All clients want quality workmanship for their projects. I have never heard a client ask for a tile installer that can’t keep the tile level nor a carpenter that can’t frame walls plumb and true. Yet once construction starts, we sometimes end up accepting workmanship that is below industry standards. So why do we accept substandard work and what can we do about it? 

walkway with a curved edge
This walkway is supposed to have a curved edge.

Part of our jobs as architects is to make sure work is done to the correct standards. However, when we get to the finish stages of a project, we see the quality start to dip. Not because the client has changed their mind on wanting a quality product, but construction fatigue starts to set in, and they are anxious to get the project done. After 6 to 9 months of construction, when finishes typically start, owners have sat in multiple meetings, spent hours discussing construction issues, and spent more than half of their construction money. Considering that construction is a marathon with several sprints in the middle of it, owners are understandably exhausted.

transition between two different flooring materials
A smooth transition between two flooring materials? 

This is the point when things get dicey. Let's go back to the tilework example mentioned earlier because we see this one the most. The tile installer finishes a bathroom and upon review by the architect, it is noted the workmanship is below average but not poor. The architect recommends making the tile installer redo the bathroom. The owner then has to decide between having a good quality product with a longer timeline or accepting the work as is to maintain the schedule. Unfortunately, construction fatigue and the timeline often push owners towards saying the substandard work is ok.

wavy tiles on a wall
Can you live with this tilework?

Fortunately, the big issues are rarely debated. However, seemingly minor details can have a large and lasting impact on the overall project. After all, the details often complete the whole design experience and bring the project together into a cohesive vision. Steve Jobs said, “Details matter. It's worth waiting to get it right." So, the owner has to decide if it's worth the wait. Architects are advocates for the owner and ensure you get the quality product you deserve and have paid for, as long as we have owner backing. Ultimately, we follow what the owner says, so consider the impact of construction fatigue before quality and construction fatigue become problems. 

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