Punch Lists

A punch list is a small list of items that is written up at the end of a project that identifies items that still need to be completed to totally complete the project. It can be a valuable tool for a remodeler. This month, Kent Eberle, CR, CAPS, CKBR, of Eberle Remodeling and Michael Hydeck, CR, CKBR, president of Hydeck & Mackay Builders, Inc., lend their advice on working with a punch list.

A lot of times homeowners don’t understand what a punch list is, so the production manager, lead carpenter or whoever is managing the work site should explain it to a homeowner. Eberle and his team talk about the punch list early on because their payment schedule ties one of the payments to the start of the punch list or the writing of the punch list.

It may also be helpful to reinforce the explanation with a letter or e-mail to the homeowner. This further communicates its importance and helps the homeowner understand its purpose.

“That’s when we really talk about what the punch list is and really define what we’ll be doing with it,” explains Eberle. “We also send a letter out letting the client know that we’re nearing substantial completion of the project which denotes the time for the punch list. So the letter explains to them what the punch list is, why we do the punch list, what the process is and the purpose behind the punch list.”

Basically a punch list is used to finalize all the small detail stuff at the end of a job. Like little touch-up paint marks that might be on the wall of an addition, a scratch that needs to be taken care of or a minor piece of trim.

“It becomes a management tool for management that’s not on the jobsite,” adds Hydeck. “The job is pretty much done at this point, and the customer goes around finding every little thing they feel needs to be done to finalize it. Usually a punch list is designed to say, ‘OK this is what we have to do to be finished up with the project,’ and you verify it with the customer.”

Eberle has his lead carpenter walk around the project and write up the punch list with the homeowners. This way it is clear to Eberle what has to be completed, and there is no confusion between the homeowner and his team. Before this happens though, the team tries to identify and rectify as many things as they find first so that the punch list stays small.

“When I say small, typically we try to keep our punch list to five or six items, so the list is not 25 or 30 items,” says Eberle.

“It helps finalize the project and get it done to a point where everybody understands that the project is complete when this punch list is complete. Anything after that time is considered warranty or service work. It puts a stamp on the fact that the project will be complete with the punch list items and sets a marker that everyone is on the same page.”

Another purpose of the punch list allows the remodeler to make sure to have the subs available if needed to do the final items or take care of any issues that pertain to them. The goal is to capture everything that needs to be completed in one trip, so that a remodeler can minimize the back and forth trips that occur on a frequent basis if the final items aren’t clearly identified.

This also minimizes problems between the homeowner and company because it’s clear on both sides what has to be completed.

“Keep the list small, keep it short and make sure you get it done right away,” adds Eberle. “Don’t drag it out. One of the keys to a happy client is to jump right on those items and get them done as quickly as possible.”

Proceed to the test