What Is a Construction Punch List? (Plus Template and Tips)

Updated August 8, 2022

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When a construction project is nearing completion, it’s important to make sure the results are satisfactory. Punch lists are a log of to-do items to complete before a construction project is officially done. Understanding best practices for punch lists can help your construction projects run more efficiently.

In this article, we define punch lists and their uses, and we offer a template and provide six productivity tips to help eliminate the need for punch lists.

What is a punch list?

A punch list is a list of necessary fixes on a construction site. Once a project reaches its substantial completion phase, owners, general contractors and other stakeholders perform a walkthrough to request final changes. They note any incomplete or unsatisfactory work, damages or modifications that may need improvements. Before the contractors can receive full payment for the completion of the project, it’s their responsibility to make the desired alterations.

While punch lists used to be paper lists with hole punches, few still use this technique today. Now, there are software programs and digital punch lists that allow professionals to digitally log the punch list items. Contractors are often responsible for confirming the completion of all outstanding tasks and relaying deadlines to general contractors, project managers and owners.

Related: Construction Management: Functions and Phases

How do professionals use a punch list in construction?

In construction, a punch list denotes any minor fixes or modifications contractors and subcontractors need to make before a project can officially end. Often, a certificate of substantial completion includes the punch list containing the final, finishing aspects for the project.

Typically, punch lists only cover small modifications or changes, since greater requests or larger reparations often occur earlier in the process. Many companies work to eliminate and reduce the need for punch lists. Contractors may strive to address potential issues before an owner can comment on them so that by the time they reach the substantial completion phase, the project meets all of the client's standards.

Related: How To Use a Construction Change Order

Punch list template

Below is a punch list template that details some areas of a project that an owner or client may comment on during a walkthrough:

Task NamePerson ResponsibleTask DescriptionCommentsDue Date
General Requirements
Site Details

Related: 9 Project Management Excel Templates To Help You Stay Organized

Who handles a punch list?

Each person involved in a project has a unique relationship with the punch list. Here are some common key stakeholders and their roles in handling punch lists:


Owners and clients are typically responsible for drafting the punch list during the substantial completion phase to ensure the finished project meets their specifications. Substantial completion precedes the final completion phase, a phase that signals the contractors have fulfilled all contract documents. Before owners take responsibility for completed projects, they can make small, reasonable requests for changes as necessary.

General contractors

The general contractors and project managers responsible for the building job usually conduct a walkthrough with owners and other concerned parties to learn of any needed changes. Sometimes, a request may be difficult to accommodate, or there's a reason subcontractors could not complete a task to a designer or owner's specifications. General contractors can help facilitate communication between the owner and the subcontractors. The punch list they deliver to their subcontractors may contain list items of their own, along with designers' and owners' requests.

Additional individuals who may also take on responsibilities to ensure project completion include:

  • Architects and designers: Architects or designers may attend the final walkthrough to ensure the build matches their design specifications. If the construction team implements designs incorrectly, they may fail to meet laws or regulations, perform their desired function or accurately represent a designer's goals.

  • Subcontractors: Subcontractors often have the responsibility of addressing the concerns on the punch list. They can use it to review the desired alterations and keep owners informed on their progress. They also document any fixes they make to make sure they adequately resolve any concerns.

Related: How To Become a Successful General Contractor

6 tips for eliminating punch lists

The worthwhile goal of many construction companies and contractors is to eliminate the need for punch lists entirely. Professionals may also call this a “zero punch list goal.” The following tips can help you reduce the need for punch lists for a variety of construction projects:

1. Begin with clear contracts

Detailed contracts can help remove room for error within projects. By outlining expectations at the start of a job, contractors can ensure they're meeting the agreed-upon requirements. In the early phases of the project, a clear contract can steer the direction of the project and provide legal standing in the event of a dispute near a project's completion.

Related: The 5 Most Common Construction Contracts

2. Improve quality control procedures

One way to help eliminate the need for punch lists is to implement effective quality control procedures. A strategy to accomplish this is to schedule regular inspections where a a construction site supervisor conducts walkthroughs during each project phase to address potential concerns. Consider performing quality control inspections after the completion of each phase and addressing any issues before moving on to the next portion of the project. This approach can help you manage challenges early on, focus on individual project phases and reduce the total number of end-of-project needs.

Related: 6 Steps for Construction Quality Control

3. Use a rolling punch list

A rolling punch list is one that a construction site supervisor compiles throughout the project. This enables them to note potential issues when they arise and assign team members to these tasks immediately. Addressing these small items throughout the project may help a construction team achieve a zero punch list goal because it reduces the likelihood that a client will notice items to correct during the substantial completion phase.

4. Try cloud-based technology

In addition to software that can digitize punch lists, there are cloud-based tools that can facilitate communication between construction team members. This can be especially helpful for large build sites. Team members can input task status updates on smartphones or tablets, and this helps the project manager or site supervisor track overall project goals and the completion of rolling punch list items.

5. Establish effective communication

Effective communication with clients, designers and subcontractors can help provide clear expectations for all the stakeholders. It's also important for owners to communicate their project desires to the designers and contractors so everyone is aware of project expectations. Additionally, it's important for subcontractors to communicate any challenges they may have so contractors can explain building elements to owners before the last walkthrough.

Related: 12 Effective Communication Strategies To Use at Work

6. Organize records

It can be helpful to maintain comprehensive documentation of project phases, including emails, receipts, notes and design modifications. This way, contractors can easily access them later. Keeping a record of agreements, new decisions and dates of alterations can be a helpful tool for communicating project specifications accurately.

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