Construction quandary: Production or Quality?

Differing Philosophies

There are two differing philosophies in construction; production and quality. Which side do you lean towards? There are those that believe the most important thing is just turning out work. They try to just get the most work done, regardless of how it might look. True, there may be a small part of them that makes them want it to look decent, but the main concern is just getting the work done. Then there are others who are focused on doing high-quality work. Time isn’t as important as doing the job right. Many times you can tell just by seeing the finished product which is the main concern. So which do you believe is more important; just getting it done? Or get it done right? Let’s consider both sides of the argument.

The Argument for Production

There are constant deadlines in construction. Whether it’s the excavating, foundation, framing, electrical, insulation, drywall, plumbing; from breaking ground until the move-in date, there is a lot going on. Therefore, many tradesmen and women are primarily focused on just getting in and getting out. And it’s not necessarily their fault. Time is money. General contractors and home builders are always trying to push to get things done quicker and quicker. I get it. People building new homes are excited to start their new life in their new home. So they try to pressure the builder to get it done quicker. That translates to every trade involved. Do it faster, get it done faster, get out of the house faster. However, getting it done quicker, many times doesn’t translate to high quality. But it does get done sooner.

As a drywall and painting contractor, we often see the worst in many of these things. There is consistent use of low quality lumber, rooms that are out of square, missing nailers, etc. And that’s just on the framing side. Sometimes the insulation, especially the blow-in type, is overfilled and causes the drywall to bow and screws to pop. It takes extra time to fix these issues before we can install the drywall properly. We are the ones to cover all of this stuff up, so we deal with it consistently. If the ones hanging the drywall are only concerned with production, they are not taking the time to fix the issues left for them. They may not install missing nailers where they are needed, they may not push the insulation back to ensure a good seal of the drywall to the adhesive and keep screws from popping. They just want to get the drywall on the walls, so they can appease the builder, the homeowner, and so on. It is definitely important to keep those people happy, but not at all costs.

The Argument for Quality

“It takes too long. I don’t have time to fix that. I don’t have time to add that. I don’t have time for this, that, etc.” How much extra time does it actually take to do things right? If it’s your habit, and it’s your process, it doesn’t actually take that long. If you have the tools and materials to do the job, it only usually takes a few extra minutes a day to make a big difference in your results. As a homeowner or a builder, think about it in long-term results. Would you rather it takes one extra day to finish hanging the drywall to ensure a solid finished product? Is one extra day to finish the drywall correctly, to sand it properly, really going to make a difference? Just ask your painter.

What Can We Do?

What is one small thing we can use to ensure a better finished product? When we are hanging drywall on a ceiling, we will install truss clips. “What is a truss clip?”, you might ask. It’s a small metal clip that we install on the top plate of a wall where trusses meet interior walls. There are several types of truss clips; the ones we use are pictured below. Then we screw the perimeter of the drywall to the clip instead of screwing to the truss. 

Why use truss clips? During the course of a home settling, during changes in weather, the trusses will settle and they will lift. If the drywall is screwed to the truss, that movement by the trusses will cause the drywall to crack in the angles. Using truss clips greatly reduces this cracking. This is just one small thing that can greatly improve the finished product. But many of those only focused on production will not take the little bit of extra time it takes to install truss clips.

There is constantly a rush to do everything faster. But that doesn’t mean the finished product has to suffer. Take the few extra minutes to do it right. If there is a nailer missing, put one in or use a truss clip. If there is too much insulation to install the drywall properly, take the extra minute to put it back or flatten it out so it’s behind the studs. If there is too much wire to cut out an electrical box cleanly, cut it back or roll it up tighter.

The other day I took an extra 20 minutes, before I hung a sheet of drywall, to fix a dryer vent pipe that had been installed incorrectly. At the time, I wasn’t very happy about it. But later, I was glad that I reinstalled it correctly before I covered it up. So take a minute…or 20. Fix it right, do it right, and you’ll be glad you did. Maybe not at the moment. And maybe nobody else will know you fixed it. But when you look back at it, you’ll be more satisfied with the end result. Because you’ll know you did it right.

The Bottom Line

It’s true that quality does take a little more time. But think long-term. When a family is enjoying their home, and they’re not seeing mistake after mistake, they’ll be happier. When you’re not getting called back time and again to make repairs, you’ll be happier. When people are telling their friends what a great job you did and show them how great it looks, you’ll get more business. Everybody wins. All because you took a few extra minutes to focus on quality over quantity.

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