Recently one of our engineers-in-training and I were reviewing the criteria that we wanted to follow when completing a punchlist. After outlining the guidelines for this and how it related to the project that he was working on, it occurred to me that I didn’t recall any industry standards for completing a punchlist as a job neared its completion. That evening I sat down and began to put the punchlist process into words. It is interesting how an experienced engineer can take for granted what he or she has learned in the past relative to design engineering and construction supervision.

To reinforce this process, I have encouraged Amanda Parolise to incorporate the process into her “Hvacr Designer Tips” checklist for this month. This should be a good start to establishing the first pass at an “industry standard” that can fill an obvious void in training people within the hvac industry.

The Accountability Factor

Getting back to the punchlist process, at some point contractors will say they are ready for the engineer’s punchlist. When this occurs, the engineer should ask the contractor or construction manager to forward the itemized punchlist with the various items checked off. I think you will often experience a silence on the other end of the phone because contractors are usually not that methodical, in terms of putting this into writing. This should also be your first sign that a thorough inspection was not done.

The next sign that a general contractor or CM has not had the hvac contractor complete a thorough punchlist is when you have completed your second page of punchlist items within the first hour of your building walk-through. At that point in time, based on my experience, I would pass my freehand notes over to the contractor and ask them to follow the process given and complete the rest before I return.

Over the years I have found that it was always easier for the contractor to simply pass the problem on to the engineer rather than facilitate the construction management process. In accepting this role, the engineer has now positioned himself or herself to be accountable for the entire inspection process. What doesn’t get on the engineer’s list doesn’t become part of the trade contractor’s “things to do.”


Howard’s Punchlist Process

Having noted the above, here is my version of the punchlist process. First, create a matrix sheet where you can itemize the specification paragraph by paragraph. The columns in the contract specification matrix should include the following:


  • Page number;
  • Paragraph number;
  • Subparagraph number; and
  • Specific item within this section of the specification that is not completed and so noted in the matrix.

The next matrix to be developed is the contract drawing matrix and that should include the following relative to floor plan drawings:


  • Drawing number;
  • Revision number and date;
  • Column line (number and letter) to focus in on the specific area where the incomplete work exists;
  • Room name and/or number if applicable; and
  • Note incomplete work and/or unacceptable work.

The third matrix to be developed is another contract drawing matrix that addresses drawings other than the floor plans:


  • Drawing number;
  • Revision number and date;
  • Name of detail, schedule and/or flow diagram; and
  • Note deficiency as it relates to this drawing.

It is important to note that the key to a successful punchlist is to be prepared before you get on-site. By setting up standards, the design engineer can now share these guidelines with the contractor ahead of time to educate this contractor on how the consultant wants to see the punchlist completed. It is also a great training tool for teaching others within the engineering firm as to how the punchlist process works. ES