How To Make Punch Lists More Powerful And Productive

construction punch list

The following is a guest post by Anastasios Koutsogiannis, who is marketing coordinator in GenieBelt, a construction project management software company based in Copenhagen, Denmark.

A punch list is a vital part of a construction project’s contract. It helps ensure that the contractor has completed the project in a satisfying manner and that all issues, such as damage to any structures as well as incomplete or incorrect installations, are taken care of before being paid.

How you can make your punch list more powerful and productive, though? That’s the big and challenging question. No need to worry! Below, you can find some of the best ways in which you can achieve that. However, before we dive into more details let’s take a moment and describe briefly what a punch list actually is.

What a Punch List Is

In a few words, the punch list allows the owner to withhold the payment to the contractor until all the tasks on it are completed. Most contracts require the contractor to inform the owner when they think the project is “substantially complete”. They also request the owner or their architect to do a “pre-final” inspection of the project. It’s exactly at this point when the contractor also comes up with a list of tasks that need to be corrected or are yet to be completed. This document is exactly what is known as the punch list.

After receiving the punch list, the architect verifies whether the project has actually reached a near-completion stage as stated by the contractor. If it has, they may then verify whether the tasks listed in the punch list are accurate and correct, and that no other task that may still require some work has been skipped.

Then, the contractor is supposed to work on the tasks listed in the punch list to meet the project requirements. In some cases, however, the contractor and the owner may mutually decide to come up with a resolution for each task of the punch list. Once this is done, the final payment is released to the contractor.

How To Come up With A Good Punch List

By now, it’s pretty clear that punch lists can truly be essential for the construction process. It’s vital, though, to be smart about them and make sure that you are coming up with a strong and efficient punch list. Here are some ways to achieve this depending on your role within a construction project:

For a contractor:

As a contractor, you need to follow the proposal while coming up with a good punch list. First and foremost, you should have an eye for detail and be ready to take care of the slightest slippage in the whole process. This close attention to detail will be a valuable ally in your effort to document everything. In that way, you know the exact needs of your project and you will be able to give a complete image of the situation to your client. By documenting everything, you also avoid the fuss of any potential disputes in the future.

Speaking of the client, always make sure that you have thoroughly inspected the site before meeting with the him/her. You need to be one step ahead of every question and requirement that s/he might have. Thanks to this, you will be able to build a trustful relationship with your clients and create a better professional profile for yourself, too.

Finally, you want to make sure that you are working closely together with your subcontractors in order to avoid any mistakes or waste of resources. Checking up on them regularly, it might be a very good idea.

For a client:

Before the punch list is put together, you want to meet with the contractor on site and go over every single detail and issue that might pop up. However, make yourself a favor and take a good look at the construction site before the punch list meeting. In that manner, you can make your targets and wishes clear to the contractor and to the rest of the agents of the project. On top of that, you will be in position to easily detect any potential mistakes that either haven’t been observed (or have been hidden) by the contractor. As a result, you can avoid painful and time-consuming disputes.

In a nutshell, good preparation and analysis of the different needs of your construction site is the key to coming up with a solid punch list as a client. Like that, you eventually acquire better control of the whole project and you can be sure that the available resources are being used properly.    

For a subcontractor:

Subcontractors are the ones that essentially get the punch list done. It’s vital that they maintain good connection with the contractors, so they can keep them up to date regarding the project’s progress. Construction projects can always get messy and in that sense it’s crucial for subcontractors to keep good track of them and always be ready to inform the contractors they are working with for any unpredicted budget alterations or other issues.  

A Last General Piece Of Advice

Last but not least, a piece of advice that could be applied by all three parties above. No matter the type of the project, you always should prepare your punch list with your mind and eyes on the future. In simple words, you want to start establishing a specific and clean process in the way you move forward with this substantial aspect of the project. It goes without saying that every construction project has different challenges and points of concern but there can always be a certain philosophy around which you build your punch list. This applies both to clients and contractors. The more experience you acquire with this the easier will be to put together a powerful punch list.


Punch lists are in the core of every construction project and for that reason it’s truly important to invest extra attention on doing them right. At first, it may seem like a big challenge, but in the end of day everything has to do with the amount of effort that you want to put on it. In this case, all your energy has to focus on inspecting your construction site thoroughly and on examining in detail any potential risks for the smooth development of your project.