Posts Tagged ‘Record keeping’

A picture is worth a thousand words

September 13, 2010

A picture may be worth a thousand words; but a picture is also much better than a human memory.  As related to my business, I am referring to whenever a homeowner has work done on their home.  Time and again, I have had homeowners tell me about former work that was done to the home or its surrounding grounds.  Shortly after my questions begin, their memory of exactly what was done stops.

Now, I don’t blame the homeowner for not remembering.  In many cases, he or she trust that whoever is doing the work will do it well and right.  (Well, not always and that is a subject for another blog post.)  In other cases, the homeowner did not exactly understand what was being done and did not pay much attention to what a contractor is doing.  In still other cases, the homeowner may have been very observant of the work, but seen it through different eyes than I would as an engineer.  The result is the same–pretty shaky details.

I will give an example.  A home has trouble with water running out from under a sidewalk and curb and onto an asphalt parking area.  Water running onto asphalt is never a good thing because the water degrades the asphalt and shortens its life.  I was told a drain line was installed.  The problem was that the homeowner did not remember whether it was a drain was only for the gutters or whether the line had holes to also drain the soil.  The difference is important because it could either be the source of the problem if done one way or be a solution for the problem if done another way.  Furthermore, the homeowner could not remember exactly where the line was run relative to everything else.

With the age of digital photos and the prevalence and price of decent cameras, photos are cheap and can be made readily.  You can also take a bunch of photos and they will all have date codes.  And folks, please, please, please don’t use the camera phones to take the photos unless that is the only camera left on Earth.  Camera phones do not have the resolution of the digital cameras or the features, such as image stabilization.  I also recommend that you take photos with the highest resolution camera you can get.  I normally use a 12 megapixel camera.  The reason is that the more megapixels a camera has, the more a person can zoom into the picture to pick out fine details.  I have had to use this feature on many occasions  when trying to dig out details.  I also recommend that you take all photos with the flash on rather than with the camera set to automatic because the flash can highlight some details, even on sunny days.

So, how often should you take photos during the work?  At the least, I recommend photos of before work has begun and when demolition is done or when the dirt is removed depending on which is applicable.  Other times to take photos depends on the work progress.  Maybe the best recommendation would be at the end of every work day because work can progress rapidly.  Any time the contractor states that a change in plans has occurred would be another.  If in doubt, call us and we might be able to provide ideas.

And, what should you take pictures of?  I think one person said it best.  Paint the area with pictures.  In other words, take enough photos to show a complete picture.  Whichever way you have to look to see the work that was done, take a picture.  Be generous.  But, also be sure to review the picture in the camera view screen to be sure the shot is acceptable.  To do so effectively, you may need to go into your camera’s menu functions and change the time the image stays on the screen.

Once you have those photos, do not just put them on your computer or leave them stored in your camera.  I have learned over the years that hard drives are not the most reliable things.  I have also learned, through others thankfully, that laptops  can be stolen very easily.  Cameras also seem to sprout legs and walk.  I recommend that you store the photos on a dedicated SD card, thumb drive, CD or DVD.  In addition, I recommend storing them online through one of the many storage areas because I can tell you from personal experience, it works.  I personally use Mozy and like the service–but you may find others acceptable.  Flickr is a freebie for a certain amount of storage.  Most on-line storage services are quite reasonable for not only photos, but also for the other important documents on your computer.

Again, Criterium-Cincinnati Engineers provides service.  Although we like to earn money, nearly as much as the guys who like to receive money from us for their services.  That does not mean we charge callers for every phone inquiry.  We don’t and we don’t do the hard sell.  Call and discuss what is going on with one of our engineers.  We will be glad to help.

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