Todd Hallett, AIA, President of TK Design & Associates, Inc. ( has been designing award winning homes for over 20 years. He spent 15 of those years working for a $50 million production building company. Todd designed all of their homes but also worked in every other aspect of the company including purchasing, development, land acquisition, product development, and operations, and was President of the company for three years. Equipped with his vast building experience and fueled by his love for architecture he left to form an architecture firm that is second to none in working cohesively with Builders. Todd specializes in Lean Design and works, alongside Scott Sedam of TrueNorth Development, in the trenches with builders, suppliers, and trade contractors. His Lean Design blog appears weekly at Todd welcomes your feedback at or 248.446.1960.

The Lean Design Blog: Bad details cost you more than you think

November 15, 2011

Have you ever looked at a detail on a plan and scratched your head wondering how that was going to work? Sometimes the details that show up on plans leave us all wondering what the architect was thinking? I have talked to countless trades that have had to deal with details that "look good on paper but do not work in the field". Why is this happening?

A few months back I was involved in a Lean Plan Workout with an excellent builder on the West coast. As I met with Joe, their incredibly experienced and competent carpenter, he explained to me the work required to build what he called a Tuscan Tail on several of the homes. I was blown away! Here are some of the things he said:

  1. In order to build this detail they have to cut off the existing truss tails.
  2. Then they cut new rounded tails (give that a try in the field sometime).
  3. Once all the replacement tails are cut then they have to glue them together.
  4. Finally they install the new tails.

This detail does not work. It is far too difficult to build in the field and honestly the house looks better without them. This difficult detail ends up looking very cobbled together once it is put in place. Worse yet, Joe said that he absolutely knew that the tails would not hold together over time.

If you hear grumblings in the field about difficult details - pay attention. They are likely costing you big money and may not be providing value to your customer. What were the Tuscan Tails costing this company? Somewhere in the neighborhood of $7200 per year on the few houses that had this detail. That expense however is dwarfed by the potential cost of massive warranty exposure.

Details should not only look good on paper but they should look good in the field and actually work. Most of all, the details on a home should improve the look of the neighborhood, be relevant and in keeping with the style, and provide value to your customer.

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