Punch lists: definition, issuing process and how they work

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 26 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A punch list is a document used on a construction site to list necessary changes or adjustments to a project. When a project is nearly complete, stakeholders typically look through the list to point out changes to make prior to the official completion of the job. As a project owner, you may wish to eliminate lists like these as they can cause delays with project completion. In this article, we discuss what a punch list is, who uses this list, the process of creating one and the process of eliminating these lists if you don't want to use one.

What is a punch list?

A punch list, also known as a snagging list, is a list of essential corrections to make in a project at a construction site. When a project reaches the completion phase, project owners, contractors and other members of the project team do a thorough review to ask for amendments to the project. For example, they might record any incomplete work or any work that isn't up to standards. They may also report on any damages that require improvements.

Project contractors are responsible for making the requested changes before getting paid for the job. In general, this process takes place about two weeks before project completion or inspection. The process consists of presenting a document with a complete list of issues or omissions for contractors to rectify before finally submitting the project. Although some use paper documents to present these lists, it's more common to use software programs and digital lists to record information digitally.

Difference between a punch list and a work-to-complete

A work-to-complete is another document used on construction sites with a similar purpose to a punch list, and it's important to know the differences between the two. A work-to-complete list is typically created by a contractor and handed out to subcontractors and their crews when the project is nearing completion. The work-to-complete document is a list of remaining tasks to do and imperfections to fix before leaving the project site. This list allows the contractor to formally record the remaining work to make sure that all subcontractors finish their work before they move on to their next job.

Related: 18 different construction job types for you to consider

How do professionals use a snagging list in construction?

In general, snagging lists only cover small changes to a project, as larger change requests usually occur earlier in a project. Many companies try to eliminate this type of list and ensure they aren't required. This means they try to fix any and all potential issues before they occur. If not, they try to correct them before the project stakeholders can comment on them. Constantly trying to meet the client's standards can eliminate lists like this altogether while simultaneously providing outstanding customer service.

Related: What is construction project management? (Tools and stages)

Punch list items checklist

Here are some of the items you might want to add to your list so that you know that your project is proceeding as planned:

  • Project information: This is where you introduce the project, including information such as the project number, the address, the manager in charge of the project and the head architect.

  • Punch number: Each item has a number to set it apart from the other items and make it easier to find.

  • Description: In this part, you explain what the task is and how to complete it.

  • Location: Here, you mention the location of the task, referring to the area of the construction site.

  • Type: Here, you talk about the type of work and which department it pertains to.

  • Owner: This is the person on the team who received this task on the list and who resolves it.

  • Priority: Here, you say whether this item is a high-priority item or a low-priority one so that subcontractors know which tasks to do first.

  • Date observed: This is when the item was first noticed.

  • Anticipated completion date: This part sets the deadline for finishing the requested item on the list.

  • Date approved: Here, you write when a supervisor or manager approved the task so that it's ready to work on.

  • Date completed: Record the completion date here.

  • Status: Add your notes here about whether the task is complete, in progress or closed.

Punch list examples

Every list is unique but here are some examples of list items you could include and how to write them effectively:

Example 1

Here's one example of a punch list/snagging list item for a cafe project:

  • Project information: Project number 538, Espresso Cafe, Elise Jones, Mark Apple

  • Punch number: One

  • Description: Multiple paint marks on the cafe wall that require a touch-up

  • Location: Sitting area

  • Type: Paintwork

  • Owner: Holly Evans

  • Priority: Medium Priority

  • Date observed: 22/08/2022

  • Date expected to be complete: 03/09/2022

  • Date approved: 24/08/2022

  • Date completed: N/A

Example 2

Here's another example of a punch list/snagging list item for the same cafe's construction project:

  • Project information: Project number 538, Espresso Cafe, Elise Jones, Mark Apple

  • Punch number: Two

  • Description: Big crack in the bathroom mirror

  • Location: Bathroom

  • Type: Procurement

  • Owner: James Kale

  • Priority: High Priority

  • Date observed: 20/08/2022

  • Date expected to be complete: 27/08/2022

  • Date approved: 22/08/2022

  • Date completed: N/A

Related: 10 high-paid construction jobs and their responsibilities

Tips for eliminating snagging lists

Many construction companies aim to eliminate snagging lists completely so that they don't use them. Eliminating this type of list means that you fix issues as they occur and thus save time and energy on the project. This is often called the zero-snagging list goal. Here are some tips you can follow to eliminate this type of list in your future construction projects:

Create detailed contracts

Creating detailed contracts can help make sure no errors occur by ensuring that there's no room for error. They help set clear expectations to ensure requirements are being met. A clear contract can also help make sure the project is progressing as expected. It also gives a legal basis to refer to in case any issues occur during the project.

Related: What are the different types of contracts in the workplace

Enhance quality control protocols

Another step to eliminating the requirement for these lists is to improve on and enhance quality control procedures. For example, schedule inspections where a supervisor goes through the project phase and points out any concerns to fix along the way. This helps manage problems as they arise during each individual project phase. This approach can help reduce the number of tasks that remain at the end of the project.

Utilise a rolling snagging list

The next suggestion is to utilise a rolling snagging list. This is a list used throughout the entire project to assign concerns immediately to team members to fix. Fixing issues right away can help teams reach a zero-snagging list goal because it reduces the chance that the client notices any issues to correct during the substantial completion phase of the project.

Ensure effective communication

Effective communication between all team members can make all the difference. Good communication between clients, designers and subcontractors can ensure there are clear expectations for all stakeholders. It's also critical for owners to communicate project desires to designers and subcontractors so that everyone shares the same expectations. Communicating challenges that subcontractors may have includes having contractors clarify any confusion when it comes to building elements or blueprints.

Related: What are communication skills?

Organise records

It's also helpful to keep detailed records of project phases, including items like emails, receipts, notes and any design modifications. Good record keeping means project teams can easily access information about the project whenever they want. This habit helps reduce any confusion when it comes to project progress, in addition to giving a written basis for any legal disputes. It's also recommended to keep a record of any agreements, decisions and alteration dates to communicate project intentions accurately.

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