Improved project outcomes through better woodworking specifications

In the White Point Lodge Dining Room (Queens County, N.S.), Rodney Enterprises Ltd., and Design360inc worked together to ensure the rustic pine décor added to the relaxed atmosphere of the beach and water views.
Photo courtesy Design360inc

Problems and solutions
When it comes to woodwork components for projects, many of the oft-encountered problems listed below can be solved simply by specifying the Architectural Woodwork Standards and AWMAC Guarantee and Inspection Service in the appropriate sections.

Conflicts between the specifier’s tender drawings and written specifications
Beyond specifying AWS and GIS in the appropriate sections, it is important to specify less and draw less (as little as possible, with the former). One should show only what the designer wants to see, not how to build the cabinets. In other words, it is important to show elevation and plan views, but sections are only for unique or unusual requirements. The AWS covers how to build a cabinet, so it does not make sense for the specifier to try to duplicate what has already been created. (However, variance from the standards must be shown.)

If the specifier provides a written summary of the required millwork scope, includes a list of material and hardware choices, and specifies GIS, he or she has provided all the information required to build quality cabinets. When the inspection service program has been specified, AWMAC also offers pre-tender review of the documents.

Bid submissions that do not include quality materials and workmanship
Specifying the GIS ensures the AWMAC member or non-member will have to build to AWS. It also makes certain even the lowest bid will have to provide a quality product and that the specifier will receive from the awarded subcontractor good shop drawings that clearly show the millwork construction, materials, and installation details.

Bid submissions that do not follow the specifier’s drawings and vision
Independent oversight greatly enhances the architect’s ability to get the product that they envisioned. AWMAC can lend impartial opinion to the specifier when the subcontractor brings up arguments centred on the alleged need to change the specified material or construction methods.

The Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) machine centre has started to dominate the manufacturing equipment in many modern woodworking shops.
Photo courtesy CNC Automation

Extra time, spent by the specifier and architect, answering unnecessary questions or justifying material choices and construction methods
It is tempting for many specifiers to throw in more detail drawings and specifications in an attempt to make sure the information is ‘clear.’ More often than not, that extra information serves to muddy things, rather than clarify. Relying on AWS for the millwork construction specifications and requesting AWMAC for a pre-tender review of the documents can ensure clarity (along with correctness, concision, and completeness).

Damage to millwork products caused by an unstable project site environment
calls for the site environment to be stable and within those standards’ established, reasonable ‘geographic’ parameters before millwork components are brought or installed onsite. To this author, it only makes good sense for the design professional to stand with the millworker (and AWMAC) if the site contractor should try to force delivery of millwork components before the site environment has been stabilized.

Multiple deficiency lists after project completion
The AWMAC inspections and reports reduce the installation practices that lead to deficiencies. The inspector identifies all construction-related deficiencies, leaving the architect to identify only the variances to their specific design and material requirements.

Getting a bond or guarantee for the project millwork
The GIS program provides a two-year guarantee for the millwork components providing the millwork has been built to AWS standards. This guarantee is backed up by the millworker, AWMAC Atlantic, and AWMAC Canada.

To reduce specifiers’ workload, improve specification and drawing quality, and ensure a smooth transition from drawings to installed product, it is important to call for the AWMAC Architectural Woodwork Standards and the Guarantee and Inspection Service in the construction documentation (and to take advantage of the latter’s pre-tender inspection of documents). It is also crucial to state early in the written specification the expectation nothing less than AWS-quality shop drawings will be accepted, and any extra ‘after-award’ costs associated with the bidder’s lack of knowledge of the standards’ requirements will not be entertained.

It is also critical to state the environmental stability of the project site be achieved by the general contractor before delivery or installation of millwork components will be approved by the architect’s office. From there, all that remains is to remember to specify less, draw less, and think about what to do with all the free time saved in streamlining the processes.

Drew Parks is the manager of Architectural Woodwork Manufacturers of Canada (AWMAC) Atlantic Association. He has been part of the millwork industry for more than 40 years, having worked as cabinetmaker, lead hand, production manager, project manager, general manager and owner, collaborating with architects and designers on many major projects. Parks can be contacted via e-mail at

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