What is a Construction Punchlist?


What is a punchlist?

The term punchlist, refers to a list of items that are incomplete on a construction project, residential or commercial. These items are originally part of the contract scope of work, as indicated within the construction documents for the project. In addition to the original scope of work, any additional approved change orders that added scope of work would be included in this list of punchlist items.

Common punchlist inclusions:

  • Painting, drywall, ceiling, etc, inconsistencies and defects
  • Incomplete work / this is normally work that is not necessary to receive a Certificate of Occupancy ( see what is a Certificate of Occupancy )
  • Items that have a long lead and are still not available for installation.
  • Guarantee / Warranty information that is required by contract to be issued to the purchaser.
  • As – built documents that are required by contract to be issued to the purchaser.
  • Special considerations of the contract, such as maintenance clauses, one year walk around, etc.
  • Appliances damaged or not functioning properly.
  • Mechanical and electrical equipment damaged or not functioning properly
  • Final lien waivers from all vendors, suppliers and subcontractors
  • Final lien waiver from the builder.
  • Full written and electronic summary information on all products and equipment used on the project
  • Purchaser, walk through by builder, to explain operation of all equipment and appliances.

Basically a punchlist is everything that the purchaser bought and is not 100% completed by the builder. I have been involved with punchlists that are hundreds of pages long and I have been on projects that have been completed and occupied without a single item on a punchlist.

Why is a punchlist a powerful tool?

  • A strong detailed punchlist will allow a homeowner to occupy a property, prior to the completion of all the so called “bells and whistles “.
  • A homeowner could occupy a residence earlier than normally allowed by the builder, if all certificate of occupancy requirements are completed, and there is a punchlist established and agreed upon. This would allow the homeowner to vacate temporary housing that is costing them a monthly rent.
  • Provide a comprehensive list of incomplete items that can be officially documented and sent to all responsible parties.
  • Backup for nonpayment. If a punchlist exists, then final payments to vendors, suppliers and subcontractors can be withheld, until the specific punchlist item is 100% satisfactorily completed by the builder.
  • Legal documentation, if for any reason the builder does not finish the project. The punchlist becomes an extremely important tool for legal backup and presentation if the project ends up within the legal system.
  • Reminder of items that can fall through the cracks.
  • Punchlist can be updated, added to, and subtracted from, at will by the purchaser of the project. There is no legal or proper methodology established for the creation and management of the punchlist.
  • Check list for all open items that can be easily managed by the builder, the purchaser and the subs and suppliers.

There is no rule for what should be included within the punchlist.

The following items that may not be specific to incomplete items, can be included.

  • Warranty and guarantee documents
  • Instructional manuals
  • As built documents
  • Signed and completed certificate of occupancy and compliance data.
  • Insurance certificates, completion certificates.
  • Attic stock items / these are items that need to be stocked by the homeowner such as roof shingles, paint, tile, etc. The list of attic stock is something that should be included within the original contract.
  • Final lien waivers from all parties that were involved with the project.
  • Fulfillment of custom promises, objectives, communications between the purchaser and the builder.

How to create an initial punchlist?

It is normally the purchaser of the project that will create a punchlist. In some instances if there is a professional consultant involved to assist the purchaser, this consultant would develop the punchlist. In some cases, the builder, knowing full well what is in the contract documents, will start the punchlist with all the open items that the builder realizes are still incomplete. This partial punchlist can be added to by the purchaser prior to acceptance and finalization.

Steps to create the punchlist

  • The purchaser requests from the builder what items are incomplete and requests the initial punchlist from the builder.
  • The purchaser, with this punchlist in hand, walks the entire project from top to bottom making notes and adding to the punchlist.
  • The purchaser takes with them a roll of blue painting adhesive tape, and applies a piece of tape on all items that are included on the punchlist. This will enable the builder to simply enter a room and respond to all the hanging pieces of blue tape on the walls, doors, windows, etc.
  • The proper functioning of all doors, windows, sliders etc. should be tested by the purchaser, including the ability to lock the windows, window stops , mutin installation, etc. Concerns are then listed by the purchaser on the punchlist.
  • All finishes should be carefully analyzed and reviewed. Remember that once the move in occurs, the builder will conveniently blame any finish issue with the movers and the marking of the walls, doors; trim was done by the moving crew. It is far better to make the punchlist prior to the move making sure the builder is provided with this list, prior to any move.
  • The contract documents should be reviewed and all open issues, such as insurance, warranties, guarantees, etc. (miscellaneous paperwork ) should be specifically listed in the punchlist.
  • Again, the attic stock, if any required, should be neatly stored in the attic, basement, or wherever the purchaser would like the attic stock.
  • Any issues such as water in the basement, leaky roofs, flashings, discoloration of finishes, etc. must be listed and itemized on the punchlist.

It is convenient to break the punchlist up into smaller lists to allow the disbursement of the punchlist to the responsible parties. In most instances, the builder will ask for a total punchlist from the purchaser, and the builder, will divide up the responsibilities to the proper subcontractors, suppliers, etc.

The management of the punchlist is an important element of the completion of the project. This tool, properly used by the purchaser, will ensure that all outstanding items are completed and finalized. It is extremely important that the punchlist is detailed and carefully reviewed by the purchaser of the property prior to the move-in.

Of course, the final payment to the builder must be held up, until all items are completed on the punchlist. It is fair to partially pay the builder as the items are checked off the punchlist as completed, however, as is always the case, the purchaser must be cognizant of the fact, that once the money is paid out, the incentive to the builder to complete is substantially reduced.

The management of a detailed and complete punchlist is a perfect task for any professional construction consultant. The money expended to the consultant, will be more than balanced, by the completion of all outstanding items, without the difficulties normally encountered by the “ lay person “ purchaser, in their attempts to complete their project.

Remember / the Punchlist is a powerful tool and it should be used to ensure compliance to all contract requirements, as well as 100% completion of all builder obligations, prior to the all-important final payment!

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