Tips for Punch List and Tenant Expectations

The punch list is the final determination of tasks needed at substantial completion of a construction project. What expectations have you set for a punch list? Is it too much to expect a “zero punchlist”? Is there a standard?

The punch really starts the day the project commences.  The punch list should be maintained through the construction progress as both a checklist of what needs to be done and what is defective. You should manage the quality early and often by showing them what you expect. If the list is long or short, communicate accordingly.

The contractual definition of Substantial Completion could be defined either when the Owner/Tenant can use the building for its intended purpose or tied to full operation of the building elements/components, etc.  As such, when walking a building for a punchlist, the architect, engineers, test and balance contractor, roof consultants, etc., have all completed their own respective punchlists.  There should be a goal of going from Substantial Completion to Final Completion within a set number of weeks.  Look at the total of all punchlist items and look at it from a standpoint as to whether the GC can complete all of those items within the time frame.  For example, if the GC has to order new carpet to replace carpet that he’s installed, and it takes 61 days to get the carpet from the manufacturer but Substantial Completion was called at sixty days, then don’t accept the Substantial Completion of the project.

While zero-defects are the goal, there is always something. It’s best to walk through with a GC periodically, at major points in the job, to carry out a punch-walk. So, you may have an in-wall/rough-in walk, prior to utilities being closed in; an overhead walk, prior ceiling being buttoned-up; a casework/millwork walk, finishes walk, MEP systems walk, etc. At each point, expectations continue to be expressed, to the point that at that final walk, issues are very minor in nature.

(1) Industry standard and constantly being clear with your builder about the standard are critical.  When you specify there should be no opening around a door bigger than 1/2″, and the builder does not comply with your requirements, the consequences could be fatal.  So, ensure your specifications are clearly spelled out up front with your design and construction team.  And throughout construction, make certain that the contractor is aware of what you are seeing and adjust accordingly.  No matter the industry, be certain that industry standard and your expectations are clear every day on the project.

(2) Don’t wait until punchlist time to start pointing things out to your builder.  If you go through the whole project seeing quality issues but don’t do anything about them, many issues will be “buried” and will never be corrected.  As an owner or tenant, you will be paying for this in operations and maintenance dollars and time to correct and address.

(3) Do your punchlist after everyone else has done theirs and make sure everyone on the team knows this.  As an owner or tenant, your punchlist is the last one.  Always request a copy of everyone else’s punchlist so you can see what is being found.  This can assist in determining where things are and how much you may have to address.

(4) While perfection is not really going to happen, you should still strive for it and make that clear as your expectation.

The moment you issue the substantial completion certification, you have released the contractor from the focused effort to complete the work. Too many projects have faltered at the last minute due to this contractual milestone placed in the GC’s court.  Be clear with expectations early on, communicate as work is put in place, don’t wait to correct work till the end when the subs are off the project job. Quality is built in, not added on. Defective work goes on the punchlist, not incomplete work.

2 Comments on Tips for Punch List and Tenant Expectations

  1. Hi, thanks for valuable article. I completely agree that the punch starts the day the project commences. I have included this and other best practices for a successful punch list experience in this article:

  2. Create punch lists on your iPhone with our app PunchLists available in the App Store

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