My home renovation project is nearing completion. I started in August of 2011 and with the New year, the project is coming to a close. I suffer from serial claustrophobia and the cats scratch at, well, anything that moves. but the end is in sight and I must maintain control. At this time, there are some important steps to take to ensure that the project is completed to my expectations.
What is a punch list?
After the contractor gets the final municipal inspections I developed of list of incomplete contract items. This list includeded incomplete work items, warranties, operations and maintenance instructions, and other items that I need for a complete job. Examples include missing door hardware, dirty heating/cooling system filters, minor repainting, and specific operations and maintenance instructions. We call this list a “punch list”. Merriam-Webster (www.m-w.com) defines a punch list as “a list of usually minor tasks to be completed at the end of a project.” Oh--and one thing I learned over the years: never, ever write the word “final” on the punch list. The contractor will then say that you cannot add anything else to it because it is “final.” Always leave yourself a little wiggle room.
My punch list was relatively minor: Missing wall cabinet door handle, unsecured telephone outlet box, missing basement air supply grill, and missing maintenance and operations instructions. Perhaps the most vexing issue is the operation of the master bathroom shower anti-scald valve. Their technical name is Temperature Actuated Flow Reducers (TAFR). People taking hot water showers were subject to thermal shock and scalding should there be sudden cold water use elsewhere in the house. In 1939 a manufacturer put a mixing valve on showers and tubs to lessen the thermal shock. These were not true anti-scald devices. In 1973 the American Society of Sanitary Engineers (ASSE) developed the 1016 standard to address thermal shock and anti-scald issues, and set 120°F as the maximum allowable temperature. Since then, all plumbing codes have adopted this standard in some form. (http://www.hgexperts.com/article.asp?id=5135). In my master bathroom, the water temperature is 92°F at the shower and 114°F at the sink. I want the shower to be 100°F - 105°F, and the contractor is coming out soon to adjust it. Those of you doing bathroom remodels will most likely face the same issue.
Let's discuss expectations. Face it. It is no surprise that the contractor is not perfect. Neither are you. Don't hold out for perfection, you won't win. My bathroom shower/tub wall finish is 12” x 12” porcelain tile with small, horizontal accent tiles. One row of these accent tiles is not very straight. These small tiles came attached to a backing sheet so that they are not installed individually, but as part of a 12” wide mat. How they got out of level I don't know. But I do know that the repair is not worth it. There is no guarantee that the replacement tiles will go in straight, and matching tile grout color is very difficult. No one else picks up on those tiles until I point it out. I don't need to create something that will really stand out, like a poor tile and grout patch. Those tiles will remain as is, and I'm not pointing them out to anybody again.
As discussed previously, the contractor works for the municipality. Your final leverage is the final payment. Use that leverage wisely, not haphazardly. You signed a contract that obligates you to pay it. Contractors are protected by lien laws that vary by state. The last thing you want is a lien placed on your property by a dissatisfied contractor, subcontractor, or supplier, especially when it comes time to sell. As always, please check the lien laws in your state, province or other jurisdiction for specific conditions prior to signing any contractor's contract. Here in Michigan, contractors are required to give a minimum one year warranty on their work. Gone are the days of the “30-30” warranty: give me either 30 miles or 30 minutes, whichever occurs first, and the warranty expires. Get this warranty in writing, dated and signed by the owner. The warranty date should be clear and acceptable.
After eleven months you should create of list of items, send them to the contractor in a timely fashion and ask the contractor to schedule repairs. There are common items like door handles that won't latch, inoperable electrical outlets, and squeaky floors. Dripping faucets, running toilets and loose handrails. Noisy ceiling fans, short cycling sump pumps, and buzzing electrical panels. Don't ask to have walls repainted because you marked them up. My contractor stands above other contractors because I have a three year warranty.
So what next? Well, now comes the fun part: getting to know my newly-remodeled space and furnishing it. What was it my girlfriend and my sister each separately said? “You can't possibly put old furniture, window treatments and artwork in a new space.” Uncanny...