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What Is a Punch List?

The punch list is a final, crucial step of a renovation. Here’s how they work.

Kitchen island with white countertops and seating for two

(Above) Renovation for Sweeten homeowners Dia + Alex. Photo by Kate Glicksberg for Sweeten.

A punch list is a list of tasks put together by a homeowner that needs to be completed by their contractor. The punch list needs to be done for the project to be completely done. The majority of the work has been finished, but there are details to be resolved. You have one shot to compile your punch list, and once it is completed, the project is officially done! 

What goes on a punch list?

It depends who you ask! This question is often a misunderstanding between a homeowner and a contractor. In construction, there are acceptable quality standards, which are in the form of building codes. Licensed contractors are responsible for abiding by these codes. When a project passes inspection by the codes enforcement official, some contractors consider their work completed. Building codes exist to ensure an acceptable level of quality and ensure that the home is structurally sound. Reputable general contractors will not only meet, but exceed this benchmark.

The goal of a punch list is to address concerns the homeowner may have after inspecting a project. For example, a crooked hinge on a kitchen cabinet door would normally indicate a defect and should appear on your list. Clashing paint colors, however, are usually not the responsibility of the painter, and would not indicate a defect. Even so, the situation needs correcting. Add these concerns to your punch list. You and your contractor will discuss if the task will be fixed by them or the subcontractor. 

How do I start a punch list?

To start a punch list, the easiest way is to have paper and pencil in each room. Notes stay organized and prevent several lists from being created for the same room. Many new homeowners prefer to live in the space for a while. They can relax and use the space in a daily routine. This makes identifying any issues easier. 

When does a rolling punch list happen?

Traditionally, final payment is paid to the contractor at project completion. A walk-through and a punch list happen after the final payment. As any concerns are addressed, the general contractor will often either discuss the concern or agree to correct the issue. 

An alternative punch list solution is referred to as a “rolling punch list”, or a punch list-as-you-go. Instead of inspecting all of the details at the end, the general contractor makes periodic walk-throughs with the homeowner. As concerns are addressed, everyone involved takes a role in resolving the issue. If the subcontractor is still onsite with labor, machines, and materials, it is easier to correct a concern.

Before a project starts, the homeowner and contractor should confirm when the punch list will take place. Each general contractor has their own process for handling punch list items. 

What is the difference between a tweak and a defect?

This question is really at the heart of a punch list. During installation, an issue such as a crooked cabinet hinge will raise concerns immediately for a homeowner. Contractors tend to focus on completing the project even if small adjustments will be required later on. A homeowner may view the crooked cabinet door as a lack of skill or professional ethics. Have an open dialog between the general contractor and homeowner, so both parties can ask questions and set realistic expectations. Ideally, this discussion will be frequent and ongoing throughout the project so that confusion and assumptions are kept to a minimum.

If you are working with a Sweeten contractor, a homeowner may also reach out to Sweeten customer support with questions or clarifications. Email [email protected]

Be communicative and flexible

A punch list should be considered a place to answer questions and get questions answered. For the experienced contractor, the positive completion of a punch list is their business card. For a homeowner, it can confirm they are working with a professional.

Finding a true partner in your general contractor

At Sweeten, we appreciate the value of working with the right general contractor—one who understands your vision, comes up with solutions to challenges, involves you in decision-making, and communicates clearly. If you’re looking for an expert contractor near you, look no further! Sweeten matches homeowners with vetted general contractors, offering guidance and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner. Start by posting your project on Sweeten today

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.



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