Construction Punch Lists - Complete Guide and Best Practices

Punch list is a word that brings emotions of dread, frustration, and fear to the hearts of general contractors, subs, architects, inspectors, and anyone involved in the construction trade. Despite the negative emotions, punch lists (also known as “snag lists” in the UK and punch lists for the space-bar-challenged) are a necessary tool in the assigning, tracking, and approving of tasks in a construction project.

Construction Punch Lists - Complete Guide and Best Practices

Building the right tech stack is key

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How to choose the right tech stack for your company?

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What to consider when choosing the right tech stack?

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What are the most relevant factors to consider?

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What tech stack do we use at Techly X?

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Construction Punch Lists - Complete Guide and Best Practices

Punch list is a word that brings emotions of dread, frustration, and fear to the hearts of general contractors, subs, architects, inspectors, and anyone involved in the construction trade. Despite the negative emotions, punch lists (also known as “snag lists” in the UK and punch lists for the space-bar-challenged) are a necessary tool in the assigning, tracking, and approving of tasks in a construction project.

In this guide, we will dive into construction punch lists and establish best practices for getting the work done the right way.

Table of Contents

  • What is a Construction Punch List?
  • When are Punch Lists Typically Executed?
  • Who is Responsible for Completing a Punch List?
  • What Items are Included on a Punch List?
  • Best Practices for Punch Lists
  • Punch List Template & Examples
  • Improving the Punch List Process
  • The Future of Punch Lists using Software

What is a Construction Punch List?

A construction punch list is a document prepared during key milestones or near the end of a project listing work that doesn’t fit the specifications in the contract. However, they must be completed by the general contractor prior to receiving final payment after the project close.

Punch lists also go by other names, like “punch-out list,” “close-out check list,” “exceptions list” or a “final checklist”, however the term punch list is most commonly used to refer to leftover work or tasks.

Rolling punch lists are used to handle warranty work, ongoing maintenance, or ongoing incident response. Rolling punch list keep maintenance organized especially when managing multiple issues across multiple locations. They tend to be digitized and sorted by location, service, or personnel availability.

Why do they call it a punch list?

Punch lists get their name from an old process where a carbon copy list would be created with repair items and the general contractor or service technician would use a hole punch to “punch out” the items on the list. One copy for the contractor to keep and one to give to the architect, inspector, or other project owner.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a hole punch on the modern day job site, however, the name punch list stuck and continues to be used amongst general contractors and the construction industry in general.

When are Punch Lists Typically Used?

Punch lists get most of their use during the inspection and approval processes of a project. In construction project management terms, this normally falls between Substantial Completion and Final Completion.

After the construction project reaches Substantial Completion and the Walkthrough with the Contractor and Project Owner occurs, a punch list is created by the Project Owner, or their Representative, for the contractor to complete before the approval for Final Completion.

“Although the amount of work left to perform after Substantial Completion is a small portion of the overall contract work (usually less than 1% of the contract value), completing the punch list often takes a disproportionately long period of time.” Jared Rogers, Purdue University, said in his thesis on the common delays on construction projects and despite how much time they take to complete, punch lists take up less than 1% of the contract value,

Connecting all of the people necessary to complete a punch list is difficult, which is why punch list software like SeeSnap is so powerful when it comes to digitizing punch lists. Punch lists are dependent on the client, contractor, architect, owner, subcontractors, etc. to collaborate.

Who is Responsible for Completing a Punch List?

General Contractors (GC) complete the list but as we said above, it is a collaborative document that includes major and minor contributors to a project. Some of the roles that add to and are involved in a punch list are: architects, owners, clients, subcontractors, and contractors. These roles are mostly adding to punch lists and assisting the GC in checking.

What Items are Included on a Punch List?

Anything can be on a punch list that needs to be tested, fixed, added or removed. Punch lists manage tasks like damaged building components, issues with the final installations, warranty work and ongoing maintenance to ensure all tasks are completed and tracked.

Damaged Item Punch List

Punch lists help during the unfortunate event that damages occur to building components or equipment during the construction or install process. Mistakes happen, and punch lists ensure that the property is in perfect condition before funds are released to the general contractor along with some time-based warranty on the quality and craftsmanship of the work.

Examples of Damaged Items Punch List Items

  • Repair broken window in main bedroom
  • Replace stained wallboard in main hallway
  • Repair cracked paving on driveway
  • Replace cracked mirror in downstairs bathroom
  • Remove construction debris from garage
  • Replace damaged TV
  • Repair dent in exterior garage door

Final Issues or Exceptions Punch Lists

Punch lists ensure all the details are covered by identifying your final issues list or the exceptions to the agreed upon project scope. Whether it’s a wrong color on this wall or that Alex forgot to install those two light fixtures, identifying these items during inspections ensures that the construction project is completed as agreed and up to scope.

Examples of Final Issues or Exceptions Punch list Items

  • Install light fixture
  • Connect faucet to plumbing
  • Install baseboard trim
  • Replace missing roof shingles
  • Rehang exterior door
  • Obtain elevator permit
  • Activate the security system
  • Repaint walls with correct color

Warranty Punch List

Revisiting a project to fix a mistake sucks, but coming back after the client has moved in for a warranty call is the worst. Punch lists ensure that you stand by your promise of quality and ensure you fix quality and craftsmanship issues. Warranty issue management is about making sure that issues small or large are addressed in the most efficient and profitable way possible.

Examples of Warranty Punch list Items

  • Reinstall main circuit panel
  • Fix plumbing drain issue
  • Rewire electrical switches in kitchen
  • Reset concrete patio steps
  • Reinstall landscape drainage system
  • Get an approved permit for the deck addition
  • Fix leaning fence post
  • Identify and repair roof leak
  • Diagnose power loss in northwest corner office

Ongoing Maintenance Punch Lists

Punch lists are used after a project is completed to manage all the details of building maintenance whether it be incidental repair or ongoing maintenance of building components and equipment. This includes the plumbing, air, and electrical systems, appliances, health and safety systems, security, communications, landscaping, or anything that needs to be done to protect the value of your building. There are tons of aspects that are particular to residential, commercial, and industrial punch lists, however the common systems are mechanical, health and safety, security and communications, and grounds maintenance.

Plumbing, HVAC, Electrical and Appliance (Mechanical) Maintenance

Punch lists for these systems quite often can be handled by one contractor instead of a specialty contractor for each trade. These tasks can range from a handyman changing furnace filters to a main water line replacement. The problem is that quite often the filter can cause a $3,000 HVAC and mold issue and these small, common points of failure must be taken care of.

Plumbing, HVAC, Electrical and Appliance Maintenance Punch List Item Examples
  • Replace HVAC filter Quarterly
  • Clean condenser coils on refrigeration and heating systems twice a year
  • Drain hot water heater once a year
  • Snake bathroom drains
  • Clean and inspect sink garbage disposal
  • Test generator and backup electrical systems
  • Clean exhaust vents on cooking appliances
  • Clean and inspect laundry equipment
  • Maintain pool and hot tub pH and cleanliness

Health and Safety Systems

Every building has health and safety systems that need to be inspected and maintained throughout the year, and punch lists ensure these systems are working properly in case you need them during an emergency.

Commercial spaces have more stringent fire codes in terms of how often and what systems need to be inspected, however, residential buildings should adhere to a similar maintenance schedule.

Health and Safety Systems Maintenance Punch List Item Examples
  • Inspect fire extinguisher for damage, use and expiration
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Inspect fire suppression systems
  • Inspect fire escapes
  • Clean bathrooms daily
  • Test and inspect defibrillator 
  • Review building evacuation and inclement weather plan.

Security and Communication Systems

The worst thing that can happen to your security and communication systems is if they’re not working properly in an emergency. Recurring security and communication punch lists can help ensure that your building is protected and you have a solid connection to the outside world.

Security and Communication Systems Maintenance Punch List Item
  • Check security system sensors for sensitivity and functionality
  • Inspect security cameras and ensure proper coverage of your property and building entry points
  • Update signal for internet and phone lines
  • Run tests on security system for responsiveness

Grounds Maintenance

Grounds maintenance items work well with punch lists because mother nature is pulled into the equation. This can be any incidental or ongoing task required to protect the grounds (landscaping, driveway, outdoor furniture, etc.) or the non-mechanical structural systems (roof, walls, windows, etc.)

Examples of Grounds Maintenance Punch List Item
  • Inspect grass for dead spots
  • Inspect baits for pest control
  • Trim trees to clear driveway
  • Patch hole in main hallway wall
  • Replace window in lobby
  • Seal roof leak

Top 15 Common Punch List Items

There are countless items that could be listed on a punch list. The top 15 common punch list items according to eSub are:

  1. Appliances are working correctly and fully functional
  2. Cabinet doors and drawers are opening and closing smoothly and without any problems
  3. Doors open and close properly and seal tightly
  4. Floors are damage free from construction
  5. Hardware (hinges, locks, latches) works fluently
  6. Hardware is accounted for and not missing
  7. HVAC systems work as they should and zoned correctly
  8. Lights and receptacles are fully functioning
  9. No water or gas leaks
  10. No damage to the building
  11. Paint and texture is the correct shade and quality
  12. Paint, dust, and debris is cleaned and cleared from the site.
  13. Plumbing (faucet, sink, drains, toilets) are free of issue
  14. Proper installation of locks
  15. Windows open and close smoothly

Best Practices for Punch Lists

Before project closeout every single mistake is documented in a list, and completion isn’t possible until each item is amended. And while every industry has their own version of a punch list, none have more variables than construction. 

Establish a structure to punch lists

This ensures consistency across projects while removing the extra thinking involved in both creation and execution. With confirmed structures, the rest of the team can better prepare their own lists, and everyone involved in the punch list will more easily find what they’re looking for while using them.

Create a project owner

While many people contribute to punch lists, there should only be one person ultimately responsible for the entire project. Ownership is achieved and the motivation to ensure the project is managed and followed through until the items on the list are finished.

Reduce changes through process

Reducing changes might sound like a pipe dream given the ever-changing minds of clients and owners, however, the addition of a change process can create a barrier to changing scopes. This barrier may not stop change orders or requests, however, it should reduce the number of modifications to the original project scope.

Use milestone-based punch lists

Punch lists can be used to track the additional tasks that stack up as you head to the completion of certain project milestones. Creating and completing punch list items before each milestone is completed will help a general contractor get in front of damage or errors before the client or inspector performs their final walkthroughs.

Complete punch lists prior to space occupation

A survey of 32 construction industry professionals in the Chicago area found that 69% of them agreed that completing punch lists in an occupied space was a factor in delayed project closeout. Trying to work around people in the space creates a complexity and liability that could be avoided by completing punch list items prior to the owners or tenants occupying the space.

Punch List Templates and Examples

Punch lists come in all formats and include information that’s important to a certain type of client or organization. We created a handful of templates that should help you with managing punch lists for the most common situations:

Residential Construction Punch List Template Spreadsheet

Commercial Construction Punch List Template Spreadsheet

Simple Construction Punch List Word Template

Simple Punch List Example

Improving the Punch List Process

Regardless of the experience level of workers, there are improvements you can make to punch lists. And no, we’re not just talking about adding another app to the process. But rather, improving the methods to arrive at a more efficient result. Here’s how to improve your punch list experience.

Include specifications with punch lists

This enables you to see side-by-side how and what the job was supposed to be, and quickly see the difference between the two. From there, you can include the appropriate contributors and they’ll know exactly where the task went awry.

Quality is everyone’s job

Incorporate the more uncomfortable conversation with all involved about quality. Quality can be ambiguous - what quality is to one person might be different to another on the team and still different from the client / owner’s expectations. When we use visuals in these conversations and give explicit definitions there is a better chance of having a smaller punch list.

Incorporate technology whenever possible

Incorporate technology to improve your punch list experience. SeeSnap enables your entire team to visually collaborate on every project, task, and punch list. With SeeSnap you can pair spec sheets with images and have better conversations about quality before the punch list is ever made. 

Use punch lists early

Punch lists aren’t typically used until after the walkthrough is done, however, incorporating punch list creation early in the project can help ensure quality and save time from additional trips on site to address punch list items. 

The Future of Punch Lists using Software

Using paper for punch lists and punching holes out of it is a thing of the past. A punch list app like SeeSnap makes assigning, tracking, and managing punch lists easy for general contractors, project managers, inspectors, and other workers involved in deskless work.

Punch list software paired with mobile apps enable work in the field to be easily assigned, tracked, and approved without additional admin work, wasted trips to the job site for proof of work, and the added frustration of using spreadsheets or clunky software to manage punch list work.


Reporting punch list items is the first step in the process. Punch list software allows you to use automation such as QR codes, app notifications, SMS texts, automated telephone attendants or emails, to enable anyone to use an app to report an issue. That means that anyone that’s on site can report an issue, from Alex & Devin at their AirBnB reporting a broken chair leg with the snap of a picture, to Sam documenting all the plumbing and light fixtures that are missing or not working during a final walkthrough inspection.


Punch list software allows tasks to be assigned to contractors based on a variable such as location, due date, priority, completion status, task type, and monetary value of the task. This enables a general contractor to be more efficient with how they address punch list items, saving time and fuel from having to “put eyes on it”.


One of the most crucial aspects of the punch list process is proper tracking of punch list item completion. In today’s deskless work environment, project owners demand proof of work to show compliance, accounting, and management that the work being paid for is actually being done.


Approving punch list work in the field is much easier with a punch list app. Many punch list softwares will track when the project was reported, when it was started, when it was completed, and require some form of approval before a task can be closed and final payment be released.

Construction Punch Lists - The Final Step in Wrapping up a Project

Punch lists are the perfect solution for managing construction work that falls outside of the specifications of a project. Damages, mistakes, and ongoing maintenance items are what a punch list is most commonly used for.

Punch lists apps and software, like what we’ve built at SeeSnap, are the way construction punch list items should be reported, assigned, tracked, and approved. This enables proper verification that the contractor was on site when they said they were, they did what they said they were supposed to do, and they used the right stuff to do it. This gets the project done faster, payment sent faster, and provides proof that the job was done right.

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