Certified Lead Carpenter: Evaluate the Jobsite

by Kacey Larsen

The lead carpenter is always conducting evaluations on the jobsite. Conducting a thorough evaluation prior to beginning construction can save myriad problems later. Some lead carpenters may conduct this evaluation from memory, but many lead carpenters have developed a checklist for this purpose. It makes good sense as checklists help ensure all of the important issues are checked.

What should be on your checklist? Much depends on the type of project you will be building. The following list provides a good starting point when conducting a general site inspection.

  • Storage of Materials: Where will the homeowner permit storage of materials that might be required outside the house, and how secure is that area?
  • Access to Work Area(s): Can workers have easy access to the places where the work is to be performed? And considering the work of subcontractors, will they have sufficient “elbow room” so as to avoid crowding or a slowing of their normal production pace?
  • Sanitation Facility: If one is needed and provided there is no homeowner objection, where would a portable toilet go?
  • Parking Availability: Where will you and any subcontractors park your vehicles?
  • Power Availability: Where do you connect to electric power and will it handle the requirements your equipment may need?
  • Demolition/Debris: Plan where the debris from tear-outs will go and if the homeowner is aware of how you will handle it. You might need second-floor access and chutes.
  • Safety Hazards: What precautions do you need to provide for (ladders, scaffolding or other protective devices or measures)? Consider precautions for small children and neighbors.
  • Supplier Material Deliveries: You must provide for the drop of the largest contemplated load of materials the project calls for, and be sure the homeowner concurs with your plan.
  • Water, Telephone and Wi-Fi: Where are these utilities available for your use, or must you make your own provisions (thermos containers and a cellular phone)?  What are the provisions for these things for subcontractor personnel? How is cell phone reception? If allowed, what is the Wi-Fi SSID and password?
  • Special Site Considerations: Does this location present any special conditions that might require prior planning (neighbors, neighborhood, pets, special security needs, gates or fences)?

Existing Construction

An extremely important part of a Certified Lead Carpenter’s (CLC) job is the initial evaluation of those parts of a structure to be remodeled. Recognizing conditions that may make a job more expensive, cause delays or require remedial action is a skill that is critical in remodeling work.

Much of what a lead carpenter learns is through experience. You need to be familiar with the terminology for load-bearing parts of the building and how alteration of load-bearing members will affect the structure.

Other factors that will determine your effectiveness at evaluating existing construction are things such as:

  • Knowledge of the evolution of building systems—from post and beam to balloon framing and western platform framing. This is particularly important when working on older homes.
  • Differences between joist and rafter and truss construction.
  • Problems caused from settlement, modification of structural members and deterioration of building materials.

Identifying issues before work starts saves you time and your company money by being able to plan for and apply corrective actions. A second reason to document existing conditions is so that you or your company will not be held accountable for preexisting conditions or problems. It is one thing for your company to incur the additional costs of repairing damage done by employees or subcontractors, but it is quite another to pay for things of which your company bears no responsibility.

Avoid possible liability by conducting your evaluation of the existing construction in the most complete and professional way possible. Include these kinds of existing situations in your evaluation review. Then, when appropriate, you might decide to snap photos with your cell phone of some situations (like cracks in the driveway). Finally, always make sure  the homeowner is aware that you are aware of these kinds of situations.

Take the NARI Recertification Quiz for this article here.

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