3 Secrets to Shrinking Your Punch Lists

Use these tips to deliver as-promised projects.


Delivering a fully completed project on schedule is the goal every time, but punch list items can make it seem unattainable. Wrapping up — and getting paid — faster requires shrinking your punch list.

Limiting or even eliminating that pesky inventory of items that don’t meet the client’s expectations at a project’s end can also build your reputation as a contractor who delivers as promised, on time. 

If you’re ready to punch out the punch list, consider the following strategies.

Make client-ready an ongoing driver

The tweaks and last-minute changes that make up your punch list depend on client feedback. So to eliminate punch lists, get that feedback earlier and often.

Get the client onsite asap

Most punch list items are created during the final client walkthrough. To limit those final problem points, hold walkthroughs sooner. By walking through the job early and often, you’ll get insight from the client that can help you get in their mindset and address their concerns even before they are voiced.

Mock up early and often

Mock-ups help identify the acceptable level of project quality and can be used to gather early input. Because these samples add to the project cost, include mock-ups in your contract and prepare to educate the owner on how early mock-ups can help ensure as-promised project completion.


Make improvements early and often

By staying in a client-ready mind frame, you can reduce the time wasted at the end of the project tying up loose ends. These approaches can help.

Manage punch list items on a continual basis

A rolling punch list can be created at the beginning of the project to record all deficiencies as they’re observed and the date they’re corrected. If you use this method, make sure to document this list thoroughly, update it at least bimonthly and set a date for when all of these items should be completed (think two weeks before the substantial completion punch list).

Consider punch list managementsoftware

Today’s construction technology interfaces can help manage punch list items in real time. Clark Construction uses Turnover Vision, a punch list management app that provides a real-time breakdown of the status of punch list items and productivity rates to create a more effective work plan. Procore promotes its cloud-hosted Punch List Tool by explaining that it allows users to identify, assign and schedule punch list tasks while in the field, ensuring nothing is overlooked and reducing redundancy.

Give the punch list manager the power to make decisions

By ensuring the person handling the punch list has the authority to satisfy the customer immediately, you can speed this review process. Allow a project manager or superintendent to instantly assign tasks that need rework.


Set expectations for the entire team

Reducing your punch lists requires support from all parties involved in the project. To get that support:

Make any punch list expectations part of subcontractors’ contracts

Also, work with your subcontractors to identify quality standards and establish a process for how deficiencies will be reported and documented.

Tie the budget to punch list items

Consider creating a separate budget for the punch list out of the profit-sharing or bonus consideration. This way, the bonus reflects the owner’s satisfaction with the state of your punch list items and further motivates the team to deliver an as-promised building.

By taking these steps to achieve your end goals early in the project planning phase, you may find you can shrink your punch list beyond your expectations — down to zero.


Megan Headley has been writing about every aspect of the built environment since 2004. As owner of ClearStory Publications, LLC, Megan demonstrates her passion for helping contractors create more productive and safer jobsites, and more sustainable and successful projects.


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