Characteristics of a First-Rate Installer

Experienced pros discuss what qualifies an individual to be called an A-triple-plus installer. October 22, 2005

What are the characteristics that make an A+++ installer?

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor A:
Some items would be his ability to change the way he's always done things on the job, to be able to adapt to new tools and techniques to improve quality. Also, his ability to think 3-4 steps ahead of a process, and recognize the potential consequences involved. The prime factor is that he should be a highly skilled wood finisher. It is important to have the ability to touch-up and repair the inevitable mistakes that happen.

From contributor B:
To be A+++ in my book means that you have top notch technical skills and excellent customer service abilities. Most installers are the last step in a fairly complicated process and represent the cabinetmaker or company to the client. Whether the client is a homeowner or a commercial contractor, the A+++ guy goes out of his way to make sure the customer is satisfied with the product. That means he is articulate, honest, responsible, polite, presentable, etc. I have seen nightmare projects resolved because of the installerís ability to create and maintain a good relationship with the client. The technical side of installing is taught in the trade, but the customer service side is often neglected.

From contributor A:
To contributor B: I am not being disrespectful of your views but I disagree. I have seen top notch installers and woodworkers who have good skills and leadership, but they soon relax their work habits and become a cheerleader for their team, instead of working with their team. Often you will find them visiting with the customers and the general contractors! My point is that elevating their status and function to that point creates division among the crew, and they become an outside office person rather than the perfect installer.

From contributor C:
There are very few installers in this category. Those who have the skills to be successful installers will soon realize that they are really the contractor on most jobs, and they move on to that role eventually. I am phasing out the installation end of my business. I will only install now on jobs where I get the whole job. I'll use my own subs and there are no screw-ups. Cabinet shops can't afford to keep A+++ installers around. When they realize what they are worth, they are not around long.

From contributor D:
The key to being a great installer is to be able to complete a particular job and never have to go back.

From the original questioner:
Let me explain the reason Iím asking this question. Iím putting together a cabinet installation course for installers and the topic of one section is what makes a great installer or what sets him apart from other installers.

From contributor B:
To contributor A: The person you describe is not an A+++ guy. The person you described gets fired quickly in my part of the woods. The ability to deal with customers well and the inclination to slack off are two very separate qualities.

From contributor I
Being an A+++ man is the foundation to being an A+++ installer. The morals and ethics you apply to the rest of your life will manifest themselves in your work.

Three things are necessary to make a person successful in the trade, and I share this with all my employees: C.A.P. - Character, Ability, Productivity - and for the most part in that order.

From contributor E:
Now that character and manners and public relations have been covered, I will touch on what an installer needs to be able to do with his hands. He should be able to scribe items so they look like they grew there. He should be able to cope inside miters. He needs to have knowledge of and be able to use the correct fastener in the correct situation.

I think a good installer should know how to use and sharpen hand planes and chisels. On every installation, thereís a problem that I can solve with a block plane faster than someone can run to the truck for an extension cord and belt sander.

An A+++ Installer should be able to go to a job with 5 lengths of molding when only 4 are needed and come back with the extra piece 75 percent of the time. He should be able to understand the whole picture enough to think ahead to avoid mistakes.

He should be able to solve most problems that arise without having to call the shop. Also, he needs to know how to install without damaging the finish or the walls in the building, but he should be able to repair the finish if necessary.

From contributor A:
These are my observations of the traits of two installers whose work I respect immensely. They have:
A. The ability to think and work through a problem without losing control.
B. The ability to listen to others ideas and apply the best ones.
C. The ability to complete a job correctly even when short on time and material.
D. The ability to think outside the box.
E. The ability to care and take pride in their work.

From contributor F:
I'd also add the ability to listen. You can't solve a problem or answer a question if you don't understand the client's or general contractorís or shop's intent.

From contributor G:

Measure 3 times and cut once.

From contributor D:
One of the reasons that we don't see that many top-flight installers is the fact that many of them have done nothing else but install cabinets. Installers who were once carpenters or cabinetmakers have a lot of knowledge on dealing with the unusual daily situations. Some people call that experience.

From contributor I:
One definite characteristic of a good installer is having knowledge of the other aspects of construction that either directly or indirectly affect the installation.

From contributor H:
I think that an A+++ installer never makes a mistake, because he takes the problem at hand, repairs it and says nothing to anyone. Also the installer has to have heart. He has to love his work and have pride and production in mind.