Sorry, but that's not in my bid." What contractor doesn't
cringe upon hearing those words from a sub?
Picture yourself driving to the site to meet your new plumbing
contractor, who's due to start the underground rough-in for the
spec home you're building. You pull up to the site, and he and
his helpers are leaning against their truck (which is
overflowing with PVC) looking annoyed.
"You told me the site was ready," the plumber says. "The
excavator hasn't dug the trenches for my piping."
"That wasn't in his bid," you reply.
"Well, it's not in mine, either. Call me when you have the
trenches dug," he says as the plumbers pile into the truck to
head for another job. You stand there wondering how you're
going to pay for the excavation work that you thought you'd
already "bought" from the plumber and, more important, how
quickly you can get the trenches dug so your schedule doesn't
go down the drain.
Or perhaps it happens the other way round. As you arrive at
the site to meet the plumber, you notice a rented backhoe and
trailer hitched to his truck. His crew is walking along the
fresh trenches that the foundation sub dug the day before,
wondering if they're in the right location. It seems you forgot
to tell him that the foundation sub would be digging and
backfilling the plumbing trenches.
A detailed scope-of-work for each trade can prevent such
situations, sparing you and your subs all that aggravation.
With the use of a computer and word-processing software,
developing work scopes can be painless, as much of the
information can be boilerplate that gets used repeatedly for
A scope-of-work document contains a detailed description of
all the work to be handled by a particular subcontractor on a
job. For example, it might include the following:
Provide all labor, material, and equipment to
lay out, excavate, and backfill all trenches as
required for underground piping work. Include sand
bedding and 4-in. sand cover on all plastic piping.
All trenches are to be compacted in 8-in. lifts
during backfilling operations.
Be sure to specify whether sub A is to supply labor and
material or just labor. If material is being supplied by
others, specify sub A's responsibility for the material, if
any. For example:
Provide all labor to install door hardware
(furnished by others), including all latchsets,
hinges, wall stops, and kick plates. Upon delivery
of material to the site, this subcontractor shall
inventory the material and distribute it as
required prior to installation. Once material is
inventoried, any shortages shall be reported to the
general contractor immediately, or the shipment
shall be considered complete.
Supplier copy. If a
supplier is supplying material only, he should receive a
scope-of-work as well, delineating all materials to be
included, as well as any delivery requirements. It might say
All material shall be delivered to the site
by supplier (costs of delivery to be included in
price) and unloaded and stacked by supplier's
personnel. Material will be inventoried by the
installing contractor upon delivery, and any
discrepancies shall be noted on the delivery
Just as important, the scope-of-work must contain detailed
descriptions of all work excluded by the subcontractor.
Perhaps the trenching and backfilling in the example above was
to be done by the foundation contractor. In that case, his
scope-of-work might read:
Provide painted layout for all underground
piping runs. Excavation to be completed by others.
Trench depth requirements to be reviewed with
excavator upon layout. Sand for bedding and 4-in.
cover over pipe to be placed at the side of
trenches by others, for installation by the
plumbing contractor. Backfill to grade and
compaction to be performed by foundation
This sample paragraph clearly delineates where one
contractor stops work and the other starts, to avoid
misunderstandings and work overlaps.
In addition to the work to be included and excluded, the
scope-of-work document can contain (or reference) other items
to make sure that everyone is on the same page once work
begins. Some of these items include:
* standard provisions for all subcontractors regarding working
hours, insurance requirements, cleanup, site access, billing
and payment procedures, change order policies, and so
* a reference to the document list, which will list the most
current drawings and specifications for the job, ensuring that
no one is working from an obsolete plan
* coordination procedures between subs (typically between the
framer and the mechanical subs) that outline who takes
precedence over whom with regard to duct runs, piping, and so
* a copy of the project schedule, to make sure everyone is
working with the same start and completion dates
* payment schedules, punchlist and quality control procedures,
and time frames for any warranty work that may be
Boilerplate Saves Time
Generally, much of this information stays the same from
project to project. Rather than duplicating it for each new job
(especially with subs you work with regularly), create a
separate boilerplate document that can be referenced in the
scope-of-work document. I call mine "Subcontractor Standards";
every sub I work with has a copy. Any modifications to the
"Subcontractor Standards" on a particular job can be added into
the scope-of-work and a sentence like the following added for
Where conflicts occur between the
"Subcontractor Standards" and this document, this
document shall take precedence.
Site cleanup provides a perfect example of how you might use
a boilerplate. Typically, your company may supply dumpsters to
the site but require subs to carry their own trash to the
dumpster (as outlined in your "Subcontractor Standards"). If
there is no room for a dumpster on a particular job, however,
subs may be required to haul away their own trash daily. In
that case, the scope-of-work statement might read as
Due to restrictive site access, on-site
dumpsters will not be provided. All subcontractors
will be required to remove from the site, on a
daily basis, all debris generated by their work.
Any debris left on the site will be hauled away at
the subcontractor's expense after 24 hours' notice
to remove such debris.
In a perfect world, scopes-of-work would always be prepared
before bidding a job. That would allow subs to review what they
are to include and exclude in their bids. If the scopes can't
be written in advance, be sure to review them with the subs
when you review their bids, to make sure everything is covered.
You'll usually have to adjust the bid amount either to include
items that were missed or to delete items that were included
when they shouldn't have been.
Finally, provide a space for both your company representative
and the sub to initial each page of the scope-of-work. When you
hear, "Sorry, but that's not in my bid," it can be very
satisfying to pull out a document with the sub's initials at
the bottom of the page, confirming that the item in question
is, in fact, in his bid.Bob Kovacswas a residential and commercial
construction manager for 15 years and now offers training,
management, and estimating services to builders through his
company, Constructive Solutions. He also moderates the
Business Systems forum