A Quick Guide to Punch Lists: Checklist & Items Included


It can feel like the tasks never stop when you’re managing a project. Not only are there new ones to tackle, but some of the old ones may require a revisit. Maybe a stakeholder changed their mind on the color of a wall, or an inspector says your insulation isn’t up to code.

How can you wrangle in all that work, organize it and make sure that you’ve completed everything required of you to complete the project? In construction project management it’s common practice to use a construction punch list—but they can be used in any industry!

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What Is a Punch List?

A punch list is simply a list of tasks that must be completed before you can close the project. It doesn’t include the major work of the project, but rather the smaller or minor tasks, the stragglers that still need to be finished.

They are used by project managers, general contractors, engineers and architects to track work that must be completed to comply with the terms of the contract. It is usually used at the end of the project for understandable reasons, though it can be helpful throughout the project.

When you use a punch list throughout the course of the project, it’s called a rolling punch list. It’s a constant check of the work. Each task has a hard deadline. This helps to save time later in the project because you’re getting the work done right the first time.

Why Is It Called a Punch List?

If you’re curious as to the origins of the term “punch list,” it comes from when people used to punch a hole next to the item on their to-do list once it was done. Like then, today the punch list means that the project is substantially complete.

At that point, the contractor and the owner will walk the site and use a punch list to note any deficiencies that require work before the contract can be closed out. Once these last items are taken care of the final payment for the job can be delivered.

In the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, punch lists are called snag lists.

Why Use a Punch List?

A punch list is used to ensure that the terms of the contract have been met, and they are typically created during a walk-through of the almost-complete job site. This walkthrough allows all parties to observe and note anything that is missing or needs attention. These items are collected on the list, which then is used to save time and meet the requirements of the project effectively.

A punch list is a communication tool used between the contractor and owner to make clear what outstanding work or issues remain in the project. This way, both the contractor and the owner can sign off on the work. This avoids confusion or misinformation that can prolong the project and wreak havoc on its schedule and budget.

Punch Lists Help You Delegate

The punch list is used to not only identify and detail the work, but also designate the responsible party and the timeframe that it is expected to be completed in. They give teams a tool to record and track their task, as well as a means to collaborate to complete them more efficiently. This simple list keeps everyone on the same page, and helps to meet deadlines and expectations.

A Perfect Tool to Finish Strong

Therefore, the uses of a punch list are many. They help create a clear communication channel between the contractor or contractors and the owner. It identifies and helps to manage issues or small work that requires attention. It assigns someone to make sure the work is done. Finally, it tracks the progress on that work.

What Items Are Included in a Punch List?

The items included in a punch list are dependent on the project, the owner, client, contractors, architects, subcontractors, etc. There is no one standard. There is, however, some commonality between all of them.

Every punch list should include the location of the work, the name of the task and a deadline by which it must be completed. In construction projects, some common items that will make it onto the list can include appliances not working, cabinets, doors and drawers not opening properly, damaged floors, and so on.

Punch lists are helpful documentation for your project. They prevent having to rework items over and over again. It’s through documentation and communications that the items are tackled effectively.

Sample Punch List Checklist

The basics of a punch list are who, what and where. But that’s only the foundation, and most will have space for much more information. The following image is the free punch list template that we offer on the site.

punch list template
ProjectManager.com’s Punch List Template

If you’re using ours or looking to make your own, here’s a checklist of the components that make up a thorough punch list.

  • Project Information: Every punch list needs to identify the project, including the project number, the address if applicable, the project manager and the architect.
  • Punch Number: Every item should have a number to distinguish it and make it easier to find and talk about.
  • Description: Here’s where you’ll explain what the task is and how to execute it.
  • Location: Where is the task located? This is especially important when referring to a construction site.
  • Type: It helps to define the type of work, for example, what department it might apply to, such as maintenance, carpentry, etc.
  • Owner: The owner is the person on the team who is responsible for executing the task and following it through to close.
  • Priority: Not all tasks are the same, some are of a high priority, others are not. This is where you can make that clear so people know what to do first.
  • Date Observed: The walk-through is usually where the task is first observed, but it can be noticed by a crew member. That date needs to be captured.
  • Date Expected to Be Complete: This notes the estimated duration of the task.
  • Date Approved: Just because a task is identified doesn’t mean it will be executed. Only after someone in authority says it must be done will work commence on it. That date is recorded here.
  • Date Completed: The date the actual work is finished.
  • Status: Notes if the work is in progress or complete, open or closed, etc.
  • Notes: Anything that falls outside the perimeters of the above categories.

Best Practices for Filling Out a Punch List

However you choose to use a punch list, there are ways to get the most out of it and use it more effectively.

Clearly Outline Who’s Responsible

One thing that helps you work more efficiently when managing the punch list is having only one person responsible for its upkeep. They will be the person who has authority over the tasks on the list. That person would need to be someone higher up in the management of the project, even the project manager.

Track Early and Often

Don’t wait to do a walk-through at the end of the project. In keeping with the philosophy of a rolling punch list, have regular walk-throughs of the project with the architect and owner. The point of this process is to satisfy the stakeholders.

Always Communicate

Keeping the lines of communication open is always helpful. Encourage openness among all those involved in the project. Keeping everyone talking will facilitate the work and likely lead to fewer problems that will have to be addressed on a punch list. Remember, the goal is to have nothing on your list!

How ProjectManager.com Can Help Your Punch List

The traditional way to use a punch list is to have a list and punch out those tasks once completed. But software has created efficiencies that make managing a punch list easier and more productive. ProjectManager.com is award-winning software that helps you organize your work. Our cloud-based tool gives you real-time data to make better decisions and connects your team wherever they are.

Multiple Views for Completing Your Punch List

Instead of a punch list, use our kanban board, which is one of our features that visualizes workflow. It’s made up of columns and cards. The columns are the stages of work and the cards represent the items on your list. Like on a regular punch list, you can add a detailed description and set the priority, but you can also create customized tags to link it to a department or location. Of course, we have both a traditional list view and Gantt view if you prefer.

Kanban board manages your punch list

Data That Updates Instantly

Stakeholders can be updated with one-click filterable reports or show them the high-level view on a real-time dashboard. Data is automatically collected and calculated, then displayed in easy-to-read graphs and charts that show metrics such as time, costs and more.

a screenshot of the dashboard in ProjectManager.com

ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based tool that helps you plan, monitor and report on your work. Our multiple project view lets you work how you want. Use Gantt charts to see your tasks on a timeline, kanban boards to visualize workflow, dynamic task lists and even a calendar view for important dates. Try ProjectManager.com free today with this 30-day trial.

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