Site inspections: Why perform a preliminary layout?

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Site Inspections - Layout (C) COREY KLASSEN Previously, I talked briefly about the importance of site inspections and looking for electrical blocking plates. This week I want to show you the importance of monitoring the job site when working with a Project Manager and Construction Manager. In my current practice, I liaise with many allied trades for full-scope renovation and new construction. While I focus primarily within the renovation and replacement market, I find that when working with a new crew or new allied trades that my role as the lead designer wears many hats so communication is key.

Preliminary layouts

I have currently been coerced into doing full preliminary layouts on the sub-floor at a few points during construction. This part of the project management phase is relatively new to me because I proved a fully dimensioned set of construction drawings including perspectives, but I had not realized its' importance until recently.

As you can see from the image above, the site has rough-in's complete and the self-leveling concrete has been poured and cured in preparation for the finished textured concrete. Underneath this initial substrate (the self-leveling concrete) are electrical wires for the in-floor heating. What you also see in this image is the preliminary layout done with blue and green painters tape. The blue indicates fixed objects and where they will be installed, and the green indicates critical changes that need to take place. In this case, the plumbing drain and supply are 12-inches in the wrong direction. They should be within the solid blue, not dashed.

Catching this error on-site is critical. Had I not done an inspection we would be faced with substantial delays, emergency service trips that erode at everyone's profit, increases the clients frustration, and ultimately create problems where there needn't be any. Coming on time and on budget is a reputation that no amount of advertising dollars or social media campaign can pay for.

Tools for the Designer's Site Kit

Many of of the tools I need to perform the preliminary layout are easily sourced. I believe that every designer must have a tool-kit for every situation that might arise on-site. Here is a list of what I think you will need:

  1. Minimum 16-foot tape measure with full inches, feet and inches, and metric. (NKBA Store)
  2. Bosch laser distance measure (Bosch Tools)
  3. Small screw driver like PicQuick Dash 7 (PicQuick)
  4. Utility knife
  5. Blue painters tape for layout
  6. Green painters tape to identify issues
  7. Black felt marker (to write on the tape with)
  8. Carpenters pencil like (Chubby)
  9. 90-degree triangle (from your old geometry set)
  10. Drafting tape to hang plans
  11. Camera
  12. iPad with drawings loaded for annotation

It is so important to measure, double-check, and communicate errors on-site quickly, I can not stress that enough.

Tips for homeowners

If the homeowner is acting as the General Contractor/Project Manager, then there are some very important points that you must take heed of. I recently heard from another designer who was working with a client, that they lost 2-inches between the base cabinets and the wall cabinets and they could not figure out why. As it turns out, the homeowner re-drywalled the ceiling overtop of existing and beefed up the sub-floor. This additional 1-1/2-inch variance plus the uneven tile floor installation accounted for a total of 2-inches. Normally this would not be a problem, but if it was not discussed before items were ordered and drawings were signed-off, then the homeowner will be liable for the error - meaning if they want 18" between the countertop and wall cabinets then all new wall cabinets will need to be ordered and paid for, usually in full.

  • Drawings and specifications produced for your project are legal documents. Review them carefully.
  • Ask if a Preliminary Layout is included in the price. If not, spend the little bit extra and have it done before electrical and plumbing are completed, or take initiative and do it yourself.
  • Communicate with the designer or supplier what the overall objective is.
  • Write the Scope of Work before you start, give every trade a copy and highlight their area.
  • Changes made on-site or to materials after orders are submitted come at additional charges.

For more information on designers and planning guides, you can check out the NKBA website.