You need a schematic detail and a useful work specification in your next Contract

Whenever you hire someone to work for you, you need to have a complete understanding of the work specifications. This often gets overlooked in the happy talk and the verbal promises made and you then end up with what actually what is included in the signed agreement.

Proper specifications are essential as to what quality trade practices demand; and help you make sure that is what you are getting. There are things you might feel are too trivial for this, and that is your decision; but a written spec adds clarity, alleviates unrealistic expectations, and certainly helps with verification. Of course, this is just one key step in finding the right contractor. We discuss selecting contractors here.

Even simple projects like adding a new entry door, replacing windows- there is a manufacturer’s specification that comes with it. You need to include these in the contract, you need to understand them, and you need a method of verification that the installation specs were met.

The conscientious contractor will be happy to oblige. They like it when home owners call out skill and details rather than a fixation on lowest price. They are proud of their skills and customer care. It is too bad, but caring about customers is not as commonplace as you might think- I am talking about actions here, not happy talk. Actions speak louder than words when you pay attention.

When you address work specifications, you are underlining that you care and are aware.

Keeping leaks out of windows have become such a problem in the last decade or so, that building standards have really ramped up to keep water out of walls. Engineered wood is loved by mold, and mold finds a wet leaky section of wall a lovely place to grow. We go into exceptional detail on openings in the walls here.

The water control layer in your home is a perfect example of the necessity of work specifications. There is an exact spec for sloped roofs and for every type of protrusion through your roof and a detail for every transition to siding or roof ending. You can check out roofing details here as an example.

Roofs do not leak that are built to the specifications of the National Roofing Contractors association or our own local branch- the North Texas Roofing Contractors Association or the specifications of the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association. The trouble starts when the contractor you hire makes their own rules and sets their own standards. We discuss roofing in much greater detail here.

Sidewalls in Texas also have problems with leaking and creating mold in walls. The design of the water shedding layers on a wall is called the drainage plane. We discuss the drainage plane again when we are talking about the ways water gets into your home structure.  When stuff gets done for expediency and convenience and speed vs. the long term reliability of your home; problems occur.

Problems happen because someone is working without a specification or not being held to the specification. Bad stuff happens more often when people get in a hurry and are not held acountable for the quality of their work.

Your level of concern and your degree of pickiness, of course, will relate to the degree of risk involved- putting brick borders around the oak tree incorporates less risk than brick repairs in a sidewall of your home… and this matters. This is your choice, but accurate building specifications, understood by you, with a plan in place to verify; will give you fewer headaches and not hurt the feelings of the quality contractor at all. In fact, he or she will be pleased that you care and that you noticed.

The quality of the work that gets done depends on whom you hire. We discuss a to-do list before hiring a contractor or remodel here.

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Stu Langley

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