Construction Punch List Best Practices: Making Your Way to Final Completion & Payment


Your punch list is the last thing standing between you and a completed project – and your final payment. Follow this punch list guide to make sure your team is clear on the importance of getting the punch list right and on getting to zero as smoothly as possible.


What Is a Construction Punch List?


The punch list indicates any construction project work that is unfinished or completed incorrectly at the end of a job. Also known in the industry as a snag list, the general contractor’s goal is for the punch list to be as short as possible – ideally ending up with zero items left to document, fix, or negotiate.


Typical Items That Appear on Punch Lists


Punch lists are generally made up of the smaller incomplete or incorrect items from a job, rather than significant problems or changes. These could include issues that arose with the work performed by any interior or exterior trade contractor, such as:


  • Inoperable light fixtures
  • Incorrect paint color/style
  • Cracked drywall or concrete
  • Landscape damage from equipment
  • Plumbing leaks
  • Missing outlet covers
  • Inaccurate signage


What doesn’t belong on the punch list are larger updates to plans or specs that change the course of the project. These types of adjustments are typically handled via change orders earlier in the job and require communication among stakeholders upfront before the added work is performed.


Punch List Execution Timing


The key to perfectly timing punch list execution is to find the sweet spot between completing the vast majority of the work – that is, 100% of the agreed-upon project tasks – and leaving enough time before project closeout for crews to fix and check off any remaining items on the punch list.


Thorough project tracking and skilled field crews throughout the project will ultimately mean fewer items on the punch list to start with, so setting yourself up with strong project managers and foremen will give you more leeway at the end of a job.


How Builders and Contractors Use Punch Lists


The punch list helps contractors stay accountable for mistakes and allows all stakeholders to keep track of last-minute repairs needed to fulfill the terms of the construction contract. Punch list work is not substantial enough to handle during the main phase of construction, so having a running tally of punch list items to return to at the end of the project keeps the job moving without letting smaller adjustments slip through the cracks.


The Benefits of Punch Lists


Punch lists allow construction managers to focus their attention where it’s needed at the right time. When minor mistakes are made, adding those as punch list work and moving on to the rest of the bigger areas of construction frees up time and energy that might be spend trying to remember everything to come back to at the end of a project.


Instead, with a running punch list, the construction project can carry on according to schedule because the general contractor can be confident that those final touch-ups will be tended to before project closeout.


The primary benefit of a punch list is for the contractor to ensure the project moves beyond substantial completion to final completion, leaving the client satisfied with the work and the general contractor receiving any remaining retention funds.


Punch List Stakeholders


The responsibility for punch list items ultimately lies with the general contractor on a project, but everyone involved in the job plays a role. While the GC tracks the punch items, each subcontractor must make the repairs related to their trade.


Owners can also participate in punch list creation and clearance, as they inspect the work to ensure it follows what was agreed upon in the contract, and architects check that all work was performed according to the original project specifications.


Pitfalls to Avoid When Creating and Completing a Construction Punch List


While you’ll do a final walkthrough with the project owner and other stakeholders to identify issues, don’t wait until that time to start your punch list. You don’t want to put yourself in the position where you need to remember issues that arose months ago, or to pinpoint every project problem on a single inspection before project completion. Instead, add to your punch list every time an issue arises, so it’s automatically tracked for later. Additionally, avoid these common pitfalls:


  • Running up against your deadline. Make sure crews start on punch list items well in advance of final inspections.
  • Confusing documentation. If crews can’t find the problem location or figure out what needs repaired, you’ll lose more time.
  • Spotty communication. When documenting the problem, alert the appropriate responsible party so they’re not caught unaware when it’s time for them to fix the issue.
  • Unclear ownership. Assign each punch list item to a particular crew member so there’s no question about who is responsible.
  • Unfamiliarity with specs and scope. Be thoroughly knowledgeable about project specs so you’re able to spot issues to include on the punch list.
  • Duplicate work. Have a process in place to mark punch list items complete and avoid wasting time looking for problems that have already been addressed.


Punch List Organization


There are multiple ways to organize your punch list, from item owner to priority level to type of issue to location. However you decide to track your punch list, it’s best to provide as much detail as possible, and if you use a tool that allows you to, add photos of the affected area so it’s simple for the crew to return to the correct spot to identify and fix the issue.


Punch List Completion


Add to your punch list at intervals throughout the construction project as issues arise, but your main timeline for the punch list will be after substantial completion. Walk through the site with your subcontractors to identify issues, and also with the project owner and architect and/or designers to determine anything else that doesn’t match project specs.


Once the punch list is fully created, each issue owner needs to complete their assigned tasks on time for final inspections and project closeout.


Software to Help Improve the Construction Punch List Process


A construction project is too complicated to entrust your punch list process to pen and paper. It is possible to use an Excel spreadsheet as a punch list template; however, there are risks involved with tracking and identifying issues from Excel that a punch list app can alleviate.


Construction Management Software for Punch Lists


Using traditional spreadsheet punch list templates does allow you to sort by column to identify issue owners, priority level, and other factors, but that is the extent to which they can help. A good construction management software platform, on the other hand, can make it easy for the crew to find what they’re looking for with photos and clear indications on plans.


Software allows you to assign tasks to crew members, send notifications, and collaborate with team members, providing full accountability throughout the punch list process and beyond.


What to Look For in Punch List Software


When you’re comparing construction management software options, make this your punch list checklist:


  • A cloud-based punch list app that works effectively for your office staff and your crew in the field is essential for success.
  • Offline access. In case your jobsite or other travel takes you out of service range, choose a software that will allow you to continue to access plans and documents even without internet.
  • Plan sharing capabilities. Your subs will need access to plans throughout the construction process, as well as for punch lists.
  • Unlimited projects and pages. You’ll need to assign punch list items to multiple subcontractors. Make sure you’re not charged extra for them to access what they need.
  • Customizable forms. Choose a tool that allows you to create any category or list, rather than only using a pre-built template.
  • Photo storage and custom placement. The best punch list app will allow you to upload photos of the affected areas and drop them exactly where you want on a sheet.
  • Collaborator assignment and management. Options like color-coding and instant notifications allow you to effectively manage stakeholders and item status.
  • Intuitive reporting tools. The ability to export a detailed list of issues that you can provide to your client as a summary during project closeout projects professionalism.


Benefits of the SmartUse Platform for Punch Lists


SmartUse is a construction management software platform that checks all the boxes for a superior punch list app. With detailed tracking and instant notifications, your team will be better prepared for a faster punch list process and seamless project closeout, and you’ll be set up for success. Get started with SmartUse now for free!