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What Is a Construction Punch List?

A construction punch list is a comprehensive to-do list of outstanding items to complete, traditionally created as the project is about to finish, during the inspection and commissioning phase. As each item is addressed, it’s checked off or “punched” in reference to the days when a hole was literally punched next to each completed item.

Compiled by the contractor, architect and owner during a walkthrough, a punch list documents primarily structural defects, incomplete equipment and building system installations, and items that may have fallen short in meeting the original contract requirements. It’s not just the big stuff though; minor cosmetic flaws that don’t affect building operations, like correcting painting mistakes, are typically detailed as well.

In order to bring the project to “substantially complete” status, construction punch lists can include recommendations for how to repair the defects. The contractor will assign this specific repair work to the subcontractors and craftspeople responsible for those areas.


Behind the construction punch list

While a “zero” punch list is ideal — meaning there are no outstanding tasks to perform at the project’s end — some punch lists can seem to go on forever. Why does this happen?

It could indicate a disconnect between the quality assurance program (QA) and quality control process (QC). An example of this would be not enforcing regular walkthroughs or inspections that would’ve otherwise caught unfinished or defective work.

There may have been no conversation around understanding the contract requirements (which can inform the punch list) and the client’s definition of a defect. Ironing this out before work begins can smooth the way for a more manageable list.

Changes and critical information may not be making it to the site crews in a timely manner, if at all. When that happens, it has the potential to result in time-consuming rework or a mad rush to perform a slew of corrective work late in the construction process, putting the completion date at further risk of being missed.

Or it may even be as simple as the fact that construction punch lists often are started so late in the project’s life cycle, when structural defects and cosmetic flaws have steadily been accumulating over the course of the build.

Until those punch items are resolved, final payment is not issued to contractors and subcontractors, which means it can be the one thing standing between them receiving their construction retention on time. Worse, they could also potentially find themselves on the receiving end of a liquidated damages claim. So it can definitely cause a bit of panic when the items that make it on the punch list increase in number and/or severity.

Interestingly, the printed Microsoft Excel® spreadsheets still common today may be contributing to this construction punch list anxiety. Along with the risk of being misplaced, lost or incorrectly marked, there’s the critical shortcoming of defects not being able to be updated in real time, preventing immediate fixes.


Rolling with the punches

One way that companies head off major late-stage surprises and a looming list of project repairs is with a rolling punch list that begins before the project even starts and continues in real time throughout the project. In essence, it becomes an ongoing enforcement tool for the QA process.

This shift from its more traditional timing goes a long way toward keeping the final punch list short, which can have positive implications for projects that are complex in nature or fall into the capital, infrastructure or large commercial categories. Site crews have a chance to fix issues as they arise or are discovered, which helps preserve the original scheduled completion date. Plus, a regular punch list inspection schedule shows clients progress on their project and how work is aligning with their requirements. If anything is “off” it can be corrected immediately rather than developing into a bigger, costlier issue later on.

The rolling construction punch list process, when used in combination with mobile documentation software, can nudge the list closer to that desired “zero.” Companies are adopting this software to optimize their punch list workflow. Items can be noted, shared with the appropriate parties, assigned to specific craftspeople for corrective action, and marked as complete — all within the app, all in real time. Photos and videos can be uploaded as evidence of job progress for the owner, or to call attention to items needing attention from the subcontractors. Part of the appeal of using this software is that it eliminates data entry duplication and helps reduce errors, saving substantial time and effort.  

If you’re interested in such a solution, InEight Document features capabilities that simplify and streamline the complex construction punch list process — enabling you to cut nearly 40% off the time it takes to create your list. This cloud-based software enables you to record defects and verify progress in real time, while providing an avenue to collaborate with project team members for updates and issue resolution. Schedule an InEight demo to see how it benefits your business beyond the punch list.

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