Finishing the Job

Follow this general advice and hints for pushing through and finishing the intended job.


For the novice renovator, one of the chief frustrations of the process is the hurry-up and slowdown nature of the work. At times, you feel like the job is progressing so well… but there’s so far to go. Well, the finish work will provide pleasure and test your patience.

The finish work falls into two basic categories, the surface finishes and the mechanical installations. The walls get closed up, the plaster and trim are applied. The floor surfaces get put down. This is the time when plumbers put in your toilet and sink (it’s called “trimming out” or “setting the fixtures”). The painters paint and the sanders sand. The electricians will install your dining room chandelier and your electric range. The plugs and light switches get tied in now, and the power comes on, too.

The mechanical work must be meticulously coordinated with the surface finishes: the toilet goes on top of the tile floor, so the tileman must do his bit before the plumber can do his. The order of things calls for the walls, ceilings, and floors to be finished, then for the bathroom fixtures to be set, along with the final electrical and HVAC work. After everything is tested and inspected the job is done. Except for those items on the punch list, of course. But we’ll get to all that shortly.

I think of finish work as the hardest part. You look around you at the new walls and ceilings, knowing full well how much work has gone in already, and how many tasks have been completed. In reality, however, a remodeling job at this stage is only about half done: Finish work—which for practical purposes includes all the tasks that follow the rough-ins—takes a disproportionately long time.

Yet this is perhaps the worst time for impatience: Quality finish work, when executed just right, can make or break a job. Don’t telegraph to the workers I just want my house back! That’s the surest way to get them to slam-bam their way to completion. On the other hand, don’t allow the carpenters and other tradesmen to come and go and finish at a snail’s pace while they are working on other people’s jobs. Keep your attention focused, be a little bit patient, and try to enjoy what’s hap­pening around you.