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Basic Construction Management: The Superintendent's Job

Basic Construction Management: The Superintendent's Job

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Basic Construction Management: The Superintendent's Job

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536 pages
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Jan 1, 2009


Learn essentials of managing projects well and within budget, from scheduling and jobsite safety to quality and customer service in this long-anticipated revision of Basic Construction Management. Leon Rogers, an experienced builder, author, and educator, offers proven practices for recruiting and keeping the best trade contractors scheduling that makes sense developing and implementing quality practicesThis book guides you step-by-step from construction planning through warranty work, blending proven practices with the experiences of builders in the field. It offers a roadmap to excellence for new construction superintendents and for veterans who want to brush up their skills for managing people and projects.A companion Web page includes updated quality checklists and other customizable tools to help you manage your construction projects. This book is a must-read for anyone considering a career in construction supervision. I have not seen a better training guide in my 20 years in homebuilding. --Ken Condit, Construction Training ManagerThis book is an essential tool for new superintendents and can help experienced superintendents polish their skills. By using the principles in Basic Construction Management, you will build higher quality projects more efficiently and safely.--Jay Christofferson, Chair, Brigham Young University construction management program
Jan 1, 2009

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Basic Construction Management - Leon Rogers

Basic Construction Management: The Superintendent’s Job, Fifth Edition

BuilderBooks, a Service of the National Association of Home Builders


This publication provides accurate information on the subject matter covered. The publisher is selling it with the understanding that the publisher is not providing legal, accounting, or other professional service. If you need legal advice or other expert assistance, obtain the services of a qualified professional experienced in the subject matter involved. Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favored status by the National Association of Home Builders. The views and opinions of the author expressed in this publication do not necessarily state or reflect those of the National Association of Home Builders, and they shall not be used to advertise or endorse a product.

©2009 by NAHB. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the publisher.

Printed in the United States of America

12 11 10 09 1 2 3 4 5

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Rogers, Leon.

Basic construction management: the superintendent’s job / Leon Rogers.—5th ed.

p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN-13: 978-0-86718-645-1

ISBN-10; 0-86718-645-3

1. Building—Superintendence. I. Title.

TH438.R612 2008



elSBN: 9780867186932

For further information, please contact;

National Association of Home Builders

1201 15th Street, NW

Washington, DC 20005-2800


Visit us online at www.BuilderBooks.com.




About the Author

Chapter 1.Hiring and Training Superintendents

Hiring a New Superintendent

The Hiring Process

Training New Superintendents

The Process

Chapter 2.The Superintendent’s Role

The Superintendent’s Authority

The Superintendent as the Company’s Agent

The Superintendent as Leader

Leadership Basics

Leadership Styles

The Superintendent as Manager



Directing and Coordinating


Construction Activities





Chapter 3.Project Start-Up

Starting Off Right


Construction Documents

Preconstruction Planning

Resolve Lot Issues

Hold a Site Meeting

Consider Project and Site Logistics

Hold Home Owner Preconstruction Meetings

Establish Schedules

Understand and Follow Building Regulations

Define Trade Contractor Responsibilities

Document Construction

Recording and Formatting

Types of Reports

Chapter 4.Quality Control and Inspections

Reasons for Quality Problems

The Superintendent’s Responsibility for Quality

Total Quality Management (TQM)

Obstacles to Total Quality

Creating an Atmosphere of High Quality

Written Performance Standards


Measuring Performance

Internal Inspections

Inspection Points

Inspection Checklists

Correcting Mistakes

Code Inspections

Logging Inspections

Final Inspection

Home Owner Walk-Through and Orientation

Chapter 5.Cost Control

Establishing the Budget

Material Control

Value Engineering

Complete Specifications

Accurate Contracts

Negotiating Skills

Sound Purchasing Procedures

Handling Budget Variances

Variance Analysis

Material Delivery Strategies



Proper Storage and Care

Avoiding Material Waste and Misuse

Labor Cost Control

Chapter 6.Scheduling

The Written Schedule

Scheduling Methods

Bar Chart Schedules

Critical Activities

The Critical Path Method

Scheduling Phases

Sequencing Activities

Determining Activity Duration

Scheduling Trade Contractors

Monitoring and Updating the Schedule

Using Technology

Chapter 7.Managing Trade Contractors and Employees

Advantages of Using Trade Contractors

Challenges of Using Trade Contractors

Who Is a Trade Contractor?

Multitiered Trade Contractors

Thinking Win-Win

Partnering with Trade Contractors

Keys to Success

Single Sourcing

Avoiding Pitfalls

Trade Contractor Management

Hiring Trade Contractors

The Trade Contractor-Superintendent Relationship

Locating Trade Contractors

Evaluating Potential Trade Contractors




Written Contracts

Plans and Specifications

Scope of Work

Quality of Work


Change Orders

Inspection Policies and Procedures

Payment and Discount Provisions



Communication with the Home Owner

Warranties and Customer Service

Failure to Perform and Terminating Contracts

Policies and Procedures

Other Provisions

Training Trade Contractors

Group Training

Managing Trade Contractors

Providing a Comfort Zone

Superintendent Strategies

Measure Performance

Be Open to Suggestions

Hiring Employees

Preparing Job Descriptions

Assessing Employees

Training Employees



Training Methods

Chapter 8.Working with Home Owners

The Superintendent’s Role in Home Owner Relations

Various Levels of Contact

Buyer’s Remorse

Policies and Procedures

Increasing Buyer Understanding

The Importance of Contracts

Buyer-Requested Changes

Home Owner Visits and Company Contacts

Preparing for Visits


Positive Communication

Fixing Home Owner Concerns

Conflict Resolution

Daily Job Log

Home Completion

Written Warranties

Scheduling Service Calls

Trade Contractors and Customer Service

Warranty Service Voucher System

Chapter 9.Safety Management

Three Reasons for Safety

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Employee Rights and Duties


Violations, Citations, Penalties, and Appeal Process

Types of Violations and Severity of Penalties

OSHA Focused Inspection Program

What to Do in an OSHA Inspection


Affirmative Defenses

Multiple-Employer Worksites

The Superintendent’s Role in Safety

Implementing a Safety Program

Training for a Safe Jobsite

Safety Awards Program

Safety Inspections

Record Keeping

Reporting Requirements

Hazard Communication Guidelines

Accident Investigation

Trade Contractor Safety

Enforcement and Discipline

The Emergency Action Plan



How to Use The Tools and Checklists

Appendix 1 Management Tools

Blueprint Checklist

Call Log

Change Order Form

Completion and Closing Checklist

Daily Report Form

General Outline of Major Construction Phases

Materials Management Guidelines

Sample Job Description


Site Meeting Checklist

Superintendent Training Program Outline

Appendix 2 Quality Control Checklists



Exterior Concrete Flatwork

Garage Concrete Flatwork

Interior Concrete Flatwork




Final Walk-through

Floor Covering


Block Foundation

Poured Concrete Foundations


Framing Nailing

Framing Punch Out

Initial Grading

Gutters and Downspouts

HVAC Finish

HVAC Rough


Interior Trim

Mirror, Shelves, and Bath Accessories



Porches and Decks


Vinyl Siding


Windows and Exterior Doors

Appendix 3 Comfort Zone Checklists

All Trades


Footer Crew

Foundation Crew

Concrete Prep Flatwork Crew









Cabinet Installer

Trim Carpenters


I saw a hand-drawn set of house plans the other day and had to laugh. Indeed, when the first edition of this book was written in 1981, the construction world was a very different place. The manuscript was typed on a then state-of-the-art IBM Selectric, which cost more than today’s personal computers. PCs were unheard of, cellular phones had not been invented, construction scheduling was just in its infancy, and Total Quality Management (TQM) was a Japanese phenomenon. We were beginning to apply business management principles to residential construction projects, but construction management still was largely by the seat of your pants.

Much has happened in 28 years. Most residential builders are almost completely computerized. Home buyers have become increasingly sophisticated and demanding, and construction project management is more complex. Cost control and analysis of cost overruns and variances are now standard practices. Formal safety programs are more common. Computerized scheduling is widely accepted. TQM and continuous improvement have been successfully implemented in many companies. Thanks to the educational efforts of NAHB’s Home Builders Institute, industry consultants, and educators in college construction management programs, today’s builders are more highly educated and better prepared. But so are their competitors. Those who have survived the ups and downs of the housing cycle have done so by managing better and applying basic principles to their day-today work.

Through all of the changes—perhaps because of them—residential building today remains a dynamic, exciting, and challenging business, one in which the construction superintendent plays a large and important role.

However, today’s superintendents face a host of demands. Construction typically includes greater customization of standard designs. The designs themselves are more innovative and complex, resulting in more construction challenges. Materials and methods are continually changing. Superintendents now use computers on a daily basis for cost control, scheduling, and overall project management.

Still, the feeling you get from successfully organizing people, materials, and equipment to create a beautiful and functional home is uniquely satisfying. When you pass by a home that you helped to build years earlier, you look upon it with pride and think, I built that! This pride in workmanship is essential for success in the construction business, because the truly successful in any endeavor are often not those who are wealthy or brilliant, but those who are genuinely good at what they do and who take pleasure in it.

Most people who are good at what they do apply simple rules and goals to their tasks. This book attempts to teach the rules of construction management that have helped countless construction professionals and aspiring professionals like you to maintain a budget, comply with a schedule, and establish quality control. These three keys to successful project management are the foundation of long-term success in home building.


The author extends special thanks to the many builders and industry experts who have contributed their management successes and ideas for each edition of this book and to Natalie Holmes for editing the fifth edition. I am grateful to the builders and others in the home building industry who offered their time to review and comment on the book, including Susan Asmus, John Barrows, Daimon Doyle, Kurt Lindblom, Richard Pagotto, and Gretchen Palmer.

About the Author

As president of Construction Management Associates, Leon Rogers has helped many companies improve their management techniques, monitoring, and construction operations. Mr. Rogers is a professor emeritus at Brigham Young University, where he taught for 25 years in the widely acclaimed construction management program.

A popular national speaker and an active builder for more than 35 years, Mr. Rogers has developed a number of highly regarded superintendent training programs for home builders. A former president of Wayne Homes Newark, Inc., which won the America’s Most Organized Builder and America’s Best Builder awards, Mr. Rogers has written several other books, manuals, and articles. He is also an OSHA-certified safety trainer.

He has 6 children and 11 grandchildren and lives in Thayne, Wyoming.


Hiring and Training Superintendents

Hiring the right people may be the single most important thing a builder does to promote business success. With remote production sites and a tremendous number of trade contractors, suppliers, inspectors, owners, and other people coming and going on each project, having the right superintendents, in particular, is critical to a home building company’s success. After hiring, providing timely and practical training for new hires and veterans is the next vital task of a home building company owner. This book was written to guide that training and to provide a thorough accounting of the superintendent’s job to both superintendents and home builders.

Hiring a New Superintendent

Builders generally hire a new superintendent for one of two reasons: (1) the current superintendent has left or is leaving the company or (2) the company is growing and needs a new superintendent to manage the additional work. Therefore, builders usually feel pressured to make a speedy hiring decision. Many builders have learned the hard way, however, that rushing a hiring decision for any position—let alone one on which your quality reputation rests so heavily—can have disastrous consequences. A better way to go about hiring is to prepare ahead for that time when a vacancy arises or growth is on the horizon.


Builders have discovered that not attending to hiring and training needs can prevent their companies from maximizing growth opportunities when the housing cycle is on the upswing.

I am on the threshold of a building boom and I probably won’t be able to take advantage of it, one builder said. I don’t have the right people in place to allow me to grow. If I had the right people, there is no doubt I could double my business. As it is, I will be lucky to grow 10% to 20% this year and even that will probably bring us to our knees, he said.

A lack of trained staff has hindered other builders’ performance as well. For example, one growing building company opened several new offices but did not have an employee training system in place to teach and support new employees. Consequently, many homes took more than 200 days to build. Customers became dissatisfied, and most projects came in over budget. Profit margins suffered; many production employees left the company. Fortunately, company officials realized their mistakes and implemented an intensive employee training program. Eventually, the builder was able to regain footing and improve the profit margin.

The Hiring Process

The following guidelines will help you to hire the right people:

Start early. Amazingly, many builders wait until the very last minute before deciding to hire somebody. As a result, that is exactly what they get—some body. The decision to hire normally should be made a minimum of three months before the new superintendent is really needed. Under the best circumstances, a company spends at least three months to locate, interview, check references, reinterview, hire, and initially train a new superintendent.

Although you may be faced with replacing a superintendent who quits with little or no notice, resist the urge to panic and hire the first vaguely qualified person you run across. The future of your company depends on the quality of your hiring decisions; don’t sacrifice that future just to cope with your current workload. Look at hiring decisions as opportunities to improve your operations and build for the future.

Network. In the hiring process, who you know, not what you know, definitely makes the difference. In fact, job seekers, hiring managers, and employers are about twice as successful searching within a network of people they know as they are using advertising, using Internet leads, or interviewing people who walk in off the street. Talk to your employees, trade contractors, suppliers, other builders or superintendents, remodelers, bookkeepers, people at church, friends, relatives—anyone you trust who may know of qualified people looking for work. Spread the word. Ask your current employees to keep an eye open. Develop a list of potential superintendents, and update it periodically.

Seek out college graduates. Consider recent graduates from your local college or university. A number of very good construction management programs around the country annually graduate a ready pool of job candidates. Construction management graduates often are a little older and more mature than the typical college graduate, and they already may have several years of experience in construction. In addition, most construction management programs require an internship experience before graduation. Hiring interns offers a company a great opportunity to evaluate potential candidates for future positions at a relatively low cost.

The best time to recruit college graduates is in October for December graduates and in February for May or June graduates. A list of NAHB student chapters is available at www.nahb.org/studentchapters. Employers also can interview candidates at the job fair held each year at the International Builders’ Show. It attracts hundreds of top students from across the country.

Although some interns and college graduates may have minimal construction experience, they are computer literate and well educated. If your company has the resources and the time to train relatively inexperienced graduates, they can become valuable additions to your company. If your new hire must assume full construction management responsibilities immediately, ensure that you structure your interview to determine their areas of expertise as well as areas in which they will require further training.

Analyze your needs first. Before interviewing anyone, develop or review your superintendent’s written job description.


The job description for superintendents should

list their duties and responsibilities

note the relative time they should spend on each area

establish their authority and reporting relationships

serve as a basis for performance evaluation

Appendix 1 includes a sample job description for a superintendent in a home building company that you can customize to suit your needs.

Most builders find that creating written position descriptions is an insightful experience that helps them solidify what they are seeking in their employees. Consider the company’s future needs as well as its current needs. Look at the career path for the new hire. How would each candidate likely fit into the organization over time? Look for candidates whose skills and personalities will complement those of your current employees. For example, if you already have people who are very good at building homes but are not good at customer relations, look for candidates with strong interpersonal skills.

Do your homework. Research the market in your area and determine the competitive salaries or wages for superintendents.

Use applications to develop a candidate list. If you do not have an employee application form, develop one. You can obtain generic employee application forms at any good office supply store. Adapt these forms to your specific needs. The form should ask candidates to supply pertinent information, including a list of references. If possible, obtain a résumé from each applicant.

Rank the applications. Once you have the applications and résumés in hand, read them carefully. Discard all applications from unqualified candidates. Highlight outstanding attributes of the remaining candidates and any items about which you would like to know more. Then rank the applications from the most likely prospect to the least desirable.

Prepare interview questions. Before conducting interviews, prepare a written list of questions you would like each candidate to answer. Consistency is important for comparing one candidate’s questions with another’s. For example, if you ask one candidate a question about honesty and integrity but fail to explore this area with another candidate, you may end up hiring the wrong person.

When preparing the questions, decide what important information you want to gather from each candidate. Consider asking open-ended questions, such as, Can you give me an example in your previous employment when you were required to (name a specific task related to the position)? Follow-up questions also are helpful, such as, How did you react or handle the situation? Pursue information that helps you discern how the candidate would perform in your work environment.

Don’t rely only on first impressions or on how you personally feel about the candidate. An individual may be a great conversationalist but a poor organizer or a pushover as a superintendent. Ask questions that require the candidate to relate real-life experiences. For example, you could ask, Can you give me an example of a time when you were required to hold the line with a trade contractor, and describe how you handled the situation?

Asking job candidates to relate actual experiences from previous employment situations generally yields better results than asking how they would respond to hypothetical situations. When relating actual experiences, candidates find it harder to guess what the interviewer is seeking. They must instead think of situations and relate what actually happened.

Other useful questions to ask include, What is your greatest weakness? If you were hiring you for this position, what would be your greatest concern? What is your greatest strength? or What do you have to offer in this position that no one else does? You might also ask why the candidate is considering a change in employment or why the person is interested in the position at your company.

Speak less and listen more. Inexperienced interviewers typically ask whatever question comes to mind and often spend more time talking than listening. After the interview they wish they had asked different or additional important questions. Research on interviewing techniques indicates that the most successful interviewers talk relatively little. An effective interviewer listens at least two-thirds of the time. Focus on asking open-ended (not yes or no) questions, and look for leadership, initiative, and competencies the interviewees exhibit in their answers. Following are examples of open-ended questions:

Describe your ideal position. What makes it ideal?

Describe your leadership philosophy and style.

What were high points during your college years?

What books have you read lately? Why did you select them?

Take notes. Immediately after the interview, take time to jot down your reactions, even if you are conducting back-to-back interviews. The notes you jot down about your impressions may be the most accurate information you will have. Do not take any more notes during the interview than are absolutely necessary. Excessive note taking may put the candidates on the defensive and, therefore, not provide you with an accurate picture of them. Even strong candidates can become preoccupied worrying about what they said or did wrong and wondering how they are doing.

Consider using a personality or job compatibility profile. Many companies have found personality profiles and job compatibility profiles to be valuable screening tools. They can accurately pinpoint the personality characteristics of a candidate. For example, if you need a superintendent who is organized and can work well under pressure without becoming frazzled, a personality profile can help you identify people who have strong skills in handling stressful situations.

Personality and job compatibility profiles also provide a great deal of information that can be discussed in a second interview. You can simply ask the candidate to confirm whether or how the outstanding characteristics indicated by the profile match the candidate’s self-perceptions.

Check references. You are likely to obtain the best information about a candidate from people who know them well. It is amazing how many people skip the important step of checking references, even though former employers can be excellent sources of information. The candidate will often supply a list of references. Expect these references to provide glowing remarks about the candidate. Ask such references hard and direct questions, and ask them for the names of other people who know the candidate well. Alternatively, ask for the names of two people who worked with the candidate at the last place of employment listed in their application.

In today’s legal environment many people are reluctant to answer questions about job candidates. If you wish to obtain information beyond verification of salary or dates of employment, you must patiently and tactfully work to develop trust with a reference before asking any tough questions. Reassure the reference that the information received will be held in strictest confidence. To glean salary information, you can ask a reference how much the company normally pays superintendents and follow up by asking whether the candidate merited that level of compensation or more or less.

Conduct several interviews. Don’t settle for just one candidate or one interview, and above all, don’t make an offer at the first interview. Instead, interview each candidate several times in a variety of settings. If your first interviews were held on a college campus at a job fair or a recruiting day, bring the promising candidates to your operation for second interviews. Let them see the work environment and be sure to allow time for them to ask, as well as answer, questions. Their questions can be as revealing as their answers and should offer clues to the type of job, company, and work environment that will be a good fit for them. It is just as important for the candidate to feel good about you and your company as it is for you to find the right person for the job.

Spend some time showing the candidate your operation. Explain how the position fits into your company. Introduce the candidate to the key players, especially those he or she would likely interact with most frequently. If possible, give the candidate time alone with those key players. After the interview, ask these employees for their impressions of the candidate. If the immediate supervisor is not doing the hiring directly, ensure that the supervisor has the opportunity for an in-depth interview of the candidate. Several people can be involved in the interview process. For example, the immediate supervisor can conduct the initial interview. Then, another superintendent or production manager could take the candidate on a tour of the company or on a jobsite visit and conduct an interview. Upper management could then conduct the final interview, perhaps in conjunction with the immediate supervisor. All three people can then compare notes.

The key is to spend as much time as possible with the candidate in as many settings as possible before making an offer. Remember, this person will have a lasting impact on your company’s bottom line. You may want to involve two or more staff in follow-up interviews.

Re-rank the candidates. After the follow-up interviews, rank the candidates. Review your most important needs, and compare each candidate’s abilities with the requirements. Note the strengths and weaknesses of each. Discuss the candidates with

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