Building the perfect construction punch list

Sarah Laoyan contributor headshotSarah LaoyanDecember 9th, 20214 min read
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Summary

A punch list is a list of tasks that need to be finished before a construction project is completed. General contractors and their team members track to-dos on a punch list to ensure they tackle each item carefully, so the client is happy with the final project. In this article, we discuss what you need in order to build a perfect construction punch list.

Imagine you're nearing the end of a project, but there are still a lot of loose ends you need to tie up before officially completing your work. Keeping track of all those smaller tasks can be a challenge. Instead of scrambling for those  loose ends at the end of a project, try compiling a list of tasks that need to be completed beforehand. Later, you can use that same list to double-check that everything is completed before the final payment is due. 

In the construction industry, this is known as the punch list process.

What is a construction punch list?

A punch list is a construction project management tool that lists all the smaller tasks that need to be completed before the overarching construction project can be completed. A punch list is also referred to as a snag list, deficiency list, or punch out list. 

The term originated from an older process in which a construction project manager would physically punch a small hole on a piece of paper to mark a task as complete. 

Here's how a punch list works in action:

A general contractor is doing a walkthrough of a kitchen renovation project. While construction is complete, the team has yet to test any of the appliances, water lines, and electric wiring. The contractor adds all of those tasks to a punch list. After doing a thorough inspection and adding to the list to comply with the contract specifications, the construction project manager delegates those individual tasks back out to subcontractors. The project manager then uses the punch list to double check all of the work assigned to subcontractors and ensure everything is completed.

What information does a construction punch list provide?

A punch list clarifies what needs to be done in order for a specific task to be considered complete. A punch list typically has:

  • Item number or "punch" number: A numerical indicator for each list item allows team members to clearly communicate which punch list item they're referring to. This is especially important when there are similar tasks that need to be done.

  • Item name: This is a general name for the task that needs to be done. It's best to start task names with a verb so what needs to be done is clear. For example, "Test the garbage disposal" is a clear task name. 

  • General description: If the task name doesn’t provide enough information, including more situational context can help your team clearly understand what needs to be done. For example, if something needs to be fixed, what was the mistake in the first place? Providing this information can help your team members find the right solution.

  • Owner or assignee: This is the person responsible for completing the task. If a stakeholder has any questions about a specific task, the owner is responsible for that information.

  • Start date: When an assignee begins working on a task.

  • End date or due date: When a task is completed if there is no deadline, or the deadline a task needs to be completed by.

  • Status: The stage a task is in. Status updates can vary from job site to job site. The most simple statuses are not started, in progress, and completed.

At the end of the day, the information you share on your construction management punch list will vary based on your project management style. The end goal is to provide team members with enough contextual information so they know exactly which tasks they’re responsible for.

Read: 25 essential project management skills you need to succeed

Why use a construction punch list?

Punch lists are a common tool for construction project management, and for good reason. Here are a few reasons why construction project managers still use punch lists today.

Help your team produce high quality work

When the punch list process is implemented throughout the entire project (not just at the end) the construction project manager has the opportunity to catch any mistakes or issues as they happen. 

Project owners can also use the walkthrough and punch list as an opportunity for quality control. If there's a part of the build that doesn't meet contract specifications or if something wasn’t installed correctly, the project manager can list it on the punch list to rework. 

Prevent communication errors

Your punch list should be a joint effort between the construction project manager and any subcontractors working on the project. If team members need to find more details on their assigned task, the punch list serves as a reference for more information. When the punch list has action items and assignees clearly labeled, there's no confusion as to which team member works on what. 

Read: Why a clear communication plan is more important than you think

Clearly track delegated work

If you're working on a larger construction site, it's not unusual to have a long punch list near the end of a project. A project manager can streamline the process by delegating work to specialty contractors or other team members, saving more time in the long run. 

Best practices for using a punch list

Construction management professionals have been using punch lists for years. Here are a few best practices to use to ensure your construction project runs smoothly.

Use a punch list consistently throughout the construction process

While a punch list is most commonly used at the end of the construction process, it's best to use this tool throughout the entire duration of your project. Known as a rolling punch list, this practice helps your team minimize the number of items on the final punch list. 

A rolling punch list can also help you achieve what’s called a zero punch list. Zero punch lists happen when the final walkthrough produces zero items on the punch list. Imagine going through the final walkthrough without having to do any additional work. That’s a job well done. 

Clearly delegate action items to team members and subcontractors

One of the best ways to encourage accountability on your team is to delegate tasks to your team members. It’s easier for project managers to double check work when task owners are clearly identified for each punch list item. If there's ever a question about a certain task, the general contractor will know who is responsible, so they can go to the task owner for clarification.

Read: How to delegate effectively: 10 tips for managers

Use software to track progress

Traditionally, punch lists were created on paper and coordinated by the construction project manager. But by transforming your punch list using digital project management software like Asana, you can give your entire team access to all critical construction project information from anywhere on the jobsite. Whether they're using a laptop, tablet, or accessing the punch list on their mobile phone, your team can easily find the task they're responsible for in real-time.

Align your jobsite with Asana

Sharing punch list information with your team doesn't have to add to the regular everyday stress of a jobsite. Effectively communicate with everyone on your team with work management software like Asana. With Asana for mobile, you can easily access and update punch list information on the go.

Download Asana for mobile

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