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Operational Excellence

What is a Construction Punch List?

Written By: Joe Demski
May 12, 2022
8 min read

No matter the size of a project, monitoring tasks and subtasks is essential to a smooth workflow and a positive relationship between client and contractor. When project completion is on the horizon, a punch list helps the general contractor or project manager identify everything that needs to be done before anybody can receive final payment.

A punch list is a record of all these items that need to be addressed before the project can be considered complete, which is why reviewing a punch list is often part of project closeout management. However, a punch list may also be created during a key project milestone such as securing permissions or hiring individual contractors.

This detailed to-do list can help prevent costly drawbacks for the entire team such as schedule delays, damaged materials, and design errors. When contractors oversee details of the entire project, punch lists keep project deliverables manageable, especially for very complex construction projects.

What is a Punch List in Construction?

In construction management, a punch list (also known as a snag list), is drawn up either at the beginning or end stages of a project. Often, this quality control document includes both minor issues and large-scale fixes regarding installations, designs, materials, and anything else that the team needs to address before the contractor and specialty contractor can receive final payment.

During a walkthrough towards the end of a project, the parties involved are in attendance. In this walkthrough, the owner, contractor, designers, specialty contractors, etc. discuss whether certain flaws or imperfections are acceptable, or if these flaws must be fixed before the owner gives their approval.

If there are any considerable inaccuracies such as the wrong size cabinets installed in the kitchen, then the project is not finished until the major fixes are made by a specialty contractor.

Defining punch list vs. request for proposal (RFP)

Both of these documents are common in construction projects. While they may sound similar at first, they are distinct.

RFP meaning

A construction request for proposal is a document that lists all the requirements for a project. Usually, the company, organization, or government agency sends out an RFP for a specific solution or service. This allows the issuing body to gauge what resources are available to them and to get in contact with the appropriate contractors for construction projects.

The construction RFP allows the requesting party to find the best contractor (bidders) for the work on drawing boards. This document is often the first step in a capital improvement plan or program.

Punch list meaning

By contrast, a construction punch list is more specific. A punch list will likely not be created until the project has started, as it contains specialized tasks related to the construction project.

Generally, a punch list is brought out during the project closure process to ensure that the stakeholders are on the same page and that all the details are exact, helping ensure quality control before the final inspection.

How to Use a Punch List in the Construction Industry

The head contractor and client will walk through a site and itemize any tasks to be wrapped up, as well as leftover or damaged materials that must be dealt with. If a construction punch list was created at the beginning of the project, this allows the client and contractor to amend any discrepancies between what was and what was not included in the project contracts, making the project closeout process more straightforward.

Each company may have a punch list template for every type of construction project service they offer. This template is personalized depending on the scope and complexity of the contract specifications. Organizing any documents and all the deliverables on a punch list makes it easy to gauge progress, too.

Who uses the punch list?

General contractors will be the main people who interact with a construction punch list, but specialty contractors must also be able to access and use the punch list to identify and complete their tasks. In the end, the owner can peruse the outstanding work and add their comments, tasks, or questions to the document.

What Are Ways to Use Punch Lists More Efficiently?

A punch list is a valuable tool in the construction process already, but there are various changes you can implement to optimize your work system.

Upgrade your punch list

Many contractors find that a collaborative construction project and time management app can help streamline project closure management as well as general project management. Software like Critical Path 1.0 allows you to itemize your tasks, and the app maps out project progress and deficiencies.

Instead of punching holes on paper lists as contractors did many years ago, you can now tap on a screen to indicate that a punch list item is complete. Digitizing a punch list process like these is also helpful in recording equally important details like due dates, work time, task status, and other categories the client or contractor may wish to add to the customized platform.

Organize your tasks

In home and landscape construction, you can order punch list items by category. For example, a punch list with remaining tasks can be categorized by room plus exterior spaces, e.g. Bedroom 1, Bedroom 2, Basement, Living Room, Backyard. Grouping various tasks can help simplify construction project closure and advance overall progress.

Relevant tasks can also be segmented by subcontractors, e.g. Carpentry, Plumbing, Landscaping, and Appliance. These subcategories help the general contractor delegate the correct task(s) to the appropriate individual or team.

Use a template

When you create a punch list template, you can eliminate one step in the punch list process. This also allows you to incorporate knowledge from similar previous projects to your current one.

For instance, a standard template for all single-home residential construction projects or one for all commercial buildings grants you access to a document that’s ready to be filled out should you lead a proposal.

Incorporate other data

A punch list with supporting data such as diagrams, photos, and other visuals may be more useful than one with just itemized tasks. A “Notes” section may also be beneficial to prevent miscommunication and to keep communications within a single document.

Four Steps in Closing a Construction Project

There are four steps you must take when a project ends.

  1. Meet with your client to wrap up the project, which may include walking through a punch list.

  2. Assess the project and outcome.

  3. Archive documents and write new guidelines if necessary.

  4. Congratulate the team on a job well done.

FAQs

What does punch list mean?

Traditionally, paper punch lists were pieces of paper that workers punched a hole in when they completed a task. This hole-punching method allowed workers to track which items they had completed and which punch list item(s) they still needed to address.

In the same way that automatic migration management software reduces manual work and helps improve processes within a company, digitized construction project management tools help bring these benefits, too.

Today, a punch list process is almost always digitally accessible on a spreadsheet or a construction app by a project owner, general contractor, or specialty contractor.

What are typical punch list items?

When walking through a house in substantial completion, a contractor might record or answer the following questions on the punch list software.

  • Is the paint coverage even throughout the walls?

  • Have the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors been installed properly?

  • Do the cabinet doors open and close smoothly and quietly in the kitchen?

  • Has the grass been planted in the side yard?

However, a typical construction punch list item does not have to be in question form.

  • Install HVAC in Bedroom 2

  • Fix dent on the door frame in Bathroom 1

  • Incorrect light fixtures in Kitchen

Items on a punch list can also include larger milestones for bigger construction sites.

  • Construction site assessment prior to design

  • Remove excavation soil and leftover materials from the construction site

  • Repair landscape damaged during construction

How do you make a punch list?

A punch list can be made on a spreadsheet (e.g. Excel or Google Sheets) or construction project management software. Your construction punch list might include some or all of the following details.

  • Task number

  • Task name

  • Task owner

  • Subcontractor/department

  • Task due date

  • Date started

  • Date completed

  • Status

  • Notes/Files

Other categories you might include in the punch list software are the name of the approver (person who will verify that the task is complete and correct), priority tag (low, medium, high, urgent), and location (if there are different sites involved or you are working on a large site).

How do you use a punch list?

Once you have your punch list template, you can fill in the details. Depending on the punch list software you use, there should be a way to signal that an item is complete, whether it’s a check box, a “Complete” status from a drop-down menu, or a box where the task owner can insert their initials.

Ideally, stakeholders, the owner, and the contractors meet on an agreed-upon day before the project’s final walkthrough. Throughout this inspection, everyone involved can discuss errors, flaws, or inaccuracies on the punch list that must be corrected.

Written By: Joe Demski

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