Expect an expert…

…to work on your hair, but be prepared for a fool on your roof.

One of our clients, whose new home is currently being assembled on site, is unusually qualified to critique and comment about our proposed construction details because he not only has personal experience as a builder, but has since spent many years as a university professor, teaching courses in building materials and construction technology. We are gratified that he and his wife have faith in us and we’re thrilled that, as a result, we’re also getting a very motivated professional consultant.

In any event, he wrote to me the other day about some concerns he had about the roofing details on his home being done correctly. His descriptions of his preferred solutions were clear and instructive and then he ended the message by saying that his real problem is with roofers. “I have had terrible experiences with roofers over the years,” he lamented.

I wrote back in sympathy and support. What I wrote back to him was this:

“I agree with your comment about roofers. I have the same attitude about foundation contractors: almost always both ignorant and ignorant of their ignorance. So what supports the house at the bottom and what protects it at the top are at the risk of bad attitudes, low skills and completely inadequate training. Most states require training, apprenticeship, certification and licensing for a person to become a barber or a hairdresser even though if they make a mistake, the head will self-correct the problem in days or weeks. But to roof a house, where any mistake can fester into ever-increasing damage for years, you generally need only a ladder, a hammer and little fear of heights.”

Now, I realize this overarching condemnation isn’t fair to those many subcontracting companies that do good work and have good knowledge about the materials and technology of their field, but I will stand by the (unsubstantiated) opinion that way too many in these trades are pretty clueless about the science that ought to be associated with their craft. Why is this so? Well, to make the point, whoever you are, however much you know about these trades, tomorrow you could do business as a roofer or a foundation contractor (or many other building trades).

Any approach to improving the quality of homes must include a way to improve the process, including a system in which proper education and training is an integrated and ongoing ingredient. One of the principal advantages of prefabrication is that our tradespeople are always here and we can always know that we are executing the right details, with the right material and equipment AND with the right training.

So far, though, we haven’t been prefabricating foundations or roofs, leaving those two critical trades to local subcontractors. If only they had as much training as a barber!

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