforcing has been omitted, where structures have been constructed in the wrong position or at the incorrect height and where items have been built to the wrong dimensions. Checking includes ensuring that you haven’t made arithmetic errors, that you haven’t misread a specification, that you’ve measured correctly and that all items built into structures are of the required quality. As the saying goes; “measure twice and cut once”. We all make mistakes when we’re rushed, and invariably these mistakes cost time to rectify. Rather slowdown, double check things and do everything carefully.
- Carry out testing as required. 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. It’s often tempting to falsify test results to make them appear as they passed. This is a serious offense. If the product later fails because it was weak or inadequate it could result in damage to structures, and in the worst case even injury or death to those using the structure when it failed.
- Check that all materials incorporated into the structures and buildings meet the quality requirements and the project specifications. Use reputable suppliers and subcontractors who can deliver the required quality components and materials. Ensure that you order materials of the correct specifications. Check the materials when they arrive to ensure that they aren’t damaged, that they’re of the correct specification and that they’ve been manufactured correctly. 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.
- Protect completed work. Would you like your hard work damaged or undone by others? Would you like to redo your work because someone was careless and messed it up? Of course not! Yet, frequently completed work is damaged on construction projects. Protecting completed work starts by instilling in your team, subcontractors and others working on the project that it’s essential to take care of completed work. Where possible surfaces that can easily be scratched or damaged should be covered by timber, cardboard and other materials until work is complete. Some products arrive in plastic wrappings and these wrappings should be left in place where possible until the section is ready for handover.
- Carry out remedial work correctly. It’s sometimes tempting just to patch over poor quality work and quickly cover it up. But will the problem actually be fixed, or will it manifest itself later, maybe even after the project is completed? Contractors are usually responsible for repairing visible construction defects for a period of 3 to 12 months after the project has been completed. But defects that have been hidden, will also have to be repaired by the contractor when these problems eventually become visible. Usually, contractors are liable for fixing these defects up to 5 to 10 years after the project is completed. Would you like to be called back to repair a defect 5 years after the project has been completed? Of course not! It’s therefore imperative that defects are repaired properly so that they don’t cause a bigger problem later.
- Paperwork is important. Quality documentation can be a pain. Who wants to do paperwork? But quality documentation is important. It sets out the steps and checks to be done to ensure that the work meets specification – kind of like the checklist that pilots go through every time they get into an aircraft, and the checklists they complete before they take-off and land – they may appear routine, boring and repetitive, but as a passenger I’m sure you can relax knowing that the pilot has checked everything thoroughly before flying the aircraft. Quality documentation is also a record that the work has been checked. Without the correct paperwork, the client won’t accept the project and they probably won’t pay for the work.
Conclusion – delivering a quality project
Good quality construction is essential. Good 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. The importance of good quality must continually be reinforced and poor quality work should not be accepted or overlooked.
The question everyone should ask is, “Would I pay for and accept this quality in my house?” If the answer is no, then the product doesn’t meet the required quality standards.
Will you be proud of your project when it’s completed? Would you be proud to show your family around your finished construction project?
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