When we finish a project for a client, we want to give the client the final say that they are happy with the way things look before they make the final payment. This is known as “punching out”- or the “Punch List”. Not to worry, there are no punches being thrown. The term punch list comes from an era when a card was punched in the margin to show it was used- like the train conductor does to your ticket to Boston to show the ticket had been used.
Different companies use different processes for this, so it is really important to make sure there is a provision in your agreement that allows you to make final payment upon satisfactory completion of the project. Because humans are involved in the process, don’t be shy about pointing out any concern you have to your contractor even if it seems small. Some of the obvious things that may show up are a string holding up the dining chandelier- and the contractor has it to prevent everyone from running into the chandelier. If we see this on our punch, we offer to remove the temporary brace or show the Owner how to do that post delivery of the dining table to avoid any post construction mishaps. If there is a spot of paint on the floor, put it on your list for removal.
Punch list items are for deficiencies due to craftsmanship, breakage, or incomplete work. If a railing didn’t get installed- it is incomplete, if a light fixture has a broken glass, it needs to be replaced. There are margins of acceptance and we consider ourselves, the contractor, to be fussy- so we really can take care of the smallest detail. But if the contractor you are working with forgot a screw- it isn’t for lack of trying.
The human element I mentioned earlier has a few factors. First, the people working on the project are sometimes too close to it to look back and see every minor imperfection. The carpenter can remind themselves they are one cabinet knob short every time they see it only to be distracted by a more pressing issue before ordering that. If there is a minor scratch on the wall, someone may have done that without knowing just after the remodeler looked over the area. To combat this we use an internal punch out system before we ask the client to make their own punch list. We call it designer punch because the project designer takes the onus of making 3 visits. A couple of weeks out, the designer convenes with the project lead carpenter to make sure all the fixtures have been delivered and inspected. This helps reduce the back order problem if we need a part. The next week the designer does a walk through with the project lead to get the obvious list of completion items together. That helps the carpenter prioritize for what is usually the busiest week of the project- the last oneJ. Then, right before we hand it over to the client, the designer nit-picks the project for minor blemishes and delivers any small parts that were sent express to the showroom.
The owner now gets to make their overview- and that is always important to give them time- ideally the weekend to walk through, settle in and see what needs some love. Maybe the cleaning lady overlooked cleaning a set of drawers out or a hinge was loose we didn’t spot. Not to worry! If you didn’t catch it on the day you sign off on your list, any good contractor will return because they know the value of your referral.