Punch List 101

Helpful hints for homeowners when building a new house with a suggested check list (punch list) of what to check.

Top Tips for Compiling a Comprehensive Punch List for Your New Home.

Are you having a new home built and feeling overwhelmed? Are you not even sure what a punch list is? Well here you go:

“A punch list is a document prepared near the end of a construction project listing work not conforming to contract specifications that the general contractor must complete prior to final payment. This document outlines the work that still needs to be done on a construction project.” 

Why is it called a punch list?

The term punch list comes from the antiquated process of actually punching holes in a list to mark which items needed fixing. File under: “Now You Know” !

Won’t my home inspector catch all of this? 

Yes, a qualified home inspector will identify most items, specifically the interior and exterior of the property, including infrastructure, electrical and plumbing systems, and water quality. But you’ll want to advocate for yourself as well. You’ll be the one living there! It’s always an incredibly exciting time when you are getting ready to close on your new home. In addition to a qualified home inspector, you’ll also want to bring along your own checklist. These tips are great for ANY project, whether you are a homeowner, developer, or project manager.

Set the Standard

  • What is the standard? Understand what you bought. You’ll want to make sure you are clear on the standard of finishes and what your home should look like. Review the homebuilder model home and also go back through your contract.
  • Establish a rapport with your contractor. People want to be recognized and acknowledged – this is the team building your home so you’ll want to meet them and connect.
  • If you are building a new home, you’ll want to keep an eye on the progress of construction. You don’t want to be disruptive but you DO want to have an idea of how things are progressing, especially if you have chosen specific finishes that are different from the model. 
  • Phone a friend. If you can, bring your own “outside set of eyes” and have a friend join you who can also take notes and pictures.

The Checklist

  1. Request that home be as clean as possible – this makes it easier to see damage to flooring & surfaces that might be hidden by dirt & dust
  2. Take your time and examine everything in each room – start at the door and go counterclockwise
  3. Entry & Exterior doors (patio/garage, etc) – this one is important! It’s the gateway to your home
    1. Check deadlock to make sure it locks entirely
    2. Check weather stripping  – this keeps out the cold and heat
    3. Close door and check for light around door frame
    4. Make sure door doesn’t rub on the flooring (carpet or wood) which might cause damage
  4. Interior Doors: 
    1. Check operation and make sure doors sit snug in the frame (trust me, on a windy day, doors rattle in the frame)
    2. make sure the door doesn’t rub in the frame (hello, chipped paint!)
    3. no rubbing on the floor (same as the entry/exterior doors – this can save your carpet from wear & tear)
    4. check the deadbolt lock
    5. Pro Tip – make sure door stops are in place! Holes in walls from door handles is definitely a mood killer when you first move in.
  5. Surfaces: check all countertops for chips, discolorations & sharp edges
  6. Flooring – check for scratches and gaps
  7. Appliances – Run all of the appliances. This one is CRUCIAL. DON”T assume everything has been checked
    1. Turn on the stove and oven.
    2. Check the microwave
    3. Washer and Dishwasher – Run short cycles to make sure they are hooked up, the water is on and they are draining properly. 
    4. Run the garbage disposal. 
    5. Refrigerator/Freezer Water Supply
  8. Flush all toilets 
  9. Sinks, Showers and Tubs – check hot/cold and water pressure. Also check to make sure the stoppers work correctly
  10. HVAC Filter – Verify that the filter has been changed out after construction is complete. You definitely don’t want the same filter that has been in place during construction.
  11. Cabinets and drawers
    1. Check for bumpers on cabinet doors – eliminates slamming
    2. Drawers – If you have the “soft close” option, (which is wonderful especially for families with kids) make sure they are all operating properly
  12. Paint and texture – oh, this is a major one. Make sure you and your contractor are on the same page as to the standard of quality that’s included in your contract. As I mentioned earlier, familiarize yourself with the homebuilder model unit and your contract so you know what to expect. According to the PCA (Painting Contractor Association)

“For the purpose of inspection a normal viewing position shall be at eye level at a minimum of thirty-nine (39) inches or one (1) meter from the wall. Inspection lighting can be used as defined in this standard. [PCA Standard P9]”

In other words, stand a little over 3’ from the wall to see if there are any blemishes but don’t get too picky! Especially with regard to furniture placement (see below). Ask the contractor about touch ups and if the paint will “flash” or show where a touch up is and then choose your battles.

Document the process – take photos of the home and any items you have added to your punch list!

It’s all about perspective!

When viewing your new home, think in terms of actually LIVING in the home and where your furniture will be located. View things from the level of the couch or chairs. You might not notice deficiencies when standing but you’ll be able to see things under a counter from the couch view.  Sit on the toilet and look around. Make sure to shut the door and look around (I’m really not kidding on this one). Sit in the tub. Stand in the shower. You’ll look crazy but who cares. Sometimes you’ll see things such as uneven tiles or missing grout joints. You’ll want to catch these before everyone is long gone!

Don’t forget the Exterior

Walk around the house, check the exterior and look through the windows too. Sometimes you’ll see things inside the house when you are looking from the outside in. 

Ok, now that you are armed with a comprehensive list, here’s my final Pro Tip.

Don’t be “THAT person,” i.e someone who is demanding and is asking for things above and beyond the contract. There is no quicker way for communication to go downhill then to be demanding and unreasonable. Be nice and choose your battles. As someone whose job is to tell a bunch of contractors what they are doing wrong, you’ll want to choose wisely on what items you want fixed and what things you can let go.  

Do you want a copy of items to look for?
Use the list above for new construction punch lists, and head on over here to sign up and receive a FREE inspection checklist of findings from home inspectors you can use to look for defects around your home.

Inspection Punchlist

And now that you have your list, you’ll know what to check.


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