December 6, 2023

Punching Out a Project

First off, this is not an article on how to manage your time while punching out a job, because if you have been following my work schedule the last few weeks, it has been insane. I want to explain my simple system that ensures nothing is missed during project closeout. I generally only work one project at a time which simplifies things, but the bones of this system can easily be integrated into your own unique system. 

Generally speaking, I keep notes on my phone for each job. I track my hours, my materials, my tasks, and my target schedule. As the job comes to a close, I use this same document for my punch list. It does not matter how big or how small the item may be, it gets added to the list as soon as I see it or think of it. My current project list contains items as large as “install the railings on the second floor roof deck” and as small as “paint the caulk line on the skimmed out wall.” Again, as soon as I notice it, it gets added to the list. You can create a shareable document to send to subs, supers, employees, or designers as well. This list is simple yet comprehensive. When I was leaving the job tonight, I noticed that my hand truck was on the front porch, and it went on the list. Last thing I want to do is forget to grab that when I leave and have to come back for it. 

Now the next important thing to note with this punch list is to organize it. At the end of every day, I go through and ensure that everything that was completed was removed and I start to categorize any items that are still on the list. Typically it appears as follows…

At the top of the punch list are the most critical items that need to be completed in order to proceed with the project. These are time-sensitive regardless of trade or task. For example, I need to cut two boxes into the side of our island for our electrician, but that needs to be done ASAP, so rather than group that with the electrical items, it goes right up top.

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After that are trade oriented items. My current project has a subset for paint, carpentry, electrical, plumbing, cleanup/breakdown, miscellaneous, and exterior work. Each and every day, at the end of the day, I review all of the items on my punch list, and then allocate them to where I see fit. Again, if it is time-sensitive, it goes at the top, not necessarily with the respective trade. Punching a job out is extremely time-consuming and stressful, and I find these lists help motivate me to get going. It feels great to be able to cross tiny things off of the list each and every day. 

If you are doing your job correctly your list will shrink and it will grow. As you comb through the project more intensely, you will find more things that need your attention, and you can simply add them to this list. The other nice thing is that if you have an employee or a helper you always have a list of things to do to keep busy. If you need 15 minutes worth of work for someone, you can send them the list and tell them to start picking away at it.

My system for closing out a project is very simple. I am not reinventing the wheel or complicating anything. I am simply creating a system that anyone can easily add items to in the blink of an eye. If it is not simple, easy, or quick, it will not get done. This stage of every project is high-stress, high-anxiety and requires every tool, material, and sub-trade that was initially used on the job. You cannot expect to be able to keep it all straight on your own and remember every little thing that has to be done. Keep it simple, maintain progress, remain organized, and continue to chip away. Before you know it you will close a project out with a fully completed punch list! 

— Tyler Grace

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