Let’s talk about what kind of tasks or checklist items are involved in closing out a project. How do you tie up all the loose ends and get ready to completely disconnect from a project?

It Starts With The Punch List Items

Jeff Spencer, a highly experienced construction Project Manager, explains the process of finalizing a job, what information needs to be conveyed to the client, when your insurance on the job starts, and more.

“It starts with the punch list items. These are tasks that must be completed before project closeout. The items included in a construction punch list are dependent on the project, the owner, client, contractors, architects, subcontractors, etc. What is on that project needs to be done at the last final stages before the final asphalt goes down.

Get your punch list done so you can write your warranty letter. The standard warranty in Middle Tennessee, where we are, for most projects is one year. So you’ve got to write a warranty letter to the owner and supply as-built drawings. You have to show that you built this project according to the engineer’s drawings.

For any changes made on the project, you want to be able to show footage, locations of items (such as manholes, fire hydrants), and elevations. You want to show a finished floor elevation on the building pads. For example, even though the finished elevation just says 553.79, it may have worked out to be 553.8. It is just a hundredth off, but you need to note that there has been a change.

The crew, the surveyors, the total accumulation of people who work for you to achieve these goals are the ones who capture these changes during the project. But the crew already knows that when they set a manhole or fire hydrant, they provide invert elevations, type casting elevations, and footage elevations between one manhole to the other. We take the original ER drawings, and then transfer our data over to them in a real-life scenario. After that, we submit them to the municipality, the owner, and whoever needs to have those. Most of the time they go back to the original engineer of record. When everyone agrees to the changes, that’s when we write our letter of warranty.”

How do you know what to include in your letter of warranty?

Jeff continues, “We comply that all materials and labor will be warranted for one day from the completion date. Whatever the completion date is, it doesn’t matter what time my scope of work is finished. I may finish my work six months before the building’s ever complete.

When the building is complete, they get a UNO (Unless Noted Otherwise). The local government has to sign off on it, saying that this building has been built, infrastructure is per code, you are now able to use this facility. When the owner gets that release, that is the completion date, so our warranty starts with that date. For one year, if anything goes wrong with our work, we have to go in and fix it.

If it happens to be some kind of failure in the product we put in, then the manufacturer will also step in, and they will cover the cost of that repair reimbursement. But we have to supply the materials labor, and equipment to make those repairs. And if we have to disturb new pavement or asphalt or concrete or whatever, we have to cover that as well. That’s part of our warranty.”

Building relationships

“Most of the time, the owner is just happy that you’re willing to go in and correct any mistakes that you’ve made or any fault that you may have. It also builds a good reputation between you and them on the next project. They trust these guys because they stand behind their product. Regardless of whatever the issue is, they’re going to come back and make it right.

That’s what you want to do – build those relationships. If you’re constantly taking advantage of owners and not doing or giving a hundred and ten percent, then you know you’re not going to do work for those people in the future. If you build those relationships and they know you do good quality work, you may not have to be the lowest bidder. You may be five, six, seven percent higher. They’ll be like, ‘Hey we’ve used these people in the past and they’re top-notch. I’d rather pay a little more money as I had to go through a headache with somebody else without hurting them.’

That’s why it’s very important to do your best work even if it costs you money in the end. Be willing to go back and fix your mistakes and correct those because it will pay dividends in the future.

Punch list items and warranty are enough to close out that job. Once you have your warranty letter and your punch list items done, then they know the jobs are complete and they know you’ve done what you said you’re going to do.”

Jeff mentioned that there are situations when thirteen/fourteen months down the road, out of the warranty, issues arrive. Nine times out of ten, they go back. They at least split the cost with them or sometimes they’ll eat all the cost, depending on what it may be. Again, it’s about building ongoing relationships.

When does a cold beer take place at the end of the job?

According to Jeff, when that job is done and complete, and you know you don’t have to go back, then there’s a lot of cold beer. You want to get to the point where quality work is expected and not necessarily a reason to celebrate. Your guys in the field are the ones that are doing the quality work. If the job goes well and everything comes in at budget or under budget, give your crew a little bonus. You’d be surprised how far that goes. It makes them willing to go above and beyond on the next project.

It doesn’t matter how good or how great your management staff is, if your field guys aren’t confident in you and feel like they’re appreciated, you won’t get the best work. If they know that you appreciate them and you’re willing to give them just a little bit to show your appreciation, they’re going to go above and beyond on each project.

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