As anyone who has ever been audited by the IRS can tell you, it's important to keep a paper trail. Then again, as anyone who has ever had a home office can tell you, keeping too much stuff is no good either. The middle ground is ideal.

Job archives are a necessary evil for remodelers but can easily get out of control. Trish Schroeder, of Schroeder Design/Build, in Fairfax, Va., used her experience and a little advice from her lawyer to whittle the list of documents she needed to keep down to a select few. The result is more storage space, without sacrificing important documents.

A byproduct of this effort is this checklist, which allows her to delegate the time-consuming but essential task of job file archiving.

  • Each job that the company does has four files; the lead carpenter, salesman, and selection coordinator each have a copy, in addition to the master binder. Once final payment is received, Schroeder's office manager collects all of the folders and begins searching them for the necessary documents.

  • Even though a major advantage of this form is that Schroeder can delegate the archiving task, she still reviews the folder before filing it away. She'll also quickly pick through the “toss” pile to make sure nothing important has slipped through the office manager's fingers.

  • So far, nothing has been archived with a “missing in action” box checked, which is a good thing. Theoretically, something could have been misplaced during the job, and this column would alert Schroeder to track it down.