In any construction project, attention to detail is vital. It’s the difference between an amicable partnership with a happy client, and a negative review ending up on your online profile.

Punch lists are the best way of ensuring that you’re keeping a close eye on detail. As a final review of everything that was completed during the project, a punch list is used as your final assurance that everything was done up to par, and there are no disagreements with your client.

What is a punch list?

A punch list is a document that is created by a general contractor that lists every task that must be completed before a project can be considered as done. Each item that is on a punch list is characterized by it’s name, item number, date of completion, general description, general location, and any notes that come with it. While punch lists may vary between contractors, Defectspro.com has a quick list of what you should include in yours for each item:

  • What the task is
  • Who is responsible for completing the task
  • Where the task was completed
  • The task deadline

According to Esub.com, the five most common items found on a punch list are:

  • Appliances are working correctly
  • Cabinet doors and drawers are opening
  • Doors open and close properly
  • Floors are damage-free
  • Hardware such as hinges, locks, and latches all work

As you can see, these aren’t always the biggest parts of a project, but they’re necessary to include to make sure that the construction team has done their job correctly.

Punch lists are often created at the end of the project. This is usually referred to as the point of substantial completion, which is when the owner can safely occupy the space where the project was. From this point on, the owner is considered to be responsible for the building instead of the contractor.

If you’re a general contractor, then it’s your responsibility to create the punch list. You’ll also have to lead the rest of the parties involved through the process of completing it, which we will go through later.

Why is it necessary?

A punch list gives proof that every task was completed in a project, according to the specifications of the contract. It will also list any deficiencies or changes that had to be made during the project, so the homeowner will be aware of having to pay for anything extra.

Technically, punch lists aren’t mandatory, but they’re an incredibly helpful step to take if you want to avoid any disputes with your client. After all, you don’t want them to think that you’re scamming them.

Who are the parties involved?

There are four main parties to a punch list: the contractor, the client/homeowner, the architect/designer, and the subcontractor. The responsibilities of each are as follows:

  • The contractor: Creates the punch list and oversees the process of completing it. Also has the option of creating smaller punch lists for individual contractors, if they were assigned multiple tasks.

  • The client/homeowner: Will walk through the punch list with the contractor and note any deficiencies or problems that should be addressed. Has the responsibility of going over the contract again and making sure that everything specified was included and completed in the punch list.

  • Architect/designer: Also walks through the space with the contractor. Makes sure that everything built follows the blueprint of what was laid out, and makes note of any deficiencies.

  • Subcontractor: Examines their own punch list and makes sure each job was completed.

How do I make a punch list?

In general, a punch list that includes all of the elements listed above should look something like this:

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There are also a variety of construction software programs out there that can generate punch lists for you. Procore, for example, has its own system that lets you input each item with its own title, assignee, deadline, and more.

In any case, the common step-by-step process to follow in creating and executing a punch list is:

  1. Contractor makes a list of items that need to be completed, and categorizes them.
  2. Contractor will go over the list with the owner, architect, and subcontractor.
  3. Contractor will walk through the construction site with the owner and the architect.
  4. The owner and architect will identify any additional items, fixes or changes that need to be made with the punch list - all of which should be backed up by language in the contract.
  5. The contractor will ensure that all of the items have been completed before handing the owner a copy of the punch list.

It may seem like there is always an extra step in the construction process, but it’s our best advice not to skip this one. As common as disputes are in the business, they can largely be avoided by using this method of checking your work before handing things back over to the client.