Tom Scalisi

Tom Scalisi

Tom Scalisi has over 15 years of experience working in the trades. Since moving to full-time freelance writing, he has developed a passion for helping construction companies grow. He enjoys teaching contractors how technology can streamline their businesses and educating them about their rights during payment disputes.

What Are Punch Lists in the Construction Industry?

A punch list—also sometimes referred to as a snag list, deficiency list, or punch out list—is a document prepared during the project closeout process to outline tasks that have yet to be completed, or items that need to be corrected, before a project can be considered finished. 

Punch lists are typically created when a project reaches substantial completion, a legal term used in construction to signify when responsibility for the project shifts to the owner rather than the contractor. More specifically, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) defines substantial completion as “the stage in the progress of the Work where the Work or designated portion is sufficiently complete in accordance with the Contract Documents so that the Owner can occupy or utilize the Work for its intended use.”  

Although punch lists aren’t considered mandatory, it is a traditional part of the construction process as it gives key project members—for example, the general contractor (GC), subcontractors, architect and owner—an opportunity to double-check the work to ensure everything has been completed to satisfaction before project closeout and final payment. 

What’s included in a punch list? 

There are a number of items that can be included on a punch list, but most of the time it’s limited to minor items that need to be completed or corrected before a project can be closed out. The fixes addressed in a punch list should be small in scope as any major changes were likely resolved earlier in the process through a change order

A punch list will typically include the following:

  • Mechanical issues
  • Incorrect installations
  • Interior/exterior issues
  • Damaged items
  • Uncompleted/unaddressed work outlined in the original contract

Because no building project will ever be perfect and there will always be some level of error(s), the GC must determine what is (or is not) considered a reasonable deficiency. Reasonable deficiencies—like a small ding or a little paint splatter—are minor flaws that should be outlined and explained, but don’t necessarily need to be corrected as the work still satisfies the project requirements. Unreasonable flaws—like the walls being painted an incorrect color, or the wrong fixture being installed—are errors that must be fixed.

Who’s responsible for a punch list?

General contractor completing a punch list near the end of project

While it’s typically the GC’s responsibility to ensure all the line items are addressed and resolved before a completion certificate is issued, everyone on the project team has a role in the execution of a punch list—especially because it’s tied to final payment.

A punch list is usually developed after the GC and owner (or the owner’s representative) do an initial walkthrough together to identify incomplete or non-conforming work. If there is an architect on the team, they may join the GC and the owner for the job site assessment; otherwise, the GC will send the architect the punch list so they can do their own walk through to ensure work has been completed to their design specifications. The architect then updates the punch list and sends it back to the GC. From there, the GC distributes the punch list to the subcontractors and is responsible for ensuring the work gets completed. 

Typically, the final payment to the GC—referred to as retainage or retention—is contingent upon completion of items on the punch list within the specified time frame. This amount of money (usually between 2-10% of the total contract value) is deliberately withheld to ensure all the work gets completed and in accordance with the contract documents.

How can you improve punch list management? 

The term punch list gets its name from the historical process of punching a hole next to a line item in a document once it was completed, with the goal being to get to zero before the project reaches substantial completion. It’s an ambitious goal, but there are steps companies can take to improve their chances of going for zero-punch. 

Utilizing construction management software is one of the most effective ways to improve communication and collaboration across project stakeholders, securely store and maintain construction documents, and establish responsibility and accountability between team members—all of which reduces the likelihood of errors and rework, therefore also helping companies get closer to a zero-punch.

For more information about Premier Construction Software and how we can help improve your processes, click here to schedule a personalized product tour. 


Author Biography:

Kathryn Dressler is a content strategist with more than 10 years of experience across the spectrum of marketing services, including blogging, social media, public relations, copywriting and editorial services.

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