The Custom Installer: Keep it Moving!

Having a new house built might be one of the most stressful endeavors you can go through. Practically every time you turn around, someone is there needing an answer to something - or waiting to deliver bad news. In fact, many people who go through the construction process swear to never do it again.

But a good builder can make some of the minor decisions, so you don't have to. And he can head off little bumps before they become full-bore crises. Likewise, a good custom installer will help make sure that the installation and integration of your new A/V system runs as smoothly as possible. To accomplish this, many installers have a dedicated project manager who is responsible for overseeing jobs and keeping the little wheels of progress turning. This person also serves as an excellent contact point for both the homeowner and the builder.

Project management for a custom installer really means communication, and lots of it. People often turn to an installer because they want turnkey systems, and successful custom-installation firms often have a "We'll take care of everything!" attitude. But making sure a project comes out right can be difficult and time-consuming, and it comes with a fee. Even a modest-sized home has so many trades involved that certain events need to be coordinated to make sure they're properly completed.

Here are some of the responsibilities a project manager takes on:

MEETING WITH THE BUILDER Sitting atop the construction pyramid is the builder, who is the person ultimately responsible for keeping the job on schedule and delivering the finished product. With everything the builder has to do, carving out time to tell the custom installer when the house is ready is usually low on his list - even lower if he's not used to working with a low-voltage contractor. This means that the project manager has to make repeated stops at the jobsite to make sure the project is on track. Is the slab poured? Has the framing been completed? Are the mechanicals roughed in? Has the home been insulated? Is the drywall up? Is the painting done? Has the carpet been laid? Have the floors been sanded? Has the cabinetry been installed? Have all the locks been installed? What's the move-in date?

MEETING WITH THE ELECTRICIAN No other trade can have as significant an impact on an A/V project as that of the electrician. In a nutshell: no power, no sound or vision. The custom installer needs to meet with the electrician to make sure that all of the system's power needs are taken care of. Specifying dedicated circuits helps to clean up "dirty" power. Wall-mounted flat-panel TVs need outlets at the correct height, and ceiling-mounted front projectors need power at the correct throw distance. To perform to their fullest, some large power amplifiers require dedicated 20-amp circuits. If an automated lighting system is part of the installation, then that system will need to be designed and explained. After the electrician completes his wiring, the project manager will usually walk the job to confirm that nothing was missed.