Workmanlike Manner – Defined

by Andy Bozeman

Every construction contract I’ve ever seen has contained a phrase like this : “All work shall be completed in a workmanlike manner.”

The problem with this phrase is that no one really knows how to interpret it. To the customer it means everything should be perfect or nearly perfect. To the contractor it refers only to his workmanlike efforts to control a project, no matter how it turns out.

But the word workmanlike? What does it mean? If a contractor gave explicit, correct instructions to his workers, but they messed up the job anyway, did he perform with workmanlike diligence, and they didn’t? Was he workmanlike simply because he gave instructions. Or, was he not workmanlike because the final, delivered result was a failure.

There’s too much objectivity allowing for too much disparity between the understanding of different people as to the meaning of “workmanlike.” Whether for good or bad, the word is too often equated with effort rather than results.

So here it is plain and simple. Every construction project should be delivered in this state :

  • Alignment of parts as planned
  • Sturdy,
  • Square,
  • Level,
  • Without Holes, unless intended.

Workmanlike equals aligned, sturdy, square, level, and without holes. Various parts should be properly aligned, such as columns with beams above and floor edges below; and counter-top edges on opposite sides of appliances. The structure should be strong. The corners in every direction should be square. The floors, ceilings, counters, and tops of openings should be level. The finished surfaces, whether interior or exterior, should be free of holes and blemishes.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s an opinion of a customer, a contractor, a subcontractor, or an inspector. All that matters is the results of using a carpenter’s square – it’s either square or not; a leveling tool – it’s either level or not; and a visual inspection for holes that either belong or not.

So, the next time you need a construction contract, change the phrase “….shall be completed in a workmanlike manner,” to “shall be delivered sturdy, square, level, and without holes.”

You can’t go wrong.