Zero punch, zero problems
Our goal, from the start of the job, is to not have any punch items by the time we reach the final walkthrough. The way we accomplish this is by encouraging owner feedback during the process, rather than waiting until the final walkthrough for homeowners to voice their concerns.
Part of our sales process is selling the homeowner on the concept that a successful project is based on forming a successful partnership. During construction we constantly check to see if we are meeting their expectations. This allows us to not only punch as we go but also keep the relationship healthy.
It takes a little extra effort -- from us and from the owners -- but the benefits are huge. When we do achieve a Zero Punch -- which happens about 60% of the time -- we get full payment at the time of the final walkthrough. Eliminating the end-of-job punch list also makes it easier to keep our schedules for other jobs, because we don't have to return to a jobsite after the project's original end date.
Owners at ease
We don't think that waiting until the end of the job and asking the homeowner to prepare a punch list for the final walkthrough is good business. First, this puts the owner in the position of quality control manager. Second, it sets the wrong tone for the meeting. This should be celebration of a job well done, not a "final inspection" that focuses on minor defects. Third, it robs the meeting of that wonderful sense of closure for all involved.
Our customers really love Zero Punch. It keeps them involved in the project and gives them peace of mind. We've even had owners try to convince us to call it a Zero Punch, even when there were some punch items left!
A necessary evil
No job is perfect. Problems are always going to arise when you're doing a remodel; it's just the nature of the beast. Because that's the case, I don't think that having a punch list at the end of a job is a problem.
Occasionally, it makes sense to take care of a punch item during the course of the job. For example, the electrician might be scheduled to leave the next day, and a light fixture might need wiring. In that case, it's certainly logical to do it then, as opposed to having him schlep back weeks later for a small thing like that.
But other times, it's just not efficient to punch as you go. Let's say you have a wood floor that is scratched and needs to be buffed and recoated. If you fix it in the middle of the project, you run the risk of it being damaged again, and then you have to take the time and expense to repair it twice.
We do have a clause in our contract that lays out the way we handle punch lists. Basically, we take the final payment amount and allocate it among the remaining tasks. That way, we can bill for each task as it's completed.
However, that's in theory only -- it's there to protect us in case we run into a troublesome client. Usually, I don't mind waiting until the job is finished -- punch list and all -- for the final payment. It's a point of honor, and it gives us real incentive to finish up, which is sometimes an even higher priority than getting paid, so we can move onto the next job.
Sometimes, if the punch list is small, I might ask for half of the payment and hold off on the final half until we're totally done. We generally build up enough good will during the project that this kind of negotiation goes off without a hitch.