How to Minimize Risk and Liability in Architectural Woodwork

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Even the smallest architectural woodworking project can take significant time and money to execute. While it can be tempting to cut corners in specified materials or compliance, any defects found in the final product can be grounds for litigation. As well as being difficult and time-consuming, this outcome all but guarantees immense frustration and dissatisfaction from those involved.

Since legal action and accusations of poor practice can be a death sentence for an architect’s reputation, it’s important to minimize risk and liability in architectural woodworking. The best way to protect yourself and your client is to contract a talented and reputable interior architectural woodworking firm right from the start.

Examine the evidence for quality architectural woodworking

When reviewing potential woodworking contractors, visit the website of each one to look for an online portfolio. Some might have a section dedicated to past projects, while others might feature their products in case studies, image galleries, or news updates. When evaluating the quality of their products, be sure to keep an eye out for any previous experience that matches your current project.

As you conduct your research, keep note of any firms you think would be a good pick. Remember that not all of these will be available or willing to contract with you, so it helps to have a few options.

Ensure the firm is financially stable

Having your chosen woodworking firm collapse midway through a project would undoubtedly be catastrophic. And with no contractors left to hold responsible, the blame would most likely fall on your shoulders.

Before accepting a woodworker’s bid, look for evidence of consistent projects to confirm that they have a stable income. You might also investigate how many employees they have and what types of assets they possess, as the ability to manage these expenses is a good sign of financial security.

But remember: this doesn’t mean you should avoid smaller companies simply because they have lower profits. After all, a company with few overheads that receives a steady stream of work will be far more reliable than a large company that’s struggling to keep itself afloat.

Check their licenses and certifications

Being qualified as an architectural woodworker isn’t always enough. That’s because industry techniques, standards, and best practices are constantly changing. But when a firm holds additional licenses and certifications, it’s evidence of their up-to-date knowledge and passion for quality woodworking.

As well as asking about these accolades, be sure to check that they’re in date. Many only remain valid for a year or two, so if they’re expired, take the time to question why they haven’t been renewed. This might indicate an unfavorable change of management that doesn’t reflect positive reviews from several years prior.

Not all licenses and certifications hold the same value or strict requirements. So, when looking at a firm’s credentials, always look for a trusted and highly respected name like QCP.

What is QCP?

The Architectural Woodwork Institute’s Quality Certification Program (AWI-QCP) allows interior architectural woodworking firms to qualify for one of 35 unique licenses. To earn a license, firms must demonstrate a thorough knowledge of AWI Standards and their superior woodworking talents. The qualification is endorsed by both the American Subcontractors Association (ASA) and the Construction Specification Institute, and is held in high regard throughout the construction industry.

How does a QCP license minimize risk and liability?

As part of the licensing process, architectural woodworking firms must:

  • Complete two detailed tests covering the latest editions of the AWI Standards and QCP Policies
  • Submit 10 trade references, including from design professionals, general contractors and project owners
  • Submit sample shop drawings that conform to the AWI Standards or Architectural Woodwork Standards and build product samples that are fully conforming to the standards. 
  • Allow a QCP representative to visit and inspect two projects completed in the past two years along with review of samples built to the AWI standards.

Passing these rigorous tests and checks is objective proof that a firm possesses the knowledge and skills to produce compliant woodwork of exceptional quality. Similarly, the drive to earn a license in the first place shows their commitment to excellent woodwork. This combination of characteristics lays the groundwork for a reliable partnership with minimal risk.

Since QCP-licensed firms have extensive experience with AWI Standards, architects can also be sure that there’s a common language between stakeholders during the project. The ability to provide clear, definitive references for expectations avoids the risk of miscommunication, reducing the chances of flaws and errors in the final product. If these are present, the use of AWI Standards reduces the risk of liability, as the architect’s specifications indicate unambiguous and industry-approved requirements.

For any project that’s QCP-certified, a trained QCP representative may inspect the woodwork prior to installation to verify its compliance with AWI Standards and provide a report regarding conformance or nonconformance of products . For nonconforming products, the woodworker must either make corrections or seek acceptance without correction from the architect or owner. This third-party confirmation provides an unbiased assurance of quality that essentially eliminates risk for the architect.

Find a QCP-licensed architectural woodworking firm

To find a QCP licensed firm, enter your geographical information into our quick search tool, and in seconds we’ll match you with quality QCP-licensed architectural woodworking firms in your local area.