The Last Third: Job Closeout Procedures, Pitfalls

IVE ALWAYS MAINTAINED that the first third of a typical new construction project is most important because it sets the tone for the rest of the job. It establishes the kinds of relationships youll have with the general contractor and other subs, how profitably the materials will be bought out and how effectively the job will be mobilized. The second phase ranks second in importance because thats where

I’VE ALWAYS MAINTAINED that the first third of a typical new construction project is most important because it sets the tone for the rest of the job. It establishes the kinds of relationships you’ll have with the general contractor and other subs, how profitably the materials will be bought out and how effectively the job will be mobilized.

The second phase ranks second in importance because that’s where the lion’s share of the cashflow kicks in.

So, does that mean I really believe the final phase of a job is the least important of all? In a word, yes. Yes, but of course you still need to make sure you take care of all the contract details.

The contract likely calls for a complete and neat set or sets of as-built drawings to be given to the owner before his receiving the certificate of occupancy and your receiving final payment. If all you have is a bunch of chicken scratches made by assorted field guys on a badly damaged set of field prints, then you had better get a nice clean copy of prints from the architect and properly mark them up for submission to get your final check.

What about the O&M’s? If the contract’s general conditions didn’t require operation and maintenance manuals upfront but do require them prior to contract closeout, then you had better get someone in the office to do them and do them now. The owner will get in a snit because he thinks that what you’ve put in might actually require some maintenance in the future. Better get those bound copies of O&M info and warranty cards to him soon.

What about potential warranty issues, such as the odd shortcut or two your field guys might have made that the engineer let slide back some months ago? Remember when you conveniently forgot about that missing hydraulic shock absorber in that gang bath that the architect’s rep let slide then but might remember before the job is closed out? Isn’t it easier to take care of things like that before the final finishes, wall surfaces and floor coverings are done rather than after the building becomes partially occupied?

Don’t forget the photographs. The contract documents probably required you take a series of job photos to document the progress of your trade. (As project manager, even if the contract documents didn’t require you to do so, why weren’t you taking photos all along just to cover your own bases?) If you either didn’t or only partially did so, now is the time to start begging the other subs’ project managers for copies of what they took that might show your own trade’s job progressions.

Now, if your job is way behind schedule and way over budget, then the last third of the job will be your last chance to try to pull enough profit from someone else’s hide to bring it to breakeven. Of course, if your job is so far behind and over budget that you have to start looking to the other subs to find someone to blame and maybe have the company sue to cover your incompetence, then you probably won’t survive to job’s end. If you do, you’ll probably be fired soon after.

If you’ve made draws based upon 95% completion of the job’s labor hours and material budget but still have another 15% to go to get to the finish line, then there’s not much sage advice I can offer. I wish you well at your new job with your next company.

At the end of each major job, I always make the time to send letters of thanks to the owner, architect, engineer and their representatives whom I’ve dealt with on the job. I thank them for their professionalism and cooperation that helped make my job a success. Isn’t that blatant ass-kissing? You betcha, but it’s sincere on my part and helps me down the line on the next job that I’ll work on with them.

Everyone appreciates nice and honest compliments. Don’t get obsequious because they’ll see right through it. Don’t get too wordy. Letters like these will make a positive difference in the long term. And, if one of their guys has been especially helpful to you, then be sure to write a separate letter praising him as well.

H. Kent Craig is a second-generation mechanical contractor and project manager with unlimited Master’s licenses in boilers, air conditioning, heating and plumbing. He may be reached by calling 919/851-9550, or via e-mail at [email protected].