When architects design a building, they have an image in mind, and on paper, of how the result will look. To achieve the desired outcome, it is crucial for architects to provide the general contractor with a thorough specification of every product required for the build. However, architects often only include high-visibility elements in the specification list, such as particular windows, doors, and trim.
After the architect completes his portion of the spec list, the general contractor reviews it and adds building material preferences. This can include a brand of drywall that worked well in the past or plywood from a lumberyard where the contractor has a good relationship. The personal preferences and past experiences of the architect and contractor influence the final spec sheet.
But what about the small details of a job that don't end up on the spec sheet? When an item is not specified the subcontractor chooses the product. Because subcontractors are on a tight schedule and work to maximize profit, they often choose low-cost products, including ones they already have or clearance items. As a result, any blanks left on the spec sheet can cause the installation of lower quality products.
case study: the corner bead
To understand the importance of specifying every product required during construction, consider corner bead. Corner bead is a strip of metal or vinyl that drywall contractors use to connect the raw edges of gypsum board when creating an outside corner. The product seems to disappear once the builder uses joint compound to smooth the seams and apply paint, but the corner bead is important from both a structural and design point of view.
Although it is not seen in the final wall, corner bead material is important. Traditionally, corner beads were made of metal, but nowadays vinyl corner beads are prevalent in the industry and offer distinct advantages. It is difficult to work with metal corner beads. If they are not handled carefully, metal corner beads are easily dented and bent out of shape, resulting in waste during the construction process. Denting can also occur after metal corner beads are installed, resulting in damage to the wall that cannot be easily repaired. In contrast, vinyl corner beads are dent proof, making them easy to handle and install.
Unlike metal, vinyl is rust proof making it ideal in damp areas like bathrooms or basements. If metal corner bead is used in damp areas, the rust often leaches through primer and paint to discolor the walls. Since corner bead material impacts the wall’s structure and finish, architects and general contractors should specify vinyl corner bead to avoid ending up with inferior walls.
Architects and homeowners also benefit from knowing about available corner beads during the initial design process. Specialized corner beads allow for custom designs that go beyond standard 90-degree corners. Flexible beads are available to create archways, specialized beads can create rounded corners, and reveal beads add depth and interest to interior architectural details. Knowing the full range of available products allows for a more productive design process. After design choices are made, it is essential to include the relevant products on the spec sheet to ensure the correct vinyl corner beads are installed.
using the spec sheet as a communication tool
The general contractor can promote best practices by providing a thorough spec sheet for all materials used on a project and encourage communication by discussing unnamed product choices with the architect. The general contractor can also use the spec sheet to educate homeowners about important building details, ranging from aesthetic choices to building durability.
The importance of a complete and detailed specification list cannot be overstated. Providing a detailed spec sheet not only opens the lines of communication between the general contractor, architect, subcontractor, and client, but also gets the architect thinking about these details for future projects. It is essential that every building project utilize product specifications detailed down to the corner bead.