How Drywall Can Control Sound

Drywall, also known as sheet rock or plasterboard, is used to create the walls of a commercial building. Made of calcium sulfate dihydrate (gypsum) plaster that’s sandwiched between layers of paper, it’s attached to the building’s frame studs to form interior walls. In addition to creating partitioned spaces, however, drywall has a secondary application that often goes unnoticed: sound control.

The Basics of Acoustics

Acoustics refers to the properties of a building or space that influence the way in which sound is transmitted. When a building has poor acoustics, sound vibrations can travel through walls, ceilings and floors more freely, thus creating a distracting environment for occupants.

Acoustics is important for several reasons. Statistics show, for instance, that reducing noise levels in an office increases worker productivity by roughly 20 percent and worker satisfaction by 140 percent. Furthermore, prolonged exposure to noise level of 85 decibels (dBA) or louder can lead to hearing loss.

Drywall and Acoustics

Drywall controls sound by acting as a barrier that interrupts sound vibrations, weakening the strength of the vibrations as they travel through the building. Without drywall, there’s nothing to stop sound vibrations from traveling from one room to an adjacent room other than frame studs and insulation.

Construction companies and contractors can improve the sound-controlling properties of drywall by using multiple layers of panels. Rather than installing a single drywall panel, two panels can be glued together to form of a thicker wall. Choosing thicker drywall, such as 1/2 inch as opposed to 3/8 inch, may also dampen sound vibrations.

Sound-Controlling Drywall

While standard drywall does a pretty good job at controlling sound, there are certain types that offer stronger sound-dampening properties. QuietRock, for example, features multiple layers of gypsum mixed with sound-absorbing polymers. Originally developed in 2003, it’s become one of the industry’s most popular drywall products for soundproofing applications. There’s also Soundbreak XP, which is a cheaper type of sound-controlling drywall. Soundbreak XP has a lower Sound Transmission Class (STC) than its QuietRock counterpart, but it’s also lighter and easier to handle.

Other Ways to Control Sound

Of course, there are other steps construction companies can take to control sound. According to the Gypsum Association, steel framing studs are more effective at reducing the transmission of sound than wood studs in commercial construction projects. This is because steel studs are less rigid than wood studs, so they inhibit a greater amount of sound. Insulation can weaken sound vibrations as well. The Gypsum Association recommends adding insulation in the open space behind the drywall.

As a commercial installer, UBS is a leader in metal stud framing. Contact us for a quote on your next office building, high rise or apartment complex. 303.466.7200.

How Drones Are Being Used in the Construction Industry

Often viewed as nothing more than a recreational toy, drones have a variety of commercial applications. According to a recent report by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the number of commercial drones in the skies will increase from 110,000 to 450,000 by 2022. While drones are used in a variety of commercial sectors, they’ve become increasingly popular in the construction industry.

Surveying

One of the ways in which construction companies use drones is to survey buildings and the surrounding the landscape. Equipped with cameras, GPS and rangefinder measurement tools, they provide a detailed bird’s-eye perspective of the surrounding environment. Rather than sending a worker to the top of a high-rise building via scaffolding, for instance, construction companies can pilot a drone. It’s a fast, efficient and cost-effective way to survey a building or landscape.

Report Progress

Construction companies use drones to report progress to their clients or stakeholders. Known as a progress report or status report, it provides detailed insight into the project’s completion. A core element of a monthly construction project report is photos, which reveal the exact stage of the project. Drones simplify the process of creating progress reports by allowing construction companies to take high-resolution photos of their building or project without the need for human workers on the ground.

Thermal Imaging

At minimum, most drones used in the construction industry are equipped with a camera that can take pictures and record video. Some, however, are equipped with thermal imaging scanners that identify hot and cold spots on the construction project. If a section of the building has a cold spot, it could indicate insufficient insulation. On the other hand, a hot spot could indicate an electrical problem. Either way, drones equipped with thermal imaging scanners can help construction companies identify thermal nuances with their project.

Inspections

Inspections are an important part of a commercial construction project. Designing blueprints with the correct specifications is only half the battle; the other half is ensuring that the construction project adheres to these specifications and complies with all local, state and federal codes. Drones are an invaluable tool for this purpose, as they allow construction companies to easily inspect hard-to-reach areas like the roof of a high-rise building.

The Future for Construction Drones

So, what’s next for the future of drones in the construction industry? It’s safe to assume that construction companies will continue to use UAVs for the purposes previously mentioned. As the technology improves, however, we’ll probably see other applications emerge, such as transporting and lifting equipment.

As a commercial installer, UBS is a leader in metal stud framing. Contact us for a quote on your next office building, high rise or apartment complex. 303.466.7200.

Steel vs Wood Stud Framing: Which Is Best?

Wall studs play an essential role in framing a home or building. Run from the ceiling to the floor and typically spaced 16 or 24 inches apart, they form the “skeleton” of the structure by holding together windows, doors, insulation, plumbing and utility wires and more. Once installed, the studs will create walls, which may or may not be load bearing, depending on the method of construction.

Studs are made of a variety of materials, including wood and steel. While both types serve the same fundamental purpose of creating the structure’s frame, there are some key differences distinguishing them from each other. So, how do steel and wood studs differ, and which one is best for commercial framing?

Popularity

In the past, wood was the preferred choice of material for framing studs. Now, however, there’s a growing focus on steel studs.  According to the Steel Framing Alliance (SFA), approximately 40 percent of commercial buildings are constructed with metal studs.

Longevity

Because they are made of organic material, wood studs typically have a shorter lifespan than their steel counterparts. When moisture encroaches into the drywall, it will cause wood studs to rot. Over time, the decaying wood will jeopardize the structural integrity of the building, prompting the owner to replace the damaged studs. Steel studs, on the other hand, last longer since they are immune to rotting and decay. They can still rust if not properly insulated, but steel studs almost always outlive wood studs.

Weight

Contrary to what some people may believe, steel studs weigh less than wood studs. Steel studs weigh 10 percent to 20 percent less than wood studs of the same size. As a result, they are easier to transport, manipulate and install.

Strength and Stability

Not surprisingly, steel studs are stronger and more stable than wood studs. Even if it doesn’t rot, wood studs are susceptible to contraction, expansion and warpage from humidity. These effects can make a structure less stable, especially during storms or strong winds.

Termites

Wood studs – like all wooden building materials – are susceptible to termite damage. According to Orkin, termites cause $30 billion in damage to man-made structures every year in the United States. Termites feast on the cellulose of wood, making steel a safe choice of framing material.

Pricing

You can expect to pay slightly more for steel studs than wood, but the difference is quite small. While prices vary depending on vendor, quality and other factors, steel studs cost about 3 percent to 15 percent more than wood.

Steel studs offer several key advantages over wood, including protection from decay, termites, a lighter weight, increased strength and more. As a commercial installer, UBS is a leader in metal stud framing. Contact us for a quote on your next office building, high rise or apartment complex. 303.466.7200.

What to Look for in a Drywall Contractor Estimate

Contractor estimates can be overwhelming and intimidating with their complexity, detail, and sheer volume of numbers. Nonetheless, it is critical to understand how to accurately read and evaluate these contractor estimates in order to make the right selection.

Every contractor estimate, also known as a bid, is intended to display the sum of all expected costs for a project. However, each company may use a different format due to the many software applications available for creating these estimates. When reviewing bids, you should compare how material costs, crew and labor expenses, and profit margin add up to the total cost for each provider. Understanding these elements allows you to more accurately compare different contractors, as well as identifying if a bid is structured in a manner that risks quality.

QUANTITY OF MATERIAL USED AND INDIVIDUAL COST PER UNIT

Some of the most important things to be aware of are the amount of materials needed to complete the job and the individual cost per unit of material. Each type of material used in the project should be individually listed, with an individual cost per unit. In evaluating these costs, a general contractor will often add in an acceptable percentage variance, as raw material prices fluctuate based on supply and demand.

NUMBER OF CREW MEMBERS, HOURLY WAGE, AND DURATION OF PROJECT

Of course, materials used and material costs are immensely important in a contractor estimate, but the number of employees working on the job, their hourly wage, and the hours they are expecting to be on site must also be clearly expressed. It’s important to carefully review each contractor’s estimate of how long the project will take, along with how many crew members will be working on that project and their hourly wage. A complex job with numerous subcontractors and trades on site requires significantly more project management to keep the project on track. It is all too common to see an inexperienced subcontractor provide a bid that doesn’t take into account the scope or intricacies of a big project.

CONTRACTOR PROFIT MARGIN

Another item to look for in your contractor estimate is the company profit margin or markup. This is the cost of the company providing their service and managing an effective process to project completion.

Once all the above components have been individually identified including the volume of materials used, cost per unit of material, number of workers working on the project, hourly wages, the number of hours they’ll be working on the project, and finally the profit margin for the subcontractor, then the total project costs should be clearly indicated. While it is natural to focus on this final number, it is only by analyzing the individual bid components that you can accurately compare what each contractor is offering as their service.

United Builders Service is a leader in framing, drywall, acoustic ceilings and project management. We would be happy to provide a contractor estimate, or to help you analyze and compare estimates that you have already received.  Call us at 303.466.7200 to request a quote.

What Acoustic Ceiling Tile Options Are Available?

Suspended ceilings are common in both commercial and residential construction. Designed to minimize acoustic pollution and increase the aesthetics of the space, drop down ceilings can be both functional and visually appealing.  There are multiple types of tile available, each of which has its own pros and cons.

MINERAL FIBER TILES

Mineral fiber ceiling tiles are the most common type of ceiling tile.  Made of interwoven fibers, they are one of the least expensive materials available, often as low as 2 or 3 dollars per tile. Easy to obtain and easy to configure, mineral fiber tiles provide an accessible and straightforward installation process.
The biggest risk in using mineral fiber tiles is that they can easily break, and the results can be messy.  The debris can wind up everywhere, making it difficult to clean. Additionally, these ceiling tiles can be difficult to handle if there is a need to access the space above the tiles.

PLASTIC CEILING TILES

Plastic tiles have become more popular in recent years, in part because of their ease of use. They aren’t bulky or dusty, meaning that installation and maintenance are easier and less messy.  Because they are made of plastic, they tend to be lighter than other materials, making the wiring and piping above the drop ceiling grid more accessible. Additionally, there is no mineral fiber residue to deal with if the tiles ever need to be exchanged. Customization is also easier, as the tiles come in different colors and patterns.

Plastic tiles are more expensive and aren’t usually found at local home renovation stores. Tiles will need to be ordered for initial design and whenever replacements are needed, which can increase the cost of the job and ongoing maintenance.

METAL CEILING TILES

Metal tiles are manufactured to fit the room, so there is no need to cut the tiles further during installation. Because metal tiles are custom cut for each room during their construction, there are more design possibilities.  However, this means that the design and manufacturing process will typically require more time than other ceiling tile options.

The biggest drawback of metal tiles is the custom manufacturing process, which can make them more expensive than other material options.  Costs can range from $2 to $17 per tile. Metal tiles can also have a negative impact on the acoustics of a room, providing more opportunity for reverberation and echo.

COMPOSITE MATERIAL

Composite tiles can be cheaper than metal tiles and are the best at reducing noise pollution, which makes them ideal for areas that need higher levels of privacy, such law offices or medical centers. Additionally, they are more common than plastic, wood, or metal tiles, allowing for easier repairs and replacement. Composite tiles are made of a combination of mineral fibers and more supportive material like concrete, which means that they are less likely to break than mineral fiber tiles.

Composite tiles may not be as readily available as mineral fiber, which means they may need to be pre-ordered before a job starts.  This also might require that additional tiles are stored on site for maintenance and replacement purposes.

WOOD PANEL

Wood panels are yet another option. Each tile is individually cut, allowing a unique design for each space. Their acoustic capabilities are also better than metal, with less reverberation of sound.  As a result, they can create a unique look without increasing acoustic pollution.

Wood panels can be just as expensive as metal tiles, making them one of the costlier options on the market. The material can be hard to work with, and if they break it can be difficult to replace them, adding to material and maintenance costs.

OUR TEAM IS HERE TO HELP

Each type of panel has its own benefits and challenges. As a result, deciding which type of ceiling tile to use in your construction or rehab project can be a complicated process. We work with you and your designers to find the solution that will best match your project needs and budget. To find out more about our drop down and acoustic ceiling tiles contact us at 303.466.7200.

How Construction Management Supports Project Success

Project management is a key driver of success in any large scale construction project. With multiple builders and subcontractors on each project, it comes down to the project managers (PMs) to establish, track and adjust everything from resource staging and delivery to labor hours and oversight.  The ideal scenario is one where all tasks have been identified, ordered, budgeted, staffed and supplied, and where professional project managers effectively track and coordinate work.

PROJECT TIMELINE

The PM’s primary responsibility is to establish a comprehensive timeline called a “critical path.” Each step of the construction timeline is included on the critical path. This includes staffing, delivery of supplies, the start of construction, and supply restocking during construction. Costs are then allocated to each resource and span of time.

Milestones are markers that are used to delineate separate phases within a project.  In order for a milestone to be reached, all tasks in the prior phase must be completed. In this manner, milestones segment complex projects, creating a management structure for schedules and resource allocation.

Many United Builders Service projects are built in high traffic metro areas, which means that supplies and resources require tight timeline management and just-in-time delivery to keep work on schedule.

UNEXPECTED PROJECT CHANGES

Managing expectations and changes is another crucial role of a project manager. PMs notify the client of any changes, why the change is needed, and what type of impact the change may have on the critical path. If the client requests a change, PMs review the project to determine what it will mean for milestones, staffing, resources, the overall timeline, and most importantly, cost. The primary tool PMs use to track changes is a change order. The responsible parties sign the form to document the change and to affirm responsibility for change approvals.  Electronic change forms are the best means of tracking change requests throughout a project because they are digitally saved and are easy to relocate for reference.

CREW AND LABOR ALLOCATION

Because of the cyclical nature of the construction industry, many construction firms overbook their crews and then bring on subcontractors to complete jobs. When booking jobs without a comprehensive project management structure, employees end up rushing from project to project trying to get everything done.  In the end, this approach makes it all too likely that some projects will fall behind schedule.

While it’s great to be ambitious about your goals, subcontractors and smaller firms can easily overestimate their capacity. PMs that understand their crew’s capabilities will play a critical role in keeping projects on track. Construction project management software can also be used to track the productivity of your crews to determine whether labor management estimates are accurate given the crew’s skills and abilities.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT FOR BUDGETING

It is vital that project managers have access to accurate and complete job costing analyses, along with real-time updates of expenses to gauge project success. Well-maintained job costing software is your firm’s best tool to accurately estimate project costs.

Proactive project management minimizes company risk and provides both a macro overview and a detail deep dive into construction timelines and efficiencies. Quality project management relies on clear, open, and honest communication with clients, general contractors, and subcontractors to effectively track project progress. Through comprehensive project management, companies can keep track of important metrics that will help a project avoid falling behind schedule or running over budget.

Contact United Builders Service for quality project management and estimating by calling us at 303 – 466 – 7200.