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Punchlists, and Your Next Project Award

The words “punch list” are generally unpleasant for everyone involved in a building project, but for the general contractor (GC) or construction manager (CM) it carries the extra burden of directly affecting its bottom line on said project.

However, what might be more significant than lost dollars and time trying to wrap up and close out one project is the very real chance that a lengthy and arduous project punch list could actually prevent you from winning that next project.

If you work within marketing or business development for a GC/CM firm, you may not actively monitor punch lists on the various jobs that your company is engaged in. But perhaps you should. Punch lists occur on 99% of construction projects; they are expected by all – within reason.

If an owner,developer, or an architectural firm are working with a GC on a project that has a 92 page punch list with 450 “problem” items – that does not speak well for your company and management. Even if 90% of the faulty/questionable items were caused by a subcontractor, it is the reputation of the GC that takes the hit.  That may not be terribly important if the owner/client is a lifetime “one and done” customer, but this issue can have huge ramifications in regards to the GC and Designer relationship.

To this end, many GCs are well aware that a lengthy punch list is a negative mark on their brand. They are trying to focus more, and implement certain visible action-items that will make a difference on a project and in the marketplace in general.

Some are administering a “Zero Punch List Program”, which I have seen on a few projects.  Some steps to creating this kind of program are shown at this ForConstructionPros webpage here.

In a practical sense, I’m not sure how feasible it is on a large and/or complex construction projects to not have ANY punch list – but the point here is to broadcast that the company is serious about quality and getting the project done correctly.  (And, hopefully shorten the eventual problem list.)

There are many C-Suite executives and titles nowadays.  In addition to the CEO, CFO, and COO, many firms now have CMO’s, CTO’s, CIO’s, etc.  How about a CQO (Chief Quality Officer)?  The perception of having someone with that title at a GC/CM company may be helpful in discussions and interviews with prospective clients.

I have been in the trenches on many construction projects and sites, and I’ve been knee-deep in some horrible and contentious punch lists- from both a subcontractor and a GC perspective. The worst thing a GC can do is to not do their own internal quality punch list before the official architect walk and architect project punch list. If an experienced representative from the GC does their own list, this would cut down an A&D punch by at least 50%.

Some GC’s will operate on the opposite side of the spectrum.  They won’t check much of anything above and beyond what is needed to comply with the Code.  They will hope that the architect won’t notice this or that, or that the architect will simply let multiple issues slide.  This normally does not work out well; it creates a palpable conflict between the GC and the owner, and also the GC and the architect.  And, it costs the GC (and also its subcontractors) real dollars- during the “last minute fix-it” phase.

Marketers know that it only takes one bad project to destroy all the good faith resulting from 10 good and successful projects.  People always seem to remember the one nightmare project instead of the 20 quality ones.  Successful GC/CM’s are not perfect, but they are the firms that take the punch list seriously even before there is one.


Ken is a Director of Industry Development and Technical Services at the International Masonry Institute. Some of his writings have been featured in ARCHITECT magazine,, and for U.S. Building News. He can be reached at

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