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I have been participating in a discussion with fellow contractors about “punch lists” for a few weeks.

  • Punch Lists are forms used by contractors to verify everything has been done that they are aware of.

I have shared my forms with others and thought mine was pretty good. It made perfect sense to have one. A signed punch list actually saved me in court one time. I assumed it was a necessity until something Gerry Gerber, a fellow contractor said hit me sideways and just changed my process.

Turns Out He Was Sick and Tired of the Punch List too.

Gerry says “I love forms, and the results they provide with proper analytics. However, this is a form that should be used only if you have a client who is trying to delay payment by adding items to an ongoing punch list.
Most people hire us for the standards that we maintain for quality. I honestly feel that it is far more important to have an environment for open dialog during the remodel.
A great goal would be that your company has a zero punch list when you ask them for final payment. We, as remodelers are hired to produce a quality project, and believe it or not, we know if it was done right or not!
Our customers are not supervisors or quality control experts. Engage with them early on and open up dialog so that you get an indication if the quality you or your people are delivering matches with their expectations. If not, make personnel adjustments as quickly as possible, so you can deliver the Zero Punch List policy along with your invoice.”

Punch List Be Gone

Punch List Vanquished!

At Levco, the Punch List verification time has always been a way of doing a walk-through with the clients. At the very end, we want to verify that all of the work on the DOW (Description of Work) and the Change Orders were done satisfactorily. Like I always say “We are making sausage right in front of our clients”  It isn’t always pretty, the point is that they are going to see the progress on a daily basis. What they want and what we are doing is not unveiled until we are done.

Why not encourage them to be involved… My employees were blowing my clients off, “Oh that is a punch list item, we will get to that later”, but later turned into anxiety and frustration. The truth is, I have been frustrated that we are working on the “Punch List items “ towards the end of the project without having collected the milestone payment for substantial completion. There was no clear finish line!

Zero Punch-List

This brought up a conversation about a zero Punch List again, a popular concept in NARI CLC training. The idea is that because you are so good and checking with your client that when you are done you say TA-DA wash up and leave. I agree with Gerry that it is a good thing and a noble goal however, my frustration is that a Zero Punch List does not create a mutual agreement, and I use one on every job for consistency and familiarity with the process because there is an initial resistance to something new, and it requires practice to be great at it.

Finish Line Action Item List is Born

Rather than eliminating the concept, I created a sign-off sheet to verify that the project is complete to the clients’ satisfaction. Upon receipt of a milestone payment just prior to the finish line. My lead carpenter shares an explanation that we are almost done then shares a filled-out form which is already 2/3 of a page of things they know that need to be finished. At that meeting, the client gets to look it over and add a few items that we may have missed. Mutual signature is an affirmation that we agree that when we complete these tasks the job is done and the final payment “Finish Line payment” is due. We named it The Finish Line Action Item List and it has worked very well. Anything that comes up after that is a warranty issue.

Elements of a Completed Finish Line Action Item List

  1. Everything is done to the satisfaction of all parties that we promised to do.
  2. The final payment is due.
  3. You have transitioned to Warranty

Your comments are welcome. To ask questions or get more information about remodeling, email me directly or visit our contact page.

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