Quality Construction – What is it?

Every contractor espouses their high quality construction.  It’s almost always a theme on their website or a bullet point in their brochure.  So, what is it?  What does it even look like and does it really differ that much from contractor to contractor?  This is a really difficult subject to define and answer because it encompasses so many aspects, but I’m going to try.  This will be the first in a series of discussions about quality construction.

First, a little background education… There are two broad categories of quality.  One is technique, or installation methodology, and one is product selection.  Although they go hand in hand, a really good quality product that is installed incorrectly is no longer a high quality product.  And, of course, the reverse is true.  A well-installed product that is of poor quality or the wrong product for that application will result in poor quality.  What is the result of poor quality, then?  Simply put, it is re-work, or you could call it excessive maintenance.  Proper installation, then, with the correctly-chosen product will result in NO re-work and very little maintenance (or, the appropriate amount of maintenance) down the road.

Let’s start with an example.  Shown here is a shower drain.  We did not install this shower, but there is nothing wrong with the shower itself.  Improper installation, however, has caused multiple problems.  Notice that the shower unit drain was never attached to the drain pipe, causing all the water from the shower to drain out beneath the wood floors throughout the house.  The house sits on a slab, but the floors sit up on a floor system that creates a 4″ cavity between the sub-floor and slab.  So, the water has been filling this cavity for several months until the homeowner noticed some buckling in the wood floors.  The improper installation has caused rotting, mold, and a host of other problems.  Not only will the shower itself have to be pulled out and replaced, this time hooking up the drain properly, but the floors will also have to be replaced along with many of the base boards and sheet rock in the rooms where the water reached them.  That’s what I call excessive maintenance!  Did a licensed plumber do this?  No, but a licensed state inspector did.  So, licenses don’t always prevent problems like this.

So, that was an obvious example.  It is easy to decipher quality when we are discussing negligence.  What about the more sophisticated contractor who builds beautiful homes and comes highly recommended?  In our next series, we will discuss “Better Practices” versus “Best Practices” and the results to help you formulate your own opinion.

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