Punch Lists vs. Snag Lists - What is the Difference?
In short, a punch list (or snag list, if you're in the UK, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand) is a list of items that need to be completed in a construction project to comply with the terms of a contract.
At the final stage of a construction project, when it has reached substantial completion, the contractor and customer (or the customer's representative, like an architect or inspection professional) do a walk-through on the job site to prepare a list of deficiencies that need to be resolved. This deficiency list is called a punch list (or snag list).
Typically, the customer's final payment to the contractor requires the completion of items on the list. The money owed to the contractor paid out upon doing so is often referred to as the retainage. Retainage typically varies between 2% and 10% of the total contract value. Holding retainage ensures that the contractor doesn't turn in the keys before the project's completion — that is before it complies with the contract specifications.
Most contracts also include timing specifications, ensuring efficient completion of the work. As the contract is always the reference, it must establish expectations before work begins.
In summary, punch lists and snag lists ensure a job gets finished quickly in a way that honors contract terms. To do this, they must clearly state who needs to do what, where, and by when.
What is the Difference Between a Punch List and a Snag List?
The truth is there is very little difference between a punch list and a snag list and you may hear both terms used interchangeably in the construction industry.
'Punch list' is more commonly used by construction companies in the United States, whereas 'snag list' is used more frequently in the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.
What is a snag list?
Like a punch list, the term snagging list refers to a list of items that need to be completed in a construction project to comply with the contract terms. It is typically prepared at the end of the project and includes any deficiencies that need to be resolved before the final payment is made.
Creating Better Construction Snag Lists
Each key stakeholder in a construction project has a role to play in creating effective punch lists and snag lists.
Customer (or Customer Representative)
It would be ideal to visit the site before the meeting with the contractor. Take your time inspecting the building to detect incomplete items.
Don't use the actual meeting with the contractor as your discovery walk-through. Be prepared. You should take the contract with you or at least read it once more, so you know what's been agreed on contractually.
If you're in charge of completing the work, ensure you know the scope specified in the contract. Then execute items within that scope on time.
Don't be afraid to communicate extra costs for items outside of the scope. Good communication is crucial for project success.
It's also a good idea to do a separate walk-through before the final walk-through with the customer.
If a customer binds you to a retainage, it makes sense to hold a certain amount of retainage on your subcontractors.
Propose a snag list with your subcontractors, so they know they'll have to finish their work efficiently. Clearly communicate pending tasks and their deadlines. This will prevent your subcontractors from leaving while you still have contractual obligations to fulfill for your customer.
Architect (or Designer)
Architects should participate in the snag list walk-through to make sure that everything is as designed and specified in the drawings.
During the construction phase, it's a good idea to inspect the site regularly. Additionally, follow up with regular field reports that you communicate with all stakeholders. This will make the snag list less painful and prevent unwelcome surprises at the project's end.
Go Digital for the Best Snag Lists
A significant advantage of a digital snag list is that you streamline your workflow. By using snag list technology on-site, you can eliminate tedious work. No longer will you have to type out all your notes one by one, insert photos, point out locations on drawings, and so on, when you're back at the office.
Using a snag list app on-site, you can describe the issue in a couple of keywords, take a photo and indicate the location on a floor plan, and specify other things like the room number, due date, and assignee. With a snag list app, 90% or more of the snag list can be ready on-site. And when you're back at the office, you can finish it off from your desktop.
And that's not all. Professional snag list software also lets you easily share snag list items with all parties involved. Moreover, assignees like specialty contractors can share progress updates on snag list items with photos and text. This way, everyone is on the same page, and there is no need for back-and-forth emails or Whatsapp between the various parties to communicate on pending snag list items.