Zero Punchlist (ZPL)
Zero Punchlist (ZPL)

8 Strategies to Achieve Zero Punchlist (ZPL) That You Can Adapt Now


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A punch list is a vital element of closing out of any project in which a contractor creates a document that lists any work that has not been completed or been incorrectly done. The punch list (also called snag list if you’re in Ireland, New Zealand, U.K, or Ireland) needs to be completed before a project can be considered finished in compliance with the contracts’ conditions in construction before it can be turned over to the owner. Generally, the contract includes the right to withhold payment until all the punch lists have been completed and the owner is satisfied with the final output.

Fun fact: the word “punch list” derived its name from the old method of punching holes in the margin next to the specific item on the list, indicating that the task is carried out correctly.

What is a Zero Punch List (or ZPL)?

A zero punch list indicates a construction project with zero remaining items to fix or address at its conclusion. The fewer rectifications that need to be made, the more profitable the project is for the contractors, and the happier the owners will be. In comparison, punch lists are conventional and honored through the years by the contractors, many targets for the zero-punch projects to save money, hassle, and time in the project lifecycle and in the long run. 

To achieve this goal, the Quality Control aspect of Quality Management must be a top priority. Every action of the project should be inspected for quality before moving on to the next phase. This can minimize the end of the project rework and allows the contractors to reach their zero-punch targets.

Examples of Punch List Items

A construction punch list will usually include the following items:

Items for testing:

– Doors and windows

– Thermostat system

– Plumbing fixtures

– Mechanical elements

– Wireless connections such as internet and phone cables

– HVAC zoning, etc.

Additional Items:

– Covers for lighting fixtures

– Paint touch-ups

– Coatings and sealants

– Grouting, etc.

Items to fix:

– Plumbing fixture leakage

– Drywall damages

– Misaligned installation of deliverables

– Etc. 

Punch Listing Roles

Many key stakeholders are involved in the construction punch list process, including the project owner, general contractor, subcontractors, architects, and designers.

Here’s a brief outline of each of the core roles in the construction punch list process:

1. Project Owner

The project owner is responsible for inspecting the building and, most significantly, toward the project’s closing. The goal is to point out incomplete and incorrect items and not align with the contract’s specifications. At the project’s completion, it is the project owner to sign off the construction punch list.

2. General Contractor

The general contractor’s and project managers’ primary responsibility is to inspect all the essential details and tasks associated with the project to assure that everything will go as smoothly as planned. Once the project owner drafts a punch list, the general contractor must review and prioritize items and establish an action plan for the subcontractors to address the defects and make the needed rectifications.

3. Subcontractors

The subcontractors are responsible for fixing the items on the list assigned to them by the general contractor. They are responsible for following-up and communicating the progress of the corrections completed to the general contractor. If a project owner holds a general contractor to a retainage, subcontractors also hold a certain amount, so the teamwork between the two is of utmost importance.

4. Architects and Designers

The architects and designers are responsible for confirming that the actual work is aligned with the designs and plans and that every detail is based on the original contract specifications. It is also their duty to follow-up with regular follow-up field reports by the general contractors and subcontractors.

Take Construction Punchlist Management to the Next Level

In construction projects management, the main most ideal number of construction defects is none at all. Still, every contractor knows that this will never be the case no matter how foolproof we prepared our project plans. Issues will always arise, and errors will always show – it’s true for all types of projects. Since we cannot control all the lapses that may occur, we look for ways to mitigate it or at least improve the punch listing process. 

Below, we’ll review 8 innovative strategies to take punch list management to the next level.

1. Start Inspections Early

This is one of the most common diseases of the professionals and workers on-site – delaying pointing out problems in the project. In most cases, their default setting is “there is no punch list unless it arises,” and that attitude would eventually lead to the project’s failure.

“Prevention is better than correction” is a saying suitably highlights the importance of construction scheduling walkthroughs with all the project’s agreed stakeholders, from the designers up to the project owners. During the construction, it is also essential to consistently consult with the stakeholders to know what needs to be done before the turn-over and certify that all their standards and specifications are being met.

Tip: it is smart to prepare a punch list template right from the project’s kick-off, but you should make it flexible to any unforeseen circumstances. A punch-list-as-you-go or a rolling punch list that adapts to the project as it unfolds is highly recommended.

2. Schedule Regular Inspections 

 We emphasized prioritizing quality in all aspects of the project. We can only uphold this value by paying close attention to the outputs’ conditions in different construction stages. This can only be possible by performing regular inspections or “punch walks,” that will also support your goal of achieving zero punch list faster.

During this walkthrough, make sure that the resource persons are actively using the punch list templates created during the planning phase to ensure that everyone is on the same page and avoid any confusion. If possible, it helps to form a wide range of team members from the general contractor, designer, and owner to ensure that all aspects of the project are being done to expectations.

3. Clearly Communicate the Contracts, Specs, and Budget

An essential step to any punch listing process – and any outstanding construction project in general – is to have clear contracts in construction with the detailed specification of what needs to get built. This can free you from lots of reworks down the line. Accurately document the specs, with little room for interpretation. Be sure to communicate with all the parties involved clearly.

Like establishing the detailed specs, setting a punch list budget in advance can also help keep the project on budget. This is usually decided for budgeting initial project allocation documents. Here are some of the advantages of setting up a punch list budget in advance:

– Avoids scrambling and cutting corners at closing out from trying to make ends meet

– Eliminate internal conflicts over divided budgets

– Allows the team to be more efficient toward the completion

– Makes handling setbacks easier as they occur and to shift course

4. Properly Assign Items to Specific Teams

Accountability and ownership are very vital concepts to uphold in managing construction. 

As previously pointed out, it is critical to observe the issues that may arise from the project’s start. But it will not streamline your project if the assignment of resources isn’t clear, and the relevant teams for various areas aren’t properly informed of their duties.

In this aspect, technology serves as a useful tool to streamline the correcting process. Software, like Pro Crew Schedule, is available to help you assign, notify, and track people for the specific tasks they are accountable for. This program also allows project managers to manage the entire team’s day-to-day operations as efficiently as possible with just a few clicks. This will keep the whole team on the same page and hold everyone responsible for their tasks.

5. Promote a Friendly and Positive Attitude

While being strict and professional with your work are expected, having a good relationship with your team members is equally just as important. Make an effort to be positive, agreeable, and friendly to everyone on-site, not only during punch list meetings. This kind of attitude will promote a healthy environment between co-workers and prevent disputes to make collaborations much more manageable.

Another thing to add is not to be too rigid and sensitive when disagreement occurs with your team as the term “rectified” may look different for everyone. Learn to be flexible and open to feedback from your team and be professional to resolve any confusion. Within reason, never sacrifice your name and image for the sake of standing your ground. 

6. Take Hundreds of Photos

Documentation is often overlooked in construction management, but this simple habit had prevented many conflicts between the team and improved the project’s quality in every phase.

A great tip to general contractors is to take hundreds of photos during your inspections and walkthroughs- progress, defects, and completion photos from day to day in managing construction. Pictures with proper annotations are not only good for communicating issues to parties involved but are also vital for settling arguments. 

Sometimes, other contractors will start the next phase of construction and might potentially damage your completed work. If any problem emerges, you’ll have visual proof that you correctly completed your work.

7. Make Detailed Punch List Reports

After every inspection, the general contractor or architect will need to draft a punch list report and share it with all the parties involved. A good report is clear and detailed, and it should provide the following details on the defects:

– project details

– date and time of inspection

– people present in the inspection

– defect name and number

– pictures with clear annotations

– location pointers

– unit/room/area number

– assignee (or the team accountable for fixing it)

– deadline date of correction/restoration

– disclaimer

– signatures

Issuing a detailed punch list report complete with precise descriptions will also reflect professionalism, showing the owner that you highly value the construction project’s quality and worth the money.

8. Adapt A Cloud-Based Punch List Management

Punch list has long been used in the construction industry, yet they are starting to transform to fit the modern times with the evolving technology. The days of traditional paper and pen punch lists are ancient histories – or at least they should be. Paper documentation creates immense inefficiencies that produce more risks and errors for the team. If your company wants to be at the top of your game and be on the construction trend, it’ time to embrace cloud technology for project management software.

Pro Crew Schedule, a construction collaboration tech powered by the cloud, can enable real-time communication even when different team members are in other locations. Rather than wasting time waiting for paper documentation, every member can stay at the top of task completions as they happen. All in all, this causes more efficient and faster punch list management.

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