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Construction Punch List: What Is It and How to Improve the Process

Throughout the span of a construction project, there are various moving parts with numerous individuals involved, and often, things get lost in the shuffle. As a result, deadlines must be pushed out, and budgets are usually exceeded. One of the most efficient ways to track progress is through a tool known as construction punch lists. 

Punch lists are essentially a checklist used on construction projects to mark when tasks are complete. Being able to understand the process and maximizing its efficiency is paramount for any construction project. Keep reading as we discuss the ins and outs of punch lists and provide actionable tips to improve the process and how it can supplement job site safety.  

 

What Is a Construction Punch List?

A construction punch list, also known as a construction project checklist, 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 punched next to each completed item. 

Punch lists are generally compiled by the contractor, architect and owner during a walkthrough.  

  • A punch list typically contains the following information:  
  • Structural defects 
  • Incomplete equipment  
  • Building system installations 
  • Any items that may need to meet 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. 

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. 

 

Construction Punch List Process

When it comes to a construction punch list, there are generally two phases involved—making it and addressing it. The project owner (or the person in charge) will produce a punch list, which addresses major issues and minor adjustments. Then, a walkthrough is conducted with all involved parties, typically the project owner, contractor and subcontractors.  

The walkthrough allows the stakeholders to discover any issues that may be present and may need to be addressed before the project can be completed. Depending on the size of the project, designers and architects may join the walkthrough to review any changes made from the initial contract and record things that’ll need to be adjusted. 

After all punch list items have been identified, the involved parties create a plan to handle the outstanding tasks. The general contractor will notify the project owner with an estimated timeline for completion and when the project can be closed out. 

 

How To Improve the Construction Punch List Process

The process for creating and addressing punch lists is simple but may need to be adjusted depending on the overall size of the project. Here are some tips and best practices to help improve your punch list process: 

  • Keep a working punch list: Updating your checklist as you go makes it easier to track overall progress. A running list can help you develop workflows and establish standards across the team. You may want to consider holding check-in meetings to ensure everyone is on track to finish on time. 
  • Record everything: As you get into the weeds with the project, there will be a lot of moving parts. It’s advantageous to document and take pictures of everything so you won’t have to spend time and resources redoing work. Also, documentation can help you justify why you did something in a particular manner. 
  • Conduct regular inspections: Throughout the duration of the project, it’s recommended to conduct regular inspections to ensure your quality is meeting and even surpassing standards. Consider using the punch list layout for inspections so you can check safety and quality measures. 
  • Take advantage of construction punch list software: Tracking punch list items on paper or even an Excel spreadsheet is one approach, but it is outdated and inefficient. Instead, you may want to consider investing in construction document software. Quality punch list software can trim up to 40% off of your punch list creation time.  
  • Assign task items to different stakeholders: To maximize efficiency, consider assigning specific tasks on the checklist to certain members of the team and keep tabs on the work completed to ensure deadlines are being met. With that said, one person, typically the general contractor, should manage the entire punch list by assigning tasks and ensuring the work is completed. 
  • Determine a budget: Construction projects tend to go over budget. It’s ideal to set a strict budget from the beginning and adhere to it throughout the duration of the project. The construction estimating process will play an important role when setting a budget.

 

Who Manages Punch List Items?

Like any process in a construction project, there are various parties involved to ensure accuracy and quality control. The punch list process is no different. As mentioned previously, the punch list process is usually broken down into two parts making it and addressing it. While roles can be blended between the two phases, specific stakeholders may be more heavily involved in one over the other. 

Here is a breakdown of how each stakeholder may be involved in the construction punch list process: 

  • Project owner: The project owner’s responsibilities may include tasks such as inspecting any completed work versus what was defined in the contract, asking questions about how certain aspects of the project were handled, and adding that information as a line item on the punch list. The project owner is generally in charge of using the punch list to ensure project timelines are being met. 
  • General Contractor: The general contractor is usually asked to analyze the essential details and tasks of the project and then consult with the project owner’s punch list to produce their own punch list for the subcontractors. 
  • Subcontractors: The subcontractors are responsible for managing the items on the punch list that the general contractor created. The subcontractors will need to ensure all communication is consistent so the general contractor can have an accurate checklist. 
  • Architects and Designers: The architects and designers are responsible for verifying that all designs were built according to the original specifications outlined in the contract.  

Note: Stakeholders’ roles may vary depending on the scope and the overall size of the team involved with the project.  

After the punch list is completed and shared with all appropriate individuals, time is usually set aside to fix any unsolved issues and the project owner and general contractor conduct a final walkthrough. The goal is that no additional items will need to be added to the list. If issues are still present during the walkthrough, they’ll need to be addressed before the project owner can sign off on the punch list.   

 

How To Increase Job Site Safety with Construction Punch Lists

Safety measures on the job site might be rather unconventional line items to check off on a standard construction punch list, especially since there’s likely a set protocol already in place for tracking these measures. But safety is a 24/7 proposition. So, having an extra set of “eyes” on job site hazards can benefit every project and project team throughout its life cycle. 

How can you promote job site safety with a construction punch list? Let’s delve into a few ways that can be accomplished. 

 

Incorporate Punch Lists at the Beginning of the Project

Because they’ve traditionally been implemented near the end of a construction project, punch lists tend to result in a period of a flurry of activity to finish outstanding work before liquidated damages become an issue. During this race against time, safety protocols may be at higher risk of error. That’s because meeting the original completion deadline is paramount for contractors to receive their retainage payment. But it’s okay to trade accuracy for project deadlines.  

The solution is to use construction punch lists at the beginning of the project with mobile-friendly documentation software and continue using them throughout the build. Known as rolling punch lists, they turn your lists into an ongoing quality control (QC) process rather than simply a defect-finding mission. This keeps your site crews from tackling a large backlog of major rework at the project’s end, putting an undue burden on craftspeople that can lead to a higher likelihood of safety shortcuts. 

How does it work? As defects are documented in real-time, they can be assigned to the appropriate craftsperson or whole crew for immediate repair. This can dramatically shorten the tally of significant end-stage maintenance to complete and reduce the injury rate that typically occurs during this phase. 

 

Record Any Safety Issues During the Rolling Punch List Process

Whether you’re conducting rolling punch list inspections on a scheduled or ad hoc basis, this is the ideal opportunity to document any safety protocols not being adhered to or newly formed hazards within or around the job site. Sure, it may not be in the official job description of those conducting the walkthrough. But safety isn’t just within the purview of the safety manager; it’s everyone’s obligation. 

Sometimes a safety issue, from a minor oversight to an outright violation, may be observed by pure happenstance during construction punch list inspections. These things can happen anytime, not conveniently, before a formal safety inspection that would have otherwise caught it.  

Rather than expecting someone to eventually discover and take responsibility for it (a dangerous assumption as it could prove to be too late), the person doing the inspection can take a proactive approach. In the same way you’d document structural or building system flaws, you can notate safety concerns.  

Instead of going into another app, photograph the issue and upload it through the mobile app software your company uses for its punch lists, add notes about the issue, and tag the safety manager or the appropriate subcontractor to notify them about the corrective action. 

 

Update Your Actual Punch List Template to Include Safety Line Items

Why not make your construction punch list do double duty? The structure of the punch list itself, a simple checklist, makes incorporating a few line items around witnessed personal safety protocol violations, structural weaknesses and environmental hazards that much easier. If you’re using documentation software with a mobile component, you can easily create a combination template or update an existing one. 

A non-exhaustive, safety-informed construction punch list could include: 

  • Equipment damage or malfunction 
  • Personal safety measures violations (e.g., incorrect harnessing, lack of protective gear) 
  • Proper protocols not being followed 
  • Exposed or unsecured materials 
  • Physical hazards (e.g., tripping hazard) 
  • Witnessed injury 
  • Witnessed accident 

Project owners and contractors prioritize using safety data for improved project outcomes. What could that look like in this situation? All this safety data recorded during construction punch list inspections, when added to that of the formal safety inspections, can further be used to develop improved protocols and create more specific training around material handling, equipment usage and personal safety measures. 

 

How To Determine the Best Construction Punch List Software for You

Part of the planning phase of every project is thinking ahead toward the items that typically occur near completion. And one of those things is a long construction punch list of items still to be addressed. The punch list has often been done as part of commissiong, which has traditionally started as the completion date approached. But by shifting the start of the punch list process to the beginning, you can identify and fix any errors as they’re discovered. What is the best way to make that happen? Throw away the notepads and spreadsheets and instead adopt punch list software with features that introduce structure and efficiency at every step in the process with these key features.

 

Cloud Technology

Cloud technology can help increase speed, efficiency, accessibility and timeliness. Those are some benefits cloud technologies can bring to your construction punch list process, making it easier to track and check off issues. You could look at it like a multitasking enabler, connecting everyone in real-time across the job site and in the back office, accessing data and documents from anywhere possible, and housing those documents virtually all in one place. This is a game-changing capability, especially for long-term, large projects like public works, infrastructure and commercial builds involving dozens, if not hundreds of subcontractors and multiple job sites. 

 

Mobile Access

If ongoing quality checks aren’t a best practice for your construction company, mobile access could be the key feature that makes it possible. With nearly everyone carrying a smartphone, why not turn it into a rolling construction punch list tool? When doing quality control walkthroughs and scheduled inspections, you can’t beat the time-saving convenience of being able to snap photos of issues and upload them directly into the software, along with any notes or instructions. When it comes time to verify follow-up on these items, proof of completion is transmitted similarly. 

Documenting items using handheld devices helps keep flaws from going undetected and becoming more significant issues (potentially resulting in repair work after the owner has taken possession) and further shortens the end-of-project punch list. That can make for a significantly more efficient closeout process. 

 

One Location for All Documentation

It doesn’t matter what you document for a process as doc-heavy as the construction punch list; it’s also where everything winds up. Think of all the items that play a role in the punch list process: the change orders, contract requirements, photos, checklists, emails, records of deficiencies and their resolution.  

Where do they go once they’re created? How long does it take to find them when they’re needed? And once you find them, how do you know they’re the most current version? Thanks to cloud-enabled punch list software, all these related documents are uploaded and housed in a single place for the project team to easily access no rummaging through multiple file servers, computer desktops or file cabinets. Nothing is misplaced, overlooked, damaged or corrupted. Just think what that would mean in terms of efficiency. 

 

One Platform for Communication

With all files and data in one place, all punch list-related communication can happen there, too, in its own hub. Why is having a communication hub within the software so important? Wouldn’t email or phone suffice? The old, disconnected communication methods are inefficient in an industry as time-dependent as construction. 

Having a hub organizes and streamlines communication among everyone on the project, from those at the job site to the most distant of remote team members. It’s the fastest, most efficient way to notify impacted or necessary teams of things like time-sensitive change orders before they can wind up on the punch list as a major rework item. Not only that, but it’s also easier to send targeted messages and alerts to the appropriate subcontractors or craftspeople as non-compliant work or deficiencies are discovered. Basically, it becomes the platform where actionable items are shared, and collaborative decisions are made based on the real-time information being communicated. 

 

Improve Punch List Efficiency with InEight Software

Construction punch lists are an essential tool to complete any given construction project. They help you maintain deadlines and act as a second pair of “eyes” when doing a final walkthrough. There are various ways to use a punch list such as pen and paper and an Excel spreadsheet, but those can cause inaccuracies and inefficiencies. The best way to use a punch list is to invest in construction document software.     

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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