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What is a Punch List? Your Ultimate Guide

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So many components go into creating a successful construction project that it can be hard to keep track of who is completing which tasks, what job has been extended, delayed, canceled, or gone over budget.

A punch list in construction is a list that is used at the end of a project for the project manager to outline what tasks have not been completed satisfactorily.

The punch list is put together near the end of the project but before the final inspection. Typically a punch list is meant to highlight minor changes that need to be done or cosmetic fixes. It should not be used to point out major jobs that are not properly completed. Major issues should be addressed earlier on in the construction process.

What is a Punch List in Construction and How it works

When a project is almost finished, the general contractor and the client should do a walkthrough together. The client should then take this opportunity to point out any areas of concern or tasks that were not completed according to the plan’s original specifications. Anything the client notices that he wants to be changed gets added to the punch list. Typically these are very minor changes, like painting jobs.

Project plans usually change throughout the project so it’s up to both the client to voice any concerns they have about said changes and for the general contractor to explain why those changes were necessary. Any other tweaks or modifications that the client wants to be done based on the walkthrough gets put into the punch list. Additionally any jobs the client notices that were not done accordingly also go onto the punch list for the contractor to fix later on.

The contractor will then take the client’s punch list, review the tasks, make their own list, and then assign those tasks out to subcontractors. The subcontractors are then responsible for ensuring the tasks are completed on the punch list to the exact specifications listed and the level of service required. If a task cannot or is not completed for whatever reason, it is the subcontractor’s responsibility to report why.

Punch List in Construction

Why A Punch List In Construction Is Important

The punch list is an excellent way to ensure proper communication and keep an organized list of items that still need to be completed on a project. It’s an opportunity for both the client and the general contractor to walk through the project together and take note of what has been done and make comparisons to the current state of the project and the original plans.

How A Punch List In Construction Helps The Project

The punch list helps keep everybody accountable. It allows the client to ensure the project is being completed to their liking and satisfaction while ensuring that the construction crew is fulfilling their end of the contract. The punch list also helps contractors monitor projects that need to be changed or perfected after the walkthrough. It also functions as a great way for the contractor to remind the client of their specific tasks, in case the client keeps changing their mind over the direction of the project or doesn’t understand why a certain change was made.

How To Structure Your Own Construction Punch List

A punch list won’t be effective if it’s not organized properly. A good way to structure your list is to have several columns with different headings. Organize the list by:

  • The task that needs to be completed and its corresponding ID if applicable
  • Who’s responsible for completing the task
  • The deadline for the job
  • Description of the task itself
  • Any notes that might be needed

For a more detailed rundown of how you should structure your punch list, click here for a templated example.

punch list

Helpful Punch List Tips

  • While the project walkthrough is done towards the end of the project, you can start creating a punch list earlier on in the construction phase. This way you have a very close eye and up to date knowledge of the goings-on at the project site and can intervene if anything is not being completed in the right way.
  • The punch list should not be excessively long. It should be used to point out touch-ups that need to be completed. Putting too many items on a punch list risks interfering with the deadline of the project and could mean extra money spent on resources and crew to get the extended job done.
  • In today’s age, many contractors use software management tools to stay on track. Often these software tools allow contractors to keep a digital punch list.
  • Have open communication to establish what exactly the client is looking for, particularly as the project progresses and jobs and plans may change.
  • Always keep copies of contracts, photos of your work to prove, is necessary that the contact was done as specified

Punch lists in construction help keep both the client and contractor accountable for the work that is being completed. They help highlight outstanding tasks on a construction job and allow both the client and the contractor to closely monitor the project, its budget, and its deadlines.

The most successful punch lists are the ones that are organized, updated frequently, and have the most reasonable tasks listed. The punch list should not be used as an excuse to list major construction changes, it should be an opportunity to consult on the final touches to make the project perfect.

Don’t forget that you can update the list throughout the construction project and don’t necessarily need to wait until the very end of the process. This way you can be kept up to date on all site work. Everyone has their own way of creating a punch list, try using one from a digital software so that you and the client can have access wherever you are and at any point throughout the project.

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