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I sometimes manage construction projects and one of the big ongoing problems is how to deal with a mistake by a contractor or subcontractor.

For example, in one case I had a piece of equipment installed and after having some issues with it, I read the installation manual and the manufacturer recommended 1" diameter pipe be fitted to two of the outlets and on inspecting it I find it has 3/4" pipe fitted. This was not necessarily causing the problem, but nevertheless the installation deviated from the instructions. When the guy came to redo it, he said, "I have installed 3/4" on a lot of these and never had a problem."

In the example above the contractor was nice enough to redo the piping at no charge, but in some cases things can get difficult. If I ask a contractor to redo work that costs thousands of dollars for free because of a mistake, it can cause a lot of grief, especially if the contractor thinks the mistake is not serious or would cause him to suffer financially. In one case, a serious error was made that was not really the contractor's fault because a supplier gave him the wrong stuff and he was facing a $5000 loss, so he asked me "Can you live with it?" Even if a contractor makes an error, nobody likes to clean up their own poop, so it can create bad feelings that can affect future work.

Is there a strategy for dealing with this kind of problem?

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    Did you make it clear to the contractors that they were to follow things like the installation manual explicitly and to the letter? Did you make sure they had those instructions? From what I'm hearing so far, a fair bit of this seems pretty normal behavior on their part. If you're particularly strict in your requirements, that's okay, but you need to make it clear, and it might mean that the price goes up. – Ben Barden Mar 18 '19 at 21:31
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    This isn't really a workplace question, it's a business question. The key word in contractor is contract. Make sure you have provisions that say they have to fix what they screw up. – Blrfl Mar 18 '19 at 21:31
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A manufacturer recommendation is not a requirement.

Presumably if there is not a specific requirement in the contract, then the requirement would be that it passes inspection from whatever government entity has jurisdiction.

This was NOT a contractor screw-up. It wasn't even a screw-up.

If you have requirements, then you need to document your additional requirements when asking for quotes for the job.

Your contractor gave you a huge gift. Don't believe it was anything other than a gift, and you need to swallow your pride and admit that what you did was wrong. You might even want to apologize to the contractor. In fact, you need to apologize.

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    Great answer. The requirement may read "Manufacturer recommendations must be followed", but expect the contractor this new requirement into the contract price – Gregory Currie Mar 19 '19 at 0:59
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Even if a contractor makes an error, nobody likes to clean up their own poop, so it can create bad feelings that can affect future work.

Sorry if this sounds too blunt, but this is business in a professional level, and everyone should be accountable for the mistakes they make.

If a contractor screws up that will surely affect you and the rest of the people involved, so the least the contractor can do is to fix their mistake and deliver what was stated and promised.

In the example above the contractor was nice enough to redo the piping at no charge, but in some cases things can get difficult.

This is no "favor" or "nice enough": it is the minimum they should make if they screwed up by assuming something and deviating form the specifications and your indications.

If someone screws up they should be accountable for it, just as people would expect from you if you were the one screwing things (I doubt that if you were the one that made a $5k mistake the contractor would accept a "Can you live with it?")

Is there a strategy for dealing with this kind of problem?

These problems have to be addressed at a managerial and PM level. When establishing the contract, you have to be crystal clear of the requirements and specifications, and stress that they should be followed up to the letter.

If you want to be more thorough, you can specify in the contract how will mistakes will be handled and any penalties or compensations involved. This will also make the contractors be more careful with what they deliver (otherwise they may try to take advantage of you, like it has been in the cases you depicted).

Periodic checks to the work done by contractors (and suppliers) also helps validate things are being done correctly and avoid surprises at the end.

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