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5. Cost Tracking

As the job progresses, I keep a running total of labor, material, and subcontractor expenditures, broken down by the construction categories I use to estimate the job. The summary report gives a complete financial picture of the job, comparing estimated costs to actual expenses (see Figure 5, below). Since I keep these records on a spreadsheet, it’s a simple matter to print out regular updates and put them in the job notebook.

Emerson Account Balance Statement
  As of: 7/30/99
Category

Dump Fees

Demo

Framing

Exterior

Cabinets

& Trim

HVAC

(N.I.C.)

Flooring

& Clg

(N.I.C.)

Drywall

Paint

(N.I.C.)

Misc.

Labor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Estimate Value

600

2,280

1,440

1,520

1,680

1,161

640

Total spent to Date

220

1,152

1,213

1,025

1,430

395

695

725

70

Labor $ Remaining

380

1,128

227

495

250

766

(695)

(85)

(70)

 
 
Materials

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Estimate Value

560

1,200

5,600

575

100

Total Spent to Date

220

1,131

5,368

 

 

540

500

63

Material $ Remaining

340

69

232

35

(500)

37

 
 
Summary by Category

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Labor $ Remaining

380

1,128

227

495

250

766

(695)

(85)

(70)

Material $ Remaining

340

69

232

35

(500)

37

Total $ Remaining

380

1,128

567

564

482

766

(695)

(50)

(570)

37

 
 

Original Estimate Value

 

17,356

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total Spent to Date

 

14,747

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total Remaining

 

2,609

Does not include Change Orders

Figure 5.Updated job-cost summaries make it easy for the job foreman to compare estimated costs with actual costs as the job progresses.

Cost-tracking information is critical for people in the office, but it’s also useful to the crew in the field. It is helpful for the foreman to know, for example, that two people were slated for two days of demo. The reports make it possible to identify cost overruns early, and to adjust labor allocations if the job starts to fall behind schedule. Since I do a lot of time and materials work, these reports are also useful to owners who want to stay informed on how close the project is following the budget.

6. Invoices

This section of the notebook is used to store all invoices and receipts throughout the job. When material is delivered, the supplier invoice is labeled by the job foreman with the appropriate construction category, such as "trim" or "roofing." The foreman also keeps a running list in the notebook on a columnar pad, showing the date, invoice number, supplier name or initials, the amount, and the construction category (). This cumulative sheet stays on site in the notebook where it’s always available for easy reference. This paperwork takes a few minutes to complete in the field, but it makes a world of difference to me back in the office. At the end of each week, I pick up the invoices and enter the data into the cost-tracking system for the job. The invoices stay in the office till the job is finished, but the running record of invoices stays on site in the notebook. After the job is complete, I collect all the invoices and store them in the notebook for future reference.

7. Contracts and Change Orders

This section is divided into two parts. The first part holds copies of any contracts made between the owner and the builder. Again, this eliminates the need for the field crew to check with the office about any decisions that have already been made. The second part holds all paperwork relating to change orders, including a copy of the company’s policy regarding changes. In our system, all major change orders are handled by the office, but smaller changes can be made in the field by the owner and the foreman. This keeps the project on schedule, eliminating the need to stop work while waiting for approval from the office. For changes decided in the field, the foreman uses a simple one-page form with blank spaces in which changes are listed ( ). The owner initials each change in a separate column, providing a written record of his or her approval of the change. Like the materials sheet, this change order form stays in the notebook on site, and provides a running history of changes. All formal change orders are drawn up in the office and a copy is given to the foreman for the notebook. The advantage of using the change order summary sheet is that most changes can be approved quickly on site by the foreman and owner without having to call the office. This system not only keeps the job moving, but provides quick reference should a question arise later about when a particular change was approved.

8. Permits

While the actual building permit is usually posted prominently somewhere on site, I like to keep a copy in the notebook, along with other pertinent information, such as a legal description of the property, requirements from utility companies, and any specifications required by the city or county. I also include code-related information on safety and construction standards as they apply to the particular job. It’s handy to have this information at your fingertips during a building inspection or a visit from OSHA.

9. Blueprints

The approved set of plans stays on the job site at all times, so the blueprints stored in the notebook are used mainly at meetings in the office. A set of plans reduced to 11x17 inches can be folded once to fit in the binder, and can still be reviewed without taking them out of the notebook. This is also a convenient size to run through a copier if extra sets are needed. Also included in this section is a copy of the job specifications, which for most residential projects are brief enough to fit comfortably in the notebook. More lengthy specs can be made to fit by photocopying two sides to a page.

10. Notes

Any correspondence pertaining to the construction process should be stored chronologically in this section. This includes letters, notes, memos, and any other records of communications made before or during the job. Since these types of notes accumulate over time and are usually only needed if they cannot be found, it’s handy to have them all in one place. At the end of a project, we clip the punch list to the front of the notebook. While the punch list tasks will also be listed in the Daily Job Log, it’s helpful to see everything at a glance. It’s also satisfying to see check marks appear in those little boxes.

Rogers Belch

owns a residential remodeling company in Annapolis, Md