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The Importance of Installation Site Audits

Customers do not typically know why or how audit details impact their project, but your installers and you - the industry graphic experts - should make it a priority to educate them.

By Julie Martin, AB Installations, Inc.

Finding all the challenges before you start a job can greatly effect the bottom line. And nobody likes to lose money when trying to make it.

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  • Site audits or surveys are a very common part of the graphics installation business, and play a significant role in the success of a project. Typical surveys include securing measurements, taking photographs, and assessing the surface and working environment.

    Measurements will include the height and width of the area to be installed, as well as any measurements indicating obstructions on and around the area where the graphics are to be applied. Photographs are critical to ensuring all involved understand the overall scope and elevation of the area. Assessing the surface depends on what you are surveying, but the goal is to evaluate anything that could negatively impact the success and duration of adhering or mounting the graphic film to the surface intended.

    All assessments should include:

    • An indication if any existing graphics must be removed
    • Site conditions
    • Any special tools or equipment required
    • How the graphics/equipment will be brought into the space
    • Where the closest dumpsters for waste are located

    AB Installations' installers removing a difficult vehicle roof graphic for a new wrap.

    In addition to quantities, sizes and photographs, examples of information specifically related to the type of site audit could constitute:

    • Walls: Type of substrate, paint condition, corners, radii, lighting and HVAC duct exposure
    • Windows: Tint, mullion sizes and condition, interior and exterior access
    • Vehicles: After-market accessories, hinges, handles, plastic or chrome areas, rails, rivets, sunroof, emblems
    Every job should have a site audit. For any job, you need to know if a cargo van has two swing doors on the passenger side or no windows on the rear; if HVAC units are blowing directly against the wall where your graphics are to be applied and should be redirected, or could cause the graphics to lift prematurely; if boxes of merchandise are stacked up behind the windows on shelving that cannot be easily moved; if the wall is brick and requires a hammer drill to mount the canvas; or if the ceiling is more than 14 feet high, and cannot be accessed by a standard ladder.

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    The customers do not typically know why or how these details impact their project, but your installers and you - the industry graphic experts - should make it a priority to educate them about the importance of the survey and gaining access to this information prior.

    Much of what is found in the site audit will affect the design, production and installation, and will provide a better understanding of the costs necessary to do the job. It is the first place to start. Most installers do surveys at industry minimums for those that do not take more than an hour or two to complete.

    For larger scale projects, such as large venue jobs, the surveys will often be more substantial, and may therefore be rolled into the bid at a rate that includes compensation for the installer to go on site and perform a thorough evaluation of the site, meeting with facility personnel, engineers, and visual managers to get details and expectations, in addition to measurements and other specifics.

    In some cases, it is not always possible to go on site and do a site audit, but the more details and photos you can secure, the better the experience and the results for all involved in the project. Most importantly, you can feel confident you are working in the best interest of your client, and providing them with the best possible service and product the industry has to offer.

    As a director at AB Installations, Julie Martin works to maintain operations of a for-hire professional graphic installation company serving the metro Washington, DC region, and provides nationwide management for installation services. AB Installations is a Master Certified member of PDAA.

    This article appeared in the SGIA Journal, July/August 2012 Issue and is reprinted with permission. Copyright 2011 Specialty Graphic Imaging Association ( All Rights Reserved.

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