Blog Post

Construction Standards – The consequences of shoddy workmanship

24.04.2018 | 10 min read | Written by Simon

The construction industry is booming and as a result, there is pressure to fulfill projects, which may require the hurried, short-notice recruiting of tradespeople and laborers onto construction sites. It goes without saying that to fill gaps on site, many workers are recruited on to site with little or no previous experience. This is exacerbated as highly skilled workers are fully booked up with higher paying or more desirable work, whilst unskilled laborers are easier to find and willing to work for less pay. For this reason, nowadays, paying attention to your construction standards is more important than ever. We will show you how PlanRadar protects you from shoddy workmanship and its consequences:

  • How to keep your construction standards high
  • How shoddy workmanship leads to more unforeseen problems
  • How communicating specifics is key
  • How proactive strategies will increase your chance of success on site.

Picture of a poorly installed tap

What is shoddy work?

When you walk onto a construction site and feel disappointed by what you see, that’s a pretty good indication that shoddy work is taking place. This broad term refers to a general lack of motivation, or a lack of relevant skills to carry out work to the design specifications, or to common sense standards. Telltale signs of shoddy workmanship are a messy site, and workers who are either in a panic or appear disengaged.

Shoddy work is more likely under certain conditions, for example, on a Friday afternoon when there may be a general rush to complete weekly targets and get off-site to beat the traffic. Every site has a feel to it, and you can tell if workers have a lack of confidence in site management, and this leads to reduced motivation or pride in the quality of work. Adverse weather makes for more difficult working conditions when cold fingers might be more likely to drop a piece of equipment, which may or may not be reported or managed appropriately. Senior installers may be stretched between projects, leaving junior installers to take more responsibility, which is fine if they are able to recognize and report problems as they occur.

Examples of poor workmanship

Poor workmanship can occur in any aspect of construction work on site. Some occurrences are immediately obvious and easy to address, and some get hidden away on purpose or simply forgotten until they present themselves when constructed elements start to degrade after a few weeks or months, or equipment mysteriously fails.

Common examples include:

  • Poor concrete compaction.
  • Incorrectly installed equipment.
  • Damage caused by one operative to somebody else’s work, either by accident or in order to enable their own work, such as passing pipes through the back of newly pre-installed kitchen cabinets.
  • Use of incorrect material, such as grabbing the adhesive dispenser even though it’s loaded with an adhesive that is not suitable for the task.

Effects of poor workmanship in construction

The effects range from mild and frustrating, to absolutely disastrous for the contractor and other project partners. If you notice an operative looking lost, stressed, or disengaged on site, check that they are OK, and ask if they need any clarification or resources to progress their work, or if they have any issues that they need to report. They may feel shy to ask for help or fear that they will appear incompetent if they do so. Reassure them that the priority is always to ensure that the specification is followed, or that questions are sent to the specifier if it does not seem possible to implement.

If poor workmanship is recognised early, it can usually be rectified, often with minimal material loss, and valuable learning making up for lost installation time. All work should be checked and documented before it is sealed away, such as cables or insulation in a stud wall. If shoddy work is hurriedly hidden and sealed over, it might well reveal itself later. Examples of this include subsidence shortly after completion, electrics not functioning properly, and water ingress. These hidden defects are expensive to resolve for the contractor, and more so if the homeowner has moved in. This could lead to legal disputes that could sink the contractor. Shoddy workmanship can lead to dangerous circumstances, such as tiles falling off the wall, or faulty plumbing leaking water into electrical fittings. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

Why does shoddy workmanship occur?

Workmanship is about the experience, knowledge, and skill that gives a site operative the ability to install materials or equipment according to the manufacturers or designers’ specifications and to be able to recognize if something about the specification is not desirable under the circumstances. Ambiguity, lack of detail in drawings or specifications can leave technical gaps, which are fulfilled by technical decisions on site. It may be necessary for an installer to check in with the construction manager or architect to ensure the decision is signed off and recorded. Other details may seem so small and so obvious that the installer will implement them without any further consideration.

If an installer has limited experience they are less likely to recognize potential problems or even defects. For example, if they haven’t been through appropriate training with the manufacturer they may not realize the significance of a particular component, and how it should be installed for correct long-term functioning and compliance with the manufacturer’s guarantee.

Workmanship is about quality. If workers are careless or don’t follow the proper protocol you can end up with a finished product that lacks the quality you’ve anticipated, and the defects will reveal themselves.

Stories of shoddy workmanship and its consequences are sadly widespread, which gives any reputable builder the challenge of gaining a client’s confidence, and the opportunity to happily exceed the client’s expectations.

So, save yourself the headache of having to explain to inspectors why you haven’t met the required standards. Get your free 30-day trial now and avoid the results of shoddy workmanship.

But isn’t that why I have a builder warranty?

It’s true that there are penalties embedded in every contract that is supposed to protect you from these kinds of consequences, but why are there still so many cases of shoddy workmanship? Sometimes these penalties are not severe enough and they may be viewed by a builder as a slap on the wrist, or a risk worth taking. It’s tempting to think that if penalties were more prohibitive, no contractor or subcontractor would dare to take shortcuts.

Of course, you can search and find fissures and cracks in the walls or ceilings of newly built houses, but this isn’t necessarily the bad workmanship we want to point out. The problem of shoddy workmanship comes with site operatives that don‘t comply with the tender requirements to which they are legally and contractually bound. That is why it should be an industry goal to inhibit the problems of poor workmanship.

The importance of communicating specifics

PlanRadars’ task and defect management capabilities make tracking interdisciplinary collaboration much easier. Your notes are recorded and shared as you type and share them. Each entry can be assigned to individual locations such as a room, including written and photographic information on a plan location. All notes and recordings can be marked-up, assigned, categorized, prioritized, and worked into the schedule. All entries are stored in the database, where contractors and all the other authorized project partners can obtain an up-to-date overview of project progress.

This way you can navigate your project away from misunderstandings between you and your architects or construction contractors. We all know that communication is key when it comes to keeping standards high and fulfilling permit requirements. Permits take time to pull and they cost money, so you want to make sure to get them as soon as possible. You don’t want to be the one having to deal with the governmental building inspector, explaining why you couldn’t meet all the requirements.

Specifics are everything during construction, and failure to communicate them could create big problems including delays and overspending. Construction specifications detail the work and workmanship needed to maintain the required standard, and there’s no way to get around them. Just like required documents during the design phase, they’re an integral part of the process.

If you’ve been around the construction industry for more than a minute, you know the more details, the better. The clearer a description is, the more likely it will be executed correctly. As projects become more complex and budgets scrutinized, access to data is critical to making the right decisions during construction, reducing risk. Working with your tablet or smartphone is so important because it provides you with project data wherever you are. Controlling risk is essential to managing successful projects.

Reactive vs. proactive strategies

construction worker on site measuring construction parts

As we mentioned earlier, you don’t want to be the one explaining to the government building inspector why you couldn’t meet the requirements that you knew of months ago. If you have been in this situation more than once you should seriously consider subscribing to a more active than reactive work strategy.

Reactive work strategies are those that respond to some unanticipated event only after it occurs, while proactive strategies are designed to anticipate possible challenges. No one can anticipate every possibility, but projects that embrace proactive strategies are usually more effective at dealing with challenges.

That is why PlanRadar has made it a goal to maximize project cost efficiency and support the communication of everyone involved with the project in the best possible way by simplifying all process flows and encouraging proactive working. Important data can be obtained more easily. Your task and defect management processes become more transparent, more comprehensible, and more efficient.

Achieve higher construction standards with PlanRadar

The high standards that you set for yourself, are easier for your workers to adhere to because PlanRadar construction software ensures that everyone on your site as a crystal clear understanding of the standards that are required of them, and how to achieve and document that standard of work.

This alone makes everyone more aware of the possible consequences that come with not fulfilling their work to the required standard. For example, if you identify an installation that is not built to the contractually agreed standard, it may not fulfill the requirements for a permit.

PlanRadar software lets you record defects and notes whilst out on site and immediately assign them to the responsible person. The recipient will immediately get a notification and the task creator will, in turn, be notified in real-time about the response. Tasks can be placed directly onto drawings as well, to aid technical communication to the responsible person. A defect can be tracked along with a resolution date, and prioritizing tasks for a responsible person. Monitoring a complex project suddenly becomes a lot easier. Critically, it allows a site manager to arrange tasks to secure the standard and meet building permits on time and at the arranged costs.

Won’t the computers be more faff than they’re worth?

Computer-based defect management massively reduces paperwork, and the associated loss of paperwork on site, signed by muddy hands, or left out in the rain. The folders of paperwork are now massively reduced, site office space clear for peace of mind, and thanks to the cloud-based technology, all project members are up to date at all times. Any communication between project members is recorded on the platform and chronologically ordered. So that even long after the warranty period all records can be retraced.

PlanRadar has apps for all mobile devices that are free for subcontractors to access. The interface is easy to use, whether in the office or on the go, so users don’t need to worry about taking laptops to work or buying new hardware for the team.

Completing projects to high construction standards is always the goal, but somehow this often goes by the wayside with the daily dash on site, the pressure of tight schedules, and the reality of subcontractors coming and going with their own pressures and limitations. What architect, contractor, or investor doesn’t take pride in accomplishing something of high quality? Achieving high quality in your building projects will eventually work well for everyone, we all know that.

Maintaining high standards and prestige in the design, architecture, and engineering of a home, a building, a megastructure, or any facilities, is one of our primary goals. The need for software applications that are able to deal with these tasks and information has never been greater.

Is construction software relevant to everyone on-site or just inspectors?

Quality work starts with getting all project members onboard with the right mindset, to take pride in executing the project to specification, on time. Experienced industry people know how missteps can result in expensive subsequent costs and even lawsuits.

Unskilled workmen, unsuitable equipment and materials, and a lack of project management are just a few things that can lead to shoddy workmanship. High-quality engineering and working with facilities according to international standards becomes evermore important for global companies. Our services are designed to support work missions all over the globe.

Start your free 30-day trial now and benefit from the most reliable task and defect management tool out there.

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