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Installation Instructions: More than Just Opinion

In one episode of the popular TV show Home Improvement, Tim Taylor (Tim Allen) was attempting to install a particular product when he became frustrated with the instructions provided by the product’s manufacturer. In his frustration, Tim stated “instructions are just the manufacturer’s opinion on how to install it”, implying that he might have a different, even better opinion of how to install the product. These comments made for a good laugh then and now, but more importantly bring to focus the question of whether or not we take the time to learn the manufacturer’s intended installation method or whether we allow our subcontractors to substitute their own.

Tim’s installation experience lives on as a reminder of the choice that is made each time a manufactured product is installed. Do we or our installer take the time to gain the manufacturer’s insight, or do we install construction components without the benefit of the manufacturer’s knowledge and experience? Someone on the jobsite is making the choice of how they will install each product, whether by default or through conscious choice. In the arena of construction it is important to recognize the benefits of following the manufacturer’s installation instructions as well as the risks of installing products according to our limited understanding and experience.

Following the manufacturer’s installation instructions is often a requirement of the International Residential Code (IRC). In multiple instances the IRC incorporates the manufacturer’s installation instructions, making these instructions requirements of the code. Examples of IRC reference to manufacturer’s installation instructions include products such as: factory-built chimneys, HVAC equipment, water heaters, appliances, whirlpool tubs and so on.

The IRC often contains general minimum requirements associated with installation of such products, but recognizes the value of the manufacturer’s experience and testing. In other instances the IRC does not mention products yet requires products to successfully perform a particular task which indirectly implies proper installation. More often than not the manufacturer has knowledge and experience that we don’t, making them the most qualified of all parties to determine how their product is best installed. In addition to code compliance, the benefits of installing construction components according to the manufacturer’s installation instructions include:

Reduced Exposure to Construction Litigation:

Construction components installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s installation instructions greatly reduce the risk of product failure and consequential damage that often results. If a particular product fails and yet was installed correctly, the manufacturer is likely to share remediation costs. If proper installation of construction products is verified by a third-party inspector this is an added layer of insulation against loss from litigation.

Reduced Warranty Callbacks:

Properly installed products help reduce callback expenses which makes “doing it right the first time” the most cost-effective approach. We are also aware that fewer callbacks translate to happier customers through improved customer satisfaction scores, ultimately translating into referrals and sales.

Enhanced Product Performance:

The degree of compliance with the manufacturer’s installation instructions determines the level of performance that a particular product is likely to yield for the life of the home. This is perhaps most evident with energy-saving products which translate to lower utility bills and savings to the end user.

Increased Product Lifespan:

Correctly installed products typically last longer when installed per the manufacturer’s instructions. A prime example of this is air conditioning condensers which if installed and maintained in a level position permit the oil in the compressor to properly lubricate the compressors moving parts and keep the compressor in service for a longer period of time. A level condenser also reduces wear of the fan motor bearings.

Improved Appearance:

Manufacturers of products with aesthetic value are concerned with the appearance of their product, consequently following the installation instructions is likely to result in a better looking installation. Examples of such products are roofing, exterior wall-covering and paint.

The greatest opportunities for improvement with manufactured products that we encounter include: windows, window flashing, housewrap, sheathing, siding, I-joists, roof decking, shingles, and drop-down attic stairways. Other manufactured components such as HVAC equipment, fireplaces and appliances are occasionally found with defect, nonetheless there are fewer instances of defects as these installers are generally better trained.

What measures can be taken to insure compliance with manufacturer’s installation instructions?

The first step is to do an inventory of the products currently in use, obtaining the manufacturer’s installation requirements for each. This is often an eye opener as we learn installation requirements and techniques that we were simply not aware of. Not all products are accompanied by installation instructions from the manufacturer or mill; however, installation instructions can often be obtained through the manufacturer’s website or through an association standard when not available from the manufacturer. One example of such an association standard is the APA (The Engineered Wood Association) which includes installation standards and tolerances for many engineered wood products.

The manufacturer’s installation instructions should also be obtained for any new products that are introduced. All installation instructions should be passed along to the installers on the jobsite and accountability should be established. A lack of attention to detail by a subcontractor could very well drag a builder into court at a later date. Finally, these products should be carefully inspected, after installation, before cover-up, by a qualified person other than the installer.

Having a better knowledge of construction products and adhering to the proper installation of these will keep you ahead of the competition.

Updated 4/7/18


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