At Four Brothers, we believe that the journey is as important as the destination itself. If the process of obtaining your dream kitchen, bathroom or addition is so miserable that at the end of it all you scratch your head and say, Was that really worth it? – the answer is probably, no. At the very least, surely you wish you had worked with a better company.
One of the steps Four Brothers took early on to ensure that the construction phase of every job would be smooth and efficient was to implement the Lead Carpenter System. Pioneered by Tim Faller in the late 1990’s, this system has been a breath of fresh air to the remodeling industry. Before the Lead Carpenter System, most companies approached remodeling the same as new construction where a superintendent oversees multiple crews of trades’ people – masons, framing carpenters, drywall hangers, drywall finishers, trim carpenters painters etc. The roles in this structure are defined: the superintendent wears the white hat, holds the blueprints, makes decisions, communicates with clients and gives direction. The tradesmen on the other hand show up, punch the clock, work their eight hours and then head home. The work is typically repetitive, straightforward, and any questions are referred to the “Super.” Individual workers have no investment in the end product or end user. Once their scope is complete, they are off to the next house in the development.
The problem is that remodeling is as different from new construction as brain surgery is from physical therapy. We’ll borrow loosely from Tim’s handbook for the next few paragraphs:
“In remodeling, many conditions exist that require the degree of supervision that a lead carpenter will offer. First, there are the difficulties of dealing with an existing (usually old) building. The floors are out of level and termites may have taken up residence. The walls are 5 ½” thick instead of 4 9/16”. It is essential that someone on-site has the knowledge to sort out how the new structure will tie into the existing and how the new and old finishes will blend. This kind of decision-making begins at the start of the job and lasts throughout the project. These decisions cannot be made in haste, at a drafting table or by a designer in the office. They must be made in the field by someone intimately involved and invested in the project.” Four Brothers’ Lead Carpenters are involved in each project from the planning phase onward, and are fully invested in the final outcome. They understand the impact each step in the production process will have on the finished product, so work accordingly.
“Another challenge specific to remodeling projects is accommodating the schedule and lifestyle of the homeowner. Obviously, owners are involved in new construction, but they are not living on the jobsite. For a remodeling project to proceed painlessly, the lead carpenter must be attuned to the homeowners needs at all times. For example, homeowners usually want to inspect progress every morning or in the evening when they return from work. Questions arise which must be answered quickly and intelligently. Frequently, layout or design decisions must be made in the field. Often there are pets in the home that need attention throughout the course of the day. The house must be kept secure from weather and intruders (a very real concern); both during and at the end of each day. Plus, living on a construction site is stressful! Home owners need encouragement, coaching and reassurance on a daily basis; services that cannot be provided from the office, or a supervisors truck.” Four Brothers’ Lead Carpenter will be the first man on site each morning, and the last person to leave every evening. Your security and comfort is their number one concern. Furthermore, they are always accessible via email, phone, or text if any questions or concerns arise.
“Yet another challenge is the need to carefully supervise trade partners. Even when following the most detailed plans, complications always arise when working in an older home. Reworking an old structure to meet current codes and standards often involves creative on-the-job problem solving, because even the best designers can’t see through walls and know what you will run into. Surprises are the norm.” Four Brothers’ Lead Carpenters have extensive knowledge of building codes, and great rapport with our tight-knit circle of trade partners. Our trade partners understand that the Lead Carpenter is in charge, and look to him for guidance.
“Add to all of this the continuous changes to the schedule, the need to complete some work out of sequence, and the need for decisions to be made quickly. Often the project is small enough, for example, that the plumber has allotted only half a day for his work. If a decision that affects the plumbing cannot be made quickly, the plumber may walk away and not be able to return for several days which will push back close-in inspections, which in turn pushes back other work scopes and ultimately, the project completion date. The calendar must be adjusted daily, and scheduling coordinated accordingly to be sure the project finishes on time and budget.” Four Brothers’ Lead Carpenters understand the importance of hitting calendar milestones and finishing every project on time. They structure their work days accordingly and stay late or start early as necessary.
Quite clearly, a true Lead Carpenter must possess a far-reaching combination of practical, managerial and interpersonal skills. While it has not been easy, Four Brothers has assembled an outstanding team of Lead Carpenters; all of whom have demonstrated the desire and ability to provide the highest level of service to our customers.
Leading up to and during the construction of your project, your Lead Carpenter (Lead) will perform all of the following duties:
- Plan the job
- Together with the designer and Project Manager, the Lead puts together a construction calendar in which the scopes of work for each day are outlined. A web-based copy is shared with you, and updated by the Lead on a weekly basis.
- Participate in the preconstruction meeting
- The Lead attends the preconstruction meeting with you the homeowner to make his acquaintance and survey the work site for possible challenges.
- Establish daily work tasks
- Working off the construction calendar, the Lead outlines clear work goals for every day.
- Determine daily labor needs and supervise on-site labor.
- Based on the tasks planned for each day, the Lead will call in other team members as necessary, and is responsible for their supervision.
- Maintain job-site paperwork
- The Lead keeps an organized job site binder in which inspection reports, trade quotes, blueprints, calendars and all other relevant paperwork is filed.
- Schedule and supervise trade partners
- The Lead schedules and supervises all trade partners and inspectors throughout the course of the project.
- Order and receive materials
- Leads perform material take offs, schedule deliveries, receive all materials and inspect all goods for damage.
- Interface with you the homeowner on a daily basis
- The Lead will be the first person on site each morning and the last to leave in the evening, and is always available to answer questions and/or give an explanation.
- Resolve small plan discrepancies and approve small change orders
- Because he has a vision for the end product, the Lead is able to make decisions immediately as discrepancies arise. If you are interested in altering a design detail or adding additional work, the Lead has the authority to estimate and execute change orders on the spot.
- Oversee job-site safety
- Safety is a top priority and the Lead maintains an organized job site that is both safe for other workers and you, the homeowner.
- Maintain job-site cleanliness
- The Lead ensures that the jobsite is left in a vacuumed condition at the end of each day, and that dust is contained in the construction zone.
- Prepare punch lists and perform punch out tasks
- As the project winds down, the Lead will walk you through the remodeled space, and prepare a punch list together with you. The Lead will then perform all punch out tasks – we do not have a separate “Punch-out Carpenter.”
- Collect payment for work completed
- As contract milestones are achieved, the Lead will collect payment from you.
Perhaps most importantly however, the Lead will be there to reassure you, and guide you through what can be turbulent times. He is the pilot who will pick up the microphone from time to time to let you know: “This is your captain speaking, you are in good hands, and everything will be okay.”