By Todd Ullom
Shinn Builder Partnerships Senior Consultant


What is a punchlist? Many might say it’s a quality checklist. They would be wrong. A punchlist does not equal quality. In fact, it’s the opposite of quality because it’s a list of everything that wasn’t done right the first time.

Defining “quality” isn’t as simple as it might seem because it is perceived to be subjective, and the customer’s perception of quality varies dramatically. Ultimately, the market determines quality.

Quality is achieved when the product or service conforms to its specifications. The best way to measure quality is to develop written performance guidelines based on objective standards. This includes a quality assurance checklist with a measurable scale, detailed photographs to compare best practices, a means to measure quality of improvement of stage of completion, and independent survey results.

The goal is to monitor and track quality against an objective, measurable standard for continued improvement. Bottom line: If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

As part of developing written performance guidelines, you will want to perform a root cause analysis of quality challenges. These include:
  • Design deficiencies
  • Product or material deficiencies
  • Construction process failures
  • Operation and maintenance issues

When to measure quality

Ideally, quality is managed at each stage of construction — foundation, framing, drywall, and final — with every trade. But quality measurement actually starts much earlier, and includes design and purchasing. The goal is to identify and correct defects not at the end of the process, but in real time, when they can manage the most easily and cost effectively.

Building a quality culture

Delivering quality is a team sport that starts with executive management, who must create a focused quality culture, lead by example, and monitor performance. It is up to them to establish a quality team to set company standards and drive improvement. The construction team develops quality checklists and performs inspections; trade partners develop crew checklists and perform those inspections of their teams. This system ensures everyone is working toward the same goals and understands their performance expectations.

5 keys to quality

A house is an extremely complex set of systems, with hundreds of steps that must be followed to exacting standards. Quality starts with specifications. You must know how to build and install each component of the house. Review product installation specifications from each manufacturer and review applicable building codes for the market.

Then, you must define the right way to build your homes. Engage your team, including product manufacturers, site superintendents, trade partners, suppliers, and consultants, if necessary. With your standards established, you then must train, train, and then train some more! This applies to all stakeholders, including your in-house construction team, the installation foremen and crews, the quality and customer service team, the purchasing team, and even the sales team. Make it easy to access information, be multilingual, and use lots of pictures.  

Once training is complete, it’s time to verify that your quality process is being followed with a standardized checklist. Report defects, ensure corrective action, document corrections, and track performance. This information will help you quickly identify where problems are occurring, so they can be corrected early.

The final key to quality is to develop a 360-degree follow-up process. Set standards, inspect at key points, ensure corrections are made, update standards and processes, provide ongoing training, and track progress.

This is not an easy process, but the results it can offer your company are well worth the effort it will require. With a quality control system in place, you can expect that your homes will be built right the first time. This puts the demise of the punchlist well within your reach.

The expertise of the Shinn Builder Partnerships team can help you build a quality control system that will add dollars to your bottom line. Contact us today to learn more.