Achieving Punch List Zero

  • Mike Harnden
  • Superintendent
  • Rafn Company

Inbox Zero was introduced by productivity expert Merlin Mann in 2006 and the concept centers around eradicating the problem of email overload. The solution revolves around the idea of “processing our messages and converting them into appropriate action as quickly as possible”. The result is an empty email box.

A parallel can be drawn with quality assurance and quality control on a construction project with the result being a ‘zero punch’ list. Catching the errors, dings, cracks and holidays as they happen and fixing them as we go along will leave us with no rework, repairs, or touchups needed at the end of the project.

First let’s backup and define exactly what a punch list is and what ‘zero punch’ means. A punch list is a document used in construction once a project has been completed where the architect and/or client lists out all of the items that are not up to their standards. A ‘zero punch’ indicates that every item on the list was completed to the client's full satisfaction before it was even written down!

Why Achieve Zero Punch List
From the beginning of a project to the end, no matter what size or square footage we are building, paying attention to final outcome of the project is essential to quality results. From the beginning of our projects they need to be perceived as organized and attentive to housekeeping. When jobsites look like a war zone you know you are going down the wrong track.

From the early stages, paying attention to where and how building materials are stored, how the site or building is secured thoughtfully and completely, work areas that are cleaned up and safe to work in, and job office organization sets the tone that quality is important throughout the project. If we go the extra mile to make the job safe for our craftspeople and subcontractors, they will recognize those same kind of efforts are needed in their work and final product given to the customer. Our customers notice that our projects are organized which gives them confidence that we will give them the project they expect. This attitude is important from start to finish.

How To Achieve Zero Punch List
As a company we have learned to work through checklists and systems to monitor work as it goes into place, making sure our subcontractors and crafts team are meeting our schedule. We look ahead to make sure we have materials in time not to hold up the production and progress of their work or ours.

We always need eyes on the work going in place. We encourage our Foreman to carry a simple notebook in their pocket at all times to make notes of what they see, or ideas of how something could go in place with less effort. They write it down so they can go back to it as usually there is so much input coming in during a project that it’s important to have a written record to go back to. Our Foremen and Superintendents stay attentive to what's not getting done and how it can get back on track or be done better.

We are constantly reviewing progress to make sure the final product meets our client’s expectations. And then we are making sure the subcontractor or team member is ready to move forward on the next phase of construction and has the tools and materials they need to succeed. We become immersed into the details of the project and at the same time manage to have oversight of the whole.

Through building good relationships with our subcontractors and craft team and continually expressing the joy and strength of building something to be proud of, our projects automatically make our customers happy. The quality will shine with the integrity it’s built with from the beginning. It is important that the Superintendent and Foreman are paying attention to the details throughout all phases. When they see something that takes only five or ten minutes to fix, they stop and get it done.

Don’t wait for a repair or adjustment to get on the punch list; keep the ‘zero punch’ attitude throughout the project. When we take these steps the job may not be easier, but it will generally end smoothly and on time. Don’t think the customer does not notice the care that goes into giving them a great product as it will generally result with a ‘call back’…the good kind, for another project!

Back to the article index


Subscribe to the Rafn newsletter for a quarterly digest of our posts.


Photo Stream