Even if you don’t build a high-end product, you can reduce your punch lists down to nothing or at least trim them to only a few items. Your customers will benefit and you will, too.
Here are several steps that will help you trim your punch list:
- Inspect your trades’ work. You give your trades a list of specs, right? Hold them to those specs by having your supers inspect their work at each phase. “For some trades we use a fairly long checklist of items I’ve compiled over the years,” says Allan Edwards, president of Allan Edwards Builder, in Houston. “Other trades’ lists are much shorter.” Inspecting your trades’ work during construction reduces the number of little things that pop up at the end of the job.
- Fix it as you go. “As the job progresses, we remedy all blemishes, mistakes and damaged material as we go,” says Edwards. “I designate the last month of construction as the punch-out stage. This may include installing missing and back-ordered items, re-keying locks, reglazing broken glass, minor adjustments and touch-ups.”
- Walk the house often. Because Edwards notices things that other people don’t, he walks his houses nearly every day during the punch-out period and generates lists for his supers and trades. “They start with larger items, damaged or missing material that needs to be installed and then progress through to final clean and paint and touch-up,” says the builder.
- Try everything out. Run all appliances, tubs and fixtures. Put the HVAC system through several cycles. It’s much better to discover that the washer “walks” while churning a load of laundry (so you can level the machine) or that there’s some paper rattling in one of the registers (so you can pull it out) before your customers do.
- Fine-tune in stages. Edwards usually has about four different final cleans and four different paint touch-up work stages. “The process repeats itself until the original list of dozens of items becomes a list of just a few items,” he says. “We remedy those, and then we are ready to deliver the house.”
- Watch your nomenclature. When you’re ready to walk the house with the customer, have a walk-through approval form on hand. “Don’t call it a ‘punch list,’ ” says Bob Kovacs, president of Constructive Solutions in Iselin, NJ. “If you call it a ‘punch list,’ that implies that there’s something wrong or not finished, and the customers will start looking for it. If you and your trades have followed the right procedures, there should be no issues. The client shouldn’t have to tell you what to fix.”
- Examine your systems. If certain things keep popping up on your internal punch-out lists again and again, go over your construction methods or specs and consult with your trades to see what can be adjusted to prevent those items from reappearing on your next project’s list.
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