Snagging in construction: A comprehensive guide

Snagging in Construction
Construction management

Snagging is a common term throughout construction, but is essentially a slang expression and has slightly different meanings depending on the circumstances.

The word will be used on a variety of projects so it’s always worth a contractor checking how the phrase is being applied. It can mean different things to different people. Snagging can also be referred to as a punch list, which is primarily the American name for it.

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It becomes clear, then, that depending on the person someone is working with, a snagging list can mean something different for each job.

Here are a few of the things that are commonly referred to as snagging lists in the construction industry:

  • The pre-completion list of outstanding work that is compiled by the contract administrator. This list ensures that the contractor is aware of what work still needs to be completed before the practical completion can be certified.
  • A list of minor items often called de minimis, that still need to be finalised after the practical completion.
  • The list of not so minor items that are identified as outstanding when the practical completion is being finalised. This list is included within the appendix of the practical completion when the certificate is given.
  • A list of not very minor items that are still outstanding and were not identified until the practical completion certificate was given.

As everyone can see, a snag is always something that has been deemed defective, broken, or unfinished.  Most snags are cosmetic, but they can be much worse and include defective workmanship that can cause problems in the near future.

5 main categories of snagging in construction

In general terms, snagging refers to the process of a new owner, either the client or final customer, checking a new building for minor faults that need to be rectified. Often it will be something that is damaged or broken.

Or, it might be something that isn’t fitted correctly or appears incomplete, like a door without a hinge. Many problems are superficial, but occasionally it can be more serious issues like kitchen fittings that are not installed in the right way.

snagging in construction

What other types of problems might come up? Of course, due to the varied nature of construction projects, it’s impossible to list all of them. But in general terms, they fall into five categories:

1. Forgotten aspects of the project

In many cases, when a project is first completed, there will be something that has been forgotten. Hopefully, this doesn’t happen very often and is only something that can be easily sorted out by a contractor.

2. Problems that might take a while to emerge

A second category is problems that might not crop up immediately but can be due to new materials taking time to bed in. These issues might reveal themselves to be things like cracks in the plaster.

Find here: Pull planning in construction – 101 guide

3. Poor craftsmanship

A third situation can be poor workmanship, which is generally regarded as the most common definition of snagging. This can occur for a variety of reasons: either the workers on the job just aren’t up to it or maybe the design plans have not been followed. Or often it can come about from a job being rushed to save time and money. It can be things like doors and windows not painted on all edges or a heating system not flushed through.

4. Design and material problems

A fourth reason can relate to design where either the building has been designed incorrectly or the wrong materials have been employed. In any case, there is a direct impact on the process and a non-conformity will emerge.

5. Latent defects

Last but certainly not least, latent defects. These are issues that only become apparent after a significant amount of time and could be caused by any of the problems mentioned above.

What snagging in construction looks like

Every item that makes it to the snagging list should be carefully documented with meticulous details and all that information needs to be communicated with everyone involved.  This communication should always be in writing so that everyone has a copy and so no information is left out or forgotten. It is even recommended that photographs are taken so that the evidence is documented visually as well.

The important information that should be included in the snagging list documentation is an item number, the person who is responsible for the snagged item, where the snagged item is located, the type of issue, the details of the problem, the date of the problem, and who is responsible for fixing the item. The status of the snagging items should also be listed, with one being outstanding and eight being completed.

Clients and would-be homeowners will do their snagging list, but a contractor should make their own snagging list as the job progresses to avoid serious issues further down the line. As each stage of the job is completed, problems should be logged and rectified as soon as possible so they are kept on top of.

snagging in construction

If you are the main contractor on a job it’s important to keep a snag list with your subcontractors to ensure there is no ambiguity about the quality of work required. In this respect, it makes sense for the main contractor to retain a certain amount of the fee from a subbie until the job is completed to a satisfactory standard.

Architects will often feed into a snagging list too to ensure that what is being built is in line with the drawings. It is the architect’s responsibility to highlight anything that is not built to the correct specification.

When it comes to the finished product, a new homeowner might pay for a snagging survey to be done. A decent snagging inspector will check on every aspect of the finished building that is visible, which will include both in the interior and exterior of the building.

A buyer is normally advised to do this before they exchange contracts with a developer. Although some developers will not let a snagging survey be completed until completion takes place.

Housebuilders can refuse to offer access to a property before it is completed as legally they still own the land. For a homebuyer, things can become trickier after they’ve moved in as a housebuilding firm could argue that any damage has been caused since the customer has moved in. Obviously, from a contractor’s point of view, it is easier to fix any problems in an empty property.

What’s next?

Once a snagging report like this is done, it will normally be sent back to the buyer within two working days. A survey of this kind normally starts from around £300 plus VAT.

A homebuyer actually has two years from when they have moved into the property to report any defects, which include cosmetics ones. Housebuilders are legally mandated to fix any issues in line with a warranty a buyer is issued with on a property, which can run for up to 10 years.

Read also: What is an RFI in construction?

If a new homeowner does not feel that a housebuilder has responded in a satisfactory way, they may complain to the National House Building Council (NHBC), or their warranty provider. Other options open to them include making a complaint about the warranty provider to the Financial Ombudsman Service. Or they may take it to the Consumer Code for Homebuilders, which has a dispute resolution service.

Of course, they could also pursue a legal route, but clearly, this can be a costly option with an uncertain outcome. In very extreme circumstances, dissatisfied customers have displayed banners from their homes, with messages such as “Don’t buy a home here until you have spoken to me”.

snagging in construction

For everybody involved, hopefully, there will be few cases where these sorts of tactics have to be resorted to. Indeed very few new homebuyers do go public about their grievances, which could be because they don’t want to rubbish a house they will, undoubtedly, want to sell in the future.

But it illustrates why snagging lists are so important and any issues are acted upon as swiftly as possible to avoid possible unwanted actions further down the line. With the power of social media today, one wrong step can create a lot of bad PR for everybody involved in a project.

70 questions to include in a snagging list

Below, you can find 50 questions that could be part of a snagging list as described by  SucceedwithContractors.com. You can find and download the full list here. The questions have been broken down based on the item category that they belong to:

Ceilings

  • Are there any drywall tape joints? (check both with the lights on and in natural light).
  • Are the holes for lighting and ventilation being made properly?
  • Can you detect any cracks in the ceiling? Don’t forget the skylight corners.
  • Have the skylights been sealed properly?
  • Can you access the attic? Is it insulated correctly?
  • Are smoke detectors installed and functioning?

Walls

  • Are there any tape joints which are not properly sanded and painted?
  • Can you track any cracks on the door and/or windows? Examine the corners, as well.
  • Can you spot any screw heads burst through the gypsum board?
  • Are there any nail heads burst in wood framing?
  • Check if the painting is completed.
  • Can you see any dings, gouges and/or crushed corners?
  • Are there any wall tiles that are cracked?

Doors and windows

  • Can you spot any dents, buckling or scratches on the frames?
  • Can the doors be opened and closed effortlessly?
  • Do the self-closing doors lock as they should?
  • Check if all exterior doors are weatherstripped.
  • Have sweeps been placed at all exterior doors?
  • Check if the doors can lock and close properly.
  • Are hinges screwed correctly?
  • Is the door threshold placed and sealed correctly so water invasion can be avoided?
  • Are the wall and the door frame joined correctly?
  • Do the windows open, close and lock without any problem?
  • Have all door stops been placed correctly?
  • Is there any damage to the glass panes? Can you spot any sign of moisture between them?
  • Is there proper air movement under the doors?

Cabinets

  • Are there any screw ends that are exposed inside or at the back of your cabinets?
  • Do the cabinet doors open and close as they should?
  • Inspect the screws in cabinet hinges. Are they placed correctly?
  • Inspect the molding. Is it installed correctly? Check whether it is nailed or glued.
  • Are close rods installed correctly? Inspect their quality.

Counters

  • Inspect if the sink is sealed to the countertop in the right way.
  • Can you find any gaps at countertop corners?
  • Check if the backsplash is shuttered properly.

Flooring

  • Can you notice any shred ends on the carpet?
  • Check the flooring transition. Is everything put correctly?
  • Are the grout joints the same size?
  • Is the floor grout sealed correctly?
  • Are the tiles in good condition? Check if there is any damage (eg. cracks).
  • Examine if the wall base is attached as it is supposed to.
  • Are there any cracks between the base and the wall? Check all between the base and the flooring.
  • Can you see any damage to flooring as a result of construction work?
  • Inspect whether transition strips can be visible in areas where different types of flooring are met.

Mechanical

  • Check if the exhaust fans work properly.
  • Inspect if the microwave exhaust is installed correctly.
  • Do the registers and diffusers work as they should?
  • Can you detect any problems with the installation of the thermostat(s)?
  • Inspect if the furnace filters are clean and in good condition.
  • Is the ductwork properly insulated and sealed? Check if the contractor has cleaned after the end of his/her work?
  • Can you spot any noise, rattling or vibration when AC and furnace are in function?
  • Do the appliances work properly?
  • Can the range hood be used?

Plumbing

  • Is the dryer vent working?
  • Inspect if the plumbing fixtures are shred and sealed as they should.
  • Is the garbage disposer ready to use? If there is one.
  • Examine the shut-off valves.  Can you detect any problems and are they installed in all places where water connection (eg. bathroom, kitchen) is available?
  • Check if the plumbing in the walls can be reached easily.
  • Inspect if the faucets work well.
  • Can you notice any toilet flushing problems?
  • Does the water heater work?
  • Are traps and backflow preventers installed in the drain?

Electrical

  • Inspect if all phone jacks work.
  • Check if cover plates are installed.
  • Is it possible to install ceiling fans in the future?
  • Can you locate a wall switch for ceiling fans?
  • Have the circuits been labeled properly?
  • Make sure that the garage door is working correctly.
  • Are cable jacks installed in the different rooms?
  • Is the irrigation clock fully functioning?
  • Where can the breaker panel be found?

Final thoughts

The importance of a smooth snagging process in construction is colossal regardless of the project’s type. While preparing or working on a punch list, you should always keep an eye on the future.

Simply put, you want to establish a straightforward and standardised process which can be replicated to future projects. This can be a great investment both for the present and future development of your organisation.

The better you become in detecting and resolving non-conformities, the easier it will be to stay in control of your budget and your 3-6 weeks planning.

Of course, some snags worth more than others. Not all non-conformities have an impact on planning but some of them have and you should be able to digitally update and monitor your plan.

Like that, you can set up, and continuously optimise, an intuitive project monitoring and inspection process and get your organisation one step closer to success.

About the author: Gari Nickson is an expert in the application of artificial intelligence in construction. He’s an entrepreneur, co-founder of GenieBelt (soon to be LetsBuild) and adviser to Specialist Contractor System.

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