What exactly is “Hand-Craftsmanship”? In the stair and rail business, I say it is exhibited by expert level finish carpentry, limited use of fillers, close tolerance accuracy, careful detailing of ALL elements, specialized cutting, fitting and joinery and intimate knowledge of the building code. A slight sense of style doesn't hurt! Is this seen on every stair job? Sadly no. Why? It may be because there is a sharper focus on speed and profit than on good quality and zero callbacks. High level quality IS the expectation of nearly every customer I have ever dealt with regarding stair work. They understand that the parts are expensive and complex and that it takes specialized skills to get it all done right. They are willing to pay what it costs for the excellent, code-worthy product they are expecting. The thing is, high level quality with zero callbacks are achievable on a production basis. How? A closer attention to detail than on the clock or even the bottom line.
So exactly what is considered productive? The job must be produced in as short a time as possible AND the customer MUST be satisfied with the result. Period. I call this the real world! In the real world, a craftsman needs to find the balance between production and quality. Yes, there is a level of stair work where money literally is no object. This is NOT the world where I consistently do business. It does come up but only very rarely. Who is my average client? Executives, schoolteachers, accountants, truck drivers, law enforcement, business owners, lawyers; People from every walk of life where there IS definitely a budget along with the expectation of very high, long lasting quality.
The question to ask any stair company is what kind of stair do they build. They will look at you a little funny so you may need to explain further. Expert stair-work is built on a 30-50-year basis. Much like a fine kitchen or even a custom home. Most stair people have no idea what kind of stair they are producing. It is just expected that the stair will last that long. Not all stairs will. I have replaced many stairs in homes that didn’t make it 10 years.
You need to intentionally set out to build something that is expected to last upwards of 50 years. I have torn out and rebuilt many a staircase in an existing home for many a homeowner but I have NEVER done it twice for the same homeowners in the same home! In fact, stair-work is terrible for repeat business! I do get my share of referral business, however, generally speaking, I will do one staircase for someone and will probably never see them professionally again!
So, back to this concept of productive hand-craftsmanship. How is it possible to produce a beautiful product that, under heavy use, will last for decades? I accomplish it by following a process that starts with a careful, accurate jobsite measure followed by an equally careful and accurate quote. Then I carefully and accurately (OK there is a theme here) order the necessary components.
Once work commences, and this is where the rubber meets the road, I am organized and prepared. I group all my processes and I do not move on to a different task until I have completed the one I started. This forms a trail of thorough, complete work behind me as I move along. I never go up and down or in or out empty handed. This takes practice, experience, discipline, planning, organization, preparedness, commitment, a good attitude and being “in the moment” at all times. The sense of accomplishment is almost beyond words. What keeps me going is that I find this all fun AND a tremendous challenge. Plus, I admit that I thrive on compliments and satisfied customers when the work is completed.
Thank you so very much! Next, we will explore the actual process of a new stair either in your home as a remodeling application or as new construction. The timeline. See you soon… Nickg