How to nail your renovation’s final walk-through and punch list

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It may feel like forever and a day, but you will get to the point in your home remodel where the work has been substantially completed — the property is in good enough shape to use for whatever purpose it was intended for, and just a few details need finishing. Which means it’s time for your final walk-through.

The first step in preparing for your walk-through is to create an ultra-detailed punch list. The list should contain every item of work that you’d like finished before you declare the project complete (and release the final funds).

Take photos of your home before the contractor starts work, so you have clear evidence of what things looked like prior to the remodel.

How small can a punch-list item be? A smudge on the wall is fair game, provided it wasn’t there before the remodel began. Anything and everything that you’re not happy with, put in your list.

Once you’ve built out the punch list in meticulous detail, it’s time to schedule your walk-through. This consists of you inspecting the house/project area with your contractor, and pointing out every one of the items on your list. Assuming that you both agree on the outstanding items (which is where the “before” photos may come in handy, just in case there is confusion) the contractor then has a responsibility to fix every item before the project is deemed “complete.” Then, once every item on the list has been discussed, you or your contractor can simply check it off once it gets completed.

Manage expectations at the beginning of the project by stating clearly that you will expect to do a punch list at the end. That way, your contractor will be prepared to do the walk-through with you, and you’ll be set up to get what you want. Be sure to discuss who will accompany you on the final walk through (ideally it’ll be someone involved at the beginning of the project).

Ask your contractor if he is planning on taking pictures of your home for marketing purposes. He ought to get your approval to use them.

Most of the time, the punch list goes smoothly — most contractors are keen to leave your house in good condition, and show off their work. Occasionally, whether or not something is a valid punch list item can lead to disputes. Arguments don’t typically arise unless your punch list includes any add-ons – think, “Hey, while you’re here, will you please hang this huge painting?” If you try to operate like this, and ask for tasks that are clearly outside the scope of work, your contractor may feel taken advantage of and may be unwilling to go that extra mile.