Truths About the Punch List

Last month, we talked about site visits and observations and how the Design Professional is responsible for observing the work and not inspecting the work. This month, as part of a look into the "Construction Alliance" and the "Construction Guidelines", we are going to discuss why "Punch Lists", are an important part of project closeout and require participation among all parties to the Contract.

What is the Punch List?

Punchlist 1

The Punch List should not include items like "finish installation of ceiling grid and panels" or "make final connections for HVAC units." These are not minor items and should be completed before the Contractor requests a Certificate of Substantial Completion.

Who does the Punch List?

Well, that depends on the Contract, specifically the General Conditions. Most conditions state that the Contractor shall prepare and submit a comprehensive list of items to be completed or corrected. There can be push back by the Contractor saying, "Well, you (Design Professional) need to inspect anyway. Why don't you do it?" The first answer is simple, but misunderstood. It's not in the Design Professional's Contract. Often times, the Owner, the Contractor, and the Design Professional do not read or understand the full Contract and often go by the old adage, "We've always done it this way!"

Did you ever have a Superintendent tell you that they did a punch list, then, proceed to hand you a note that said "touch up paint on door frames", or "There is nothing to list. It is all correct." Really, that's not a good way to start an inspection. You have a few options at that point. You might want to tell them it is unacceptable, go back to the office, write up a field report saying no inspection took place because there was no list. Or, you might want to go ahead and create your own list, be a tad bit upset, and proceed to look for anything and everything to put on the list. These are the two extreme examples. While both may be satisfying for a Design Professional, they rarely accomplish anything.

At that point, there are most likely many people on site to do the Substantial Completion inspection. The Owner(s) or Owners Rep(s), the Construction Manager, General Contractor, other Design Professional(s), sub-contractor(s), and others. That is a lot of money standing around waiting for an inspection. Everyone would be better served if the conversation had already been had and everyone was ready.

Punchlist 2What is the purpose?

Money and satisfactory completion of the Work are the purpose! Although money is not the main focus, it is important. Through the course of construction, each pay application has been withholding a certain amount or retainage to protect the Owner from deficient Work. Well, this is the Work being referred too. Once the list has been reviewed and approved by all parties, the Contractor may submit a pay application reducing retainage to an amount that is commensurate to the quantity of work to complete.

Is There a Time Frame to do a Punch List and Get the Work Completed?

Every Contractor will tell you that every day they are on a job site, it costs them money. An Owner will tell you every day they can't use the building for its intended purpose, it costs them money. The only time constraints are those in the Contract, and this includes the Project Manual which will most likely have limitations on how long closeout can take. It is in no one's best interest to drag out the process.

Final thoughts!

It is implied throughout this entire writing, but to put it out there, be familiar with the Contract, including the Project Manual before starting the punch list. Consider making it an agenda item in the progress meetings as the Work is coming to an end. This way everyone knows what to expect. One more item, as an Architect, I have had to remind Owners during the walk through what the proper distance is to inspect. It is not fair to the Contractor to write things on a list that the tolerances in the Project Manual couldn't hold them to. An Owner should not walk up to within 1 foot of the wall and say, "I see a spec, repaint the entire wall." Don't laugh, it happened.

Please make certain to read the guideline "Punch List", and if you have any comments, please let me know. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Next month join me as we discuss the "Retainage of Payment".

Till next month…

Steve Gantner RA, CSI, AGCMO, SCIP, CCS, CCCA

Senior Specifier - Conspectus, Inc.

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