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building 101: What is a construction punch list

Building 101: What Is a Construction Punch List?

At some point, no matter how much of a joy (or hell) it’s been, every project must come to an end. When they do, it’s not enough to simply watch it fade away through the rearview mirror; you have to make sure all the i’s have been dotted and the t’s have been crossed—and that means a construction punch list. If you haven’t yet implemented this in your checklist of successful project closeout, it’s time to do so today.

But as most steps in construction, it’s easier said than done. The construction industry has proven time and again that they’re lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to technological implementation. That could mean your current punch list isn’t working, or that you don’t use one at all, neither of which is ideal–especially when you have clients counting on you to deliver a high standard of work.

The first step in cleaning up your punch list game? Understanding the basics. Below, we’ll cover what a construction punch list is, what’s included in them, which phase of the process they’re used in and who’s responsible for their oversight. With a better understanding of why punch lists are important, you’ll be able to refine your process and streamline your project closeout.

What Is a Construction Punch List?

The punch list, also known as a snag list in the U.K., is a document showing work that still needs to be done on a construction project. Another fun fact and mini history lesson is that the term punch list comes from the antiquated process of actually punching holes in a list to mark which items needed fixing.

In regards to construction today, the Business Dictionary defines a punch list as, “Listing of items requiring immediate attention” and as a “Document listing work that does not conform to contract specifications, usually attached to the certificate of substantial completion. The contractor must correct the punch list work before receiving payment.”

Additionally, a punch list might include specifications on damages to other materials or items that occurred during construction and must now be fixed. It may also include incorrect installations or aspects of the building that currently do not function as promised. Typically, punch lists only include small fixes, because the majority of large issues have already been fixed or addressed previously through a change order. Nonetheless, however minor the changes are, it’s incredibly important to execute a construction punch list correctly to ensure your project has the finishing touches it needs to be considered complete.

When Are Punch Lists Typically Executed?

While punch lists are not strictly speaking mandatory, points out Construction Claims Monthly, they are a widespread and traditional process that occurs toward the end of any construction project.

As the phrase “substantial completion” would suggest, a punch list is made only when the project is considered nearly finished. As such, the punch list is usually confined to minor tweaks and typically major fixes have already been addressed. Once this point has been reached, says Compton Construction, it is the general contractor’s job to set up the punch list walkthrough.

During the walkthrough, the owner or client attends to point out any issues they see. The general contractor is usually present on these visits to explain any changes from the original specifications and to note issues that need fixing. Usually, designers and/or architects will attend the walkthrough as well to ensure that the building matches the original design specifications. If anything doesn’t conform to the original specs because the client requested a change, the architect is also there to address that.

Who’s Responsible for Punch List Items?

Although there are many parties involved in the oversight and execution of a construction punch this, there are two main phases: making it and addressing it. All stakeholders have a role in both phases, though some are more heavily involved in each phase than others. So just who is responsible for ticking off each item on your project punch list? While this obviously will vary a bit by project description and relevant stakeholders, here’s the basic breakdown of who does what:

  • Owner: The owner’s job is to inspect work, ask questions about anything they don’t understand and list work that is incomplete or completed improperly. They then hand off this punch list to the general contractor and will perform another walkthrough when the additional requests have been addressed.
  • General Contractor: The GC’s role is to examine the details, consult with the owner’s punch list, and make their own lists for subcontractors to address.
  • Subcontractors: The role of each subcontractor is to take the list they’ve been given, address the requests and ensure each line item is completed. They must also be prepared to explain each fix and, if necessary, why it was not made to specifications.
  • Architect/Designer: The role of architects and designers is to confirm what was designed was actually built.

Once the punch list has been completed and distributed to all involved parties, time is allotted for fixing and another walkthrough is scheduled with both the general contractor and owner present. In a perfect world (or project), there are no new items found on the list, and each item that was originally placed there has been addressed. However, the owner will need to sign off on the punch list for the work to be considered fully completed.

A Better Way to Finish a Construction Punch List with Software

With so many small fixes to address, especially in large projects, most construction companies have started using dedicated software to help them efficiently manage their punch lists and distribute work accordingly. Construction software that enables punch list to be completed in real time on mobile devices allows companies—such as JP Cullen—to execute and close out projects with unparalleled efficiency. In fact, software allows contractors and owners in commercial, heavy civil and other industries to collaborate, collect and share project information from any desktop or mobile device through the entire project lifecycle.

A typical punch list template could be created in an Excel spreadsheet and look like this:

Punch list template outdated
Source: MS Office Docs

However, this template does not offer flexibility for tracking and collaboration. Instead, using a mobile punch list app, teams can track and collaborate on tasks throughout the entire construction process facilitating a more efficient closeout.

punch list plangrid app
Source: PlanGrid

So, what are you waiting for to make the switch to digital?

Improving Punch Lists Once and For All

The goal of any punch list is to ultimately get to zero—meaning all punch list items have been officially crossed off and the project is officially closed out. Looking to get to zero faster? Check out this post: 6 Strategies to Get to Zero Punch List Faster.

Don’t write off a construction punch list as an unnecessary step in your next project. Whether you’ve been using outdated methods or haven’t been prioritizing your punch lists at all, it’s time to put down that old-fashioned tape recorder and notepad and refine your current process. With a more streamlined and up-to-date process with the help of technology, you’ll be able to move to project closeout in record time.

Further Reading:  A Quick and Dirty Guide to Construction Submittals