What is a punch list in construction?

If you’re working with a contractor on a commercial renovation project, you might have heard of the term punch list. What exactly does this term mean? While you might think it’s a list of walls the contractor wants to punch when frustrated with the project or a list of punches to serve at the post-construction party, that’s not exactly what this term means.

So, what is a punch list in construction?

A punch list is created by the contractor and client in the final stages of construction. It lists all the projects and items which need to be completed before the project is done. Usually, it’s made during a tour of the project by the contractor, architect/designer, and client. During the tour, the three parties discuss what is done and what still needs to be completed.

Usually, the items on the list are minor. The most common punch list items include:

  • Fixing scratches on the wall
  • Getting rid of marks made on the floor by the construction team
  • Paint touchups and areas that need repainted
  • Areas where post-project cleanup is needed
  • Cracks in the wall

punch list in construction

Sometimes, the problems which need to be addressed are bigger or are new additions to the project. For example, a client may decide they want a different type of door when walking through the property. These bigger issues or new additions often affect the scope and cost of the project.

Is a punch list included in your contract?

When you do the walkthrough, you might be hesitant to add too many items to your punch list in case they increase the cost of the project. However, some items, such as minor touch ups are usually included in your contract.

Make sure to read a contract clearly before signing. When you read it over, you should see a clause on the scope of the punch list. In this clause, the contractor will lay out what is and isn’t included in the initial construction bid.

It’s important to note too that the punch list should be completed only when the project is 99.9% complete. If it is not ready, reschedule instead of continuing with the punch list.

For example, a contractor might include minor touch ups which take few resources as part of the bid. Bigger swaps or changes might not be included because they will cost more and require additional labor costs.

If in doubt, talk to your contractor at any point during the project about what is and isn’t included in the initial bid.

Frequently Asked Questions

Since a punch list is a confusing topic, we also wanted to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about punch lists.

Why is it called a punch list?

Back before the digitization of the construction industry, a contractor would write out the punch list on a piece of paper. Once each item was completed, they’d hole punch next to the item on the list.

When is a punch list complete?

A punch list is completed once all the items on it are completed. In the construction industry, this is known as a Zero Punch List. Once there is a zero punch list, no new items can be added to that specific project.

Who decides when a punch list in construction is complete?

A contractor and client work together to decide when it’s complete. Usually, a contractor won’t add new items to the list once the initial list is made, though this can differ from contractor to contractor.

Why is a punch list important?

The main reason a punch list is important is that it saves you money on minor repairs down the line. By surveying the work when it’s done, you and your contractor can identify and fix any minor problems, such as a scratch on the floor.

Carlton Building Services in Hampton Roads Virginia

Carlton Building Services specializes in repairs, maintenance, renovations, remodelings and build-outs for a variety of clients in Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach, and Chesapeake areas. We have years of experience handling projects in the retail, office, and healthcare space and would love to work with you on your next project!

To learn more about our services, check out past project highlights or contact Carlton Building Services to see how we can help with your next project.

JP Carlton

J.P. Carlton

J.P. Carlton is the founder of Carlton Building Services, a Hampton Roads-based construction company.