Seal-A-Deal – Working With Commercial Furniture Dealers, Part 2
Reality 14 years ago No Comments


contributed by Carl Bergauer [Executive Vice President – Tusa Expo Holdings (parent company of TUSA Office Solutions) / Chair of OFDA

EDITOR’S NOTE: If knowledge is power, then reading last month’s installment of THE “REAL” REAL WORLD by interior design industry veteran Carl Bergauer was the equivalent of sealadeal2.gifchugging down a ROCKSTAR Energy Drink. Since most design programs don’t have time to teach you the ins-n-outs of the biz, we’re filling the gap. So all you aspiring designers out there, read on for a little more turbo-charged INSiDE SCOOP and find out what follows design development, furniture selection, and order placement (oh my!). Carl was just warming up.


Order acknowledgements are invaluable tools that allow us to keep furniture projects on track and manageable. After the order has been forwarded to the factory and checked, it is scheduled for production. At this point the manufacturer notifies the furniture dealer as to the date they plan to ship the product to the ship-to address. Sounds simple, right” Not so fast.

Ship Date is the date that the product will leave the plant or distribution center. Depending on the geographic location, the ship date and the actual arrival date can vary as much as seven days.

Delivery Date is generally considered the date the product will actually show up at the ship-to address. It is imperative that the job site be ready to receive the shipment or there may be charges for additional handling and storage fees.

Installation Date is the actual date the dealer begins to install the product on-site. On large projects, the installation date is seldom the date the furniture can actually start to be installed or even occupied by end users. Watch out for construction delays that move out the installation start-date. The only way to recover from a site delay is to work after-hours at an additional overtime rate.

Project Management

The complexity of a furniture project can be mind-boggling. The horror stories are equally unbelievable. Ceiling contractors tromping across new desks (apparently it’s easier to reach the ceiling while standing on a desk) or painters spraying the wall next to your new $1,800 lounge chairs. Coordinating with all of the trades on a job site is a chore – a necessary chore fraught with a myriad of pitfalls. Who needs a project manager for a simple furniture installation” You do!

Pre-Planning an installation is a critical activity which requires the project manager to consider building security issues, elevator use and availability, acceptable receiving and staging areas, man hours to complete everything on-time, location of power and data feeds, timing with other trades and many other issues. All these factors must be considered and are factored into the dealer’s installation cost. Whether shown as a line item or hidden in the price of the furniture, the installation cost is there somewhere. And, if the project doesn’t go according to plan, there will usually be a discussion regarding additional expenses.

Job Site Conditions are usually the responsibility of your General Contractor. If the project construction and finish-out falls behind schedule, it is the GC’s job to get things back on track. All furniture installation quotations presume the conditions of the job site to be orderly and on schedule. The painters can’t come in before the dry wall crews and the dry wall crews can’t begin before the framing is complete, and so on. Any delay on any phase of a project pushes back all the work to be completed. The occupancy date usually cannot be moved, which results in additional expense to support the overtime hours needed to achieve the move-in date.

Contractor Delays are a common occurrence. The general contractor or developer will usually build delays into the schedule. Unforeseen delays can have a devastating effect on the furniture installation. Furniture installation, being one of the final phases in a major project, will often be squeezed. Keep in mind that if it takes 1000 man-hours to install your furniture, it will take 1000 man-hours to install your furniture! Adding more men to the job site does not necessarily equate to greater efficiency. Installation crews are staffed at the maximum number of men feasible to complete the project without getting in each other’s way. The only realistic way to finish the project on schedule is to work overtime. And overtime requires a different hourly rate. And that means more money. And no one likes to hear that.


Installation can make or break a job. Hopefully, the furniture dealer you choose recognizes the need for quality installation services. Hopefully they employ the installation personnel as direct employees instead of subcontract labor. When the crew is made up of employees, the dealer can control the quality of the individual from attitude to knowledge and skill. And from a security viewpoint, direct employees are known commodities. Sub-contract employees can be a far greater security risk. The Client is much more likely to receive an excellent finished installation under these conditions.

The Supervisor is the designated on-site leader for all furniture installation personnel. He is responsible for building and laying out the furniture as graphically depicted on the installation drawing. If it doesn’t look like you expected, get with the Supervisor and review the drawing together.

Build as Drawn is a term used to describe the finished work of the installation crew. Most price quotations are based on the number of hours to build and layout the furniture as shown on the installation drawing. Building the furniture differently can not only result in lack of parts for other workstations and offices, but also in code violations, not to mention additional charges.

Change Orders are required to do any work not in the original scope of the installation quotation. This could be additional work not part of the original work order or a request to change the build as drawn specification to some other variation. Generally, all changes to the scope of work are billable at the time and materials rate. Completion of change order work is based on crew availability and may require rescheduling.

Power and Data work is generally not completed by furniture installation personnel. This is due to code restrictions and the need for certifiable data connections. It is the customer’s responsibility to order this work from independent contractors.

Project Closure

Bear with me – we’re almost finished. An attentive dealer will not consider the job closed, until the critical final details are addressed.

Punch List activities begin with a comprehensive walk-through of the space. This is followed by a written list (the punch list) of all unfinished items, complete with action steps, responsible parties, and target dates for completion. The punch list is The Client’s and A&D Firm’s documentation that the job is not fully complete and a starting point for understanding when it will be.

Replacement/Warranty Orders should be given the highest priority by the furniture dealer and their major manufacturing partners. As they identify items that require action, they must notify the manufacturers immediately so they can direct the dealer to the most efficient method of remedying the issue.

Reserve Balance is an amount – usually 10% or less of the remaining outstanding balance – held back from payment when extraordinary punch list issues create unusual client concerns. Generally, punch list issues are of a minor nature and simply require several weeks to reorder, fabricate, deliver and install.

An Educated Team Benefits Everyone

I hope that I’ve cleared the air and answered some of the questions you may have had about the complicated process that is mass contract furniture procurement. If you are still unclear regarding any part of the furniture acquisition process, don’t hesitate to quiz your local furniture dealer. If they want to secure and keep your business, then they will be there to help!