Punch List | What Is It?

By Todd Fratzel on Structure

Construction Punch ListConstruction Punch List

If you’re ever planning on having a house built in the near future then its worth taking a minute to tell you what a punch list is. This is true whether you hire a general contractor to oversee the construction or if you hire all the sub-contractors yourself. A punch list is just a written list of deficiencies that are identified near the end of construction. The list is typically agreed upon by the owners and builders and final payment is usually tied to the completion of items on the list.

The term punch list comes from a process of punching holes in the margin adjacent to the task. This process was used years ago and provided the unique name that the list carries today. Today most contractors use some type of formal list that contains items which need to be completed along with identification of which trade “owns” the work.

Typical Punch List Items

Typically the punch list contains minor tasks that need to be completed. The punch list is usually organized in one of two ways. One way to organize the list is by listing tasks based on a room name or area of the house. Another popular way to organize a punch list is by trades like electrical, painting, HVAC, etc.

Items on the punch list might include:

  • Fill nail holes in closet baseboard trim – Painter.
  • Missing switch plate cover in the laundry room – Electrician.
  • Paint run found on west wall in the guest bathroom – Painter.
  • Baseboard heater registers missing end caps – HVAC Contractor.
  • Crown molding not finished in kitchen – Finish Carpenter.
  • Grout not sealed in mudroom – Flooring Contractor.
  • Rear deck railings need post caps installed – Carpenter.

The idea is that the punch list provides location, task and responsible trade. Typically this list is started with a walk-through of the project near it’s completion. The walk-through usually includes the owner and/or owner’s representative and the general contractor and sometimes the sub-contractors.

Punch List & Contracts

Most Contracts between an owner and general contractor include a reference to the punch list and retainage. Retainage is money owed the contractor but not paid until a certain milestone is reached. Typically contracts hold 2% to 10% of the cost in retainage until the contractor finishes the punch list. This ensures that the work gets completed in a timely fashion.

If you end up being your own general contractor (GC) then I highly recommend you hold a certain amount of retainage on your sub-contractors and also discuss a detailed punch list near the end of the project. Telling your sub-contractors about the punch list and retainage ahead of time will keep the project moving without delays.

The bottom line is punch lists are a great way to make sure large projects are completed in a timely manner. The punch list makes sure that all parties understand who is responsible for the final tasks. It’s also a very useful tool for owner’s so they can keep track of the final project progress.

About the author

Todd Fratzel

I'm full time builder for a large construction company in New Hampshire. I run their design-build division that specializes in custom homes, commercial design-build projects and sub-divisions. I'm also a licensed civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in civil and structural design and home construction. My hope is that I can share my experience in the home construction, home improvement and home renovation profession with other builders and home owners. I'm also the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Tool Box Buzz. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or you'd like to inquire about advertising on this site.

All posts by Todd »

Not what you're looking for?

Search for more articles here. Enter keywords like, 'insulation' or 'kitchens' etc to find your topic.


  1. MBM Construction says:

    Good article, I use these examples frequently when dealing with subcontractors on my site.

  2. Baba says:

    This is a great idea even if you are your own general contractor on your home.

  3. Segundo Sanchez says:

    Great article. It quickly gives me an idea about what is a punch list. Thanks for posting it.

Leave a comment

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Copyright © 2009-2023 Front Steps Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Home Construction & Improvement™ is a Trademark of Front Steps Media, LLC.