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How Can an Installer Design a Home?
By George Porter
If you are in the business of installing homes you have probably
have found yourself mumbling and grumbling about the various methods
factories tell you to use to put these things together. Such as:
1. The water line crossover, do the holes ever line up? No.
2. Do the roof and interior marriage wall ever close up tightly
and touch at the same time? Rarely.
3. What sort of guarantee against leakage, would you the installer,
put on in-floor crossover ducts that you have tried to gasket
at the marriage wall? Right, probably right up until when the
furnace or A/C came on for the first time
4. If you could invent a way to join the two halves what would
it be? Bolts? Metal straps? Lag screws?. Velcro?
5. How long does it take you to strip the plastic off a home marriage
wall? There must be a better way, right?
Well, these and any other gripes you may have, need to be known
by the folks that can change things. The installers of this industry
have answers to all these problems and many other good ideas as
well. The catch is, when was the last time a factory hired you
to advise them on these problems? Some factories will do this
but most will not. You need some leverage for the 97% of the manufacturers
that see this as your problem, not theirs.
Let's think about this for a minute. What could you do that
would encourage dealers and factories to make your job more efficient.
What single force would be the most compelling argument for improving
the quality and ease of the home installation business? Well of
course it's money!! This is the one area that installers have
ignored too much. Everyone charges a flat rate for installing
a home. It is usually based on how big or high the home is and
what sort of foundation it has. I have never heard of an installation
company charging differently for certain homes because they are
more trouble to put together.
Have you ever spent three or more hours clawing the plastic
off a marriage wall and pulling staples? Have you ever cracked
the drywall while you were at it? If a factory had a way to bring
this time down to about 2 hour would you give a little discount
for that? It can be done and it has been done. I know of a factory
that uses double headed nails to put the strips on the plastic.
They bought a special nail gun just for this and it is great!
The nail heads stick up and all you have to do is hook a hammer
on them and pull, it's beautiful. If you are saying right now,
"Boy, I sure wish my factory would do that!" then you
need to put some pressure on them. Wishing alone will not get
it done. Nobody cares how hard and long you work if it doesn't
cost them extra money.
Tired of fighting water crossovers? Another company actually
uses an extra piece of lumber under the marriage wall at the crossover
opening so they can make the connection opening in the side of
the floor about three inches by eight inches. They also use zippers
in the belly board so all you have to do is unzip both sides,
pull down the insulation, fasten the lines through the big opening,
stuff the insulation back and zip it up. How easy is that? Don't
you think something like this needs to be rewarded?
Another company has created a sort of hybrid crossover duct.
The problem with in floor connections are it is almost impossible
to be sure you really have an air tight fit of the gasket around
the opening. Moving and adjusting the alignment of the two halves
of the home can easily "smear" the gasket around the
duct opening and away goes the heat or air. (See Sept. JOURNAL
article, page 54). On the other hand, those long fat hoses loose
a lot of heat to the crawlspace because they are not as well insulated
as the floor ducts, but, they are easier to guarantee a tight
fit at the connections. This company combined the best of both
with in floor ducts right up to the marriage line and very short
small hose connections in about four places between the halves.
These little insulated hoses are about 16 inches long and are
easy to hook up. This one will not save you much time at set-up
but it will nearly eliminate call-backs and that costs somebody
If you think what you are reading here is that you should cut
your prices to encourage factories to do the right thing then
you haven't been reading this right. I didn't say give all the
If you really do spend two hours stripping a home and you can
get a home that you know two guys can always do it in thirty minutes
or less and there will be no walls to fix later then you need
to do a little math. Two guys times 2 hours equals what? What
is the extra 1-2 hours worth to you? Lets say it's the difference
between coming back tomorrow morning or going to another new job
with a full day to do it in. What is your time worth for that
extra 1-2 hours? Would you split the savings with the dealer?
If you tell dealers that if they can get the factory to do this
to their homes they will save forty bucks or so on each home...
trust me, it will happen, fast. Please note that if you split
the savings with the dealer then you also are saving (making)
$40. Put together several of these timesaving items and you might
be talking about some real change. (Pun intended)
On the other hand if the idea of giving a discount for this
stuff doesn't appeal to you, then maybe you might want to charge
extra for homes that are more trouble to install. They do take
more of your time and energy don't they? I will guarantee you
this will be a much harder sell but maybe you can get it to work.
There will of course be many who will do nothing and continue
to grumble about how unfair life is to them. They will trudge
on, working longer for less with no good tools or reliable help
because they can't afford either, until they can't stand it anymore
and quit. If you don't take care of your installation business
then who do you think is going to? "No plan" usually
means "no future" and creating business relationships
where both sides benefit is definitely a plan with a bright future.