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Joined: Mar 2006
Posts: 81
bigpapa Offline OP
How do contractors deal with sloppy residential project plans?

This seems to be normal in some areas of construction in my area. Probably because the consultants are merely slapping together a set of plans, re using the specs from the last similar job and leaving the EC to figure out what they really want. I think the role of the electrical engineer on residential type projects is merely to get a set of plans out facilitate the permitting process.

I was handed a set of drawings a few days ago from a reputable developer, who also takes the role of general contractor. This company is primarily involved with multi tenant residential and small commercial developments
attached to them. These plans were for a small 6 unit retail store complex.

The plans contain conflicting information, a couple of wrong part numbers, some specified material that is no longer manufactured, and quite a bit of missing detail on how the structure of the building will be framed. Also there is a significant level of direction that adresses workmanship, suggesting they normally have a fair bit of trouble with that.

I do not normally do woodframe buildings but I looked at this one because it is so close to my home and it looks intersting. I have decided not to bid it.

First, I can understand why these consultants are merely plan stampers, but how do you bid such a job?

My first reaction was to pad my bid accordingly so I am covered but you lose bids this way. Also there are the weasel clauses in the specifications designed to protect the developer from things that might not be thoroughly engineered at the contractors risk. I have a bad feeling working for a developer who is also the GC.

I have a few questions for the contractors here who do this type of work.

Do you actually spend hours correcting the consult and submitting alternative items for approvals?
Do you have the experience to know what they want and make the assumption they are tolerant as long as things are done well and to code, and you are making generous allowances for unclear items?
Do you just wing it and have enough work on the go so that it all evens out in the long run?

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Joined: May 2005
Posts: 706
I usually quantify everything and list materials to avoid confusion. Don't worry about their clauses in the plan. The clauses in your contract that you both sign are the ones that count. I spend as little time as possible on poor plans and no time correcting them.


Joined: Jul 2007
Posts: 265
Quote the job AS DRAWN, using the quoted materials or the next better grade on things that are not available. Include with your bid a letter stating that the bid is as drawn and any changes will require a change order and extra $$$. Most residential jobs here do not have a drawing at all just have to try to iron it out with homeowner/GC. Make sure there is enough room in your bid to cover your rear if things go south, if you loose the bid you probably did not want it anyway. I do not know of any sparky that is in the business to work for free.


Life is tough, Life is tougher when you are stupid
Joined: Nov 2006
Posts: 348
ITO Offline
Bad plans are just part of the trade, and anyone doing commercial work has seen their fair share. The idea here is to sell the job and make money, so figure the job as shown, then propose it as a base price with any adds you know they will need, and with a very specific scope of what they get for that price. My standard scope letters have 63 points what is furnished and what is not. Thinks like I will furnish temporary lights and receptacles but consumption is covered by the GC. Who furnished the dumpster? How about the painted plywood backer boards for the telephone? Who does the control wiring. It’s easy to miss the small things with bad plans because its just not shown but it will be expected.

If a fixture they specified is no longer available, then put an allowance in for it, and say in the proposal that they light fixtures specified are not available but you are carrying $X for a allowance. The GC will appreciate you putting something in for it, and when you do submit an alternated they cant go over your allowance without giving you a change order.

You need to be very specific, on what they get for your price, and be VERY careful they don’t sneak anything you don’t have covered back into your contract, should they decide to use you.

101° Rx = + /_\
Joined: Mar 2006
Posts: 81
bigpapa Offline OP
This is all great information. Thank you.
Basically we just allow for everything and hope we are not pricing too high. It gets expensive fast when you are guessing at fire alarm and feeder routes through a poorly described structure. Experience with a particular structure type would help. I am mostly experienced with steel buildings and could easily blow it on the labour in wood buildings.

Years ago I did a job with a circle of 18 potlights in a room. The framer built it with joists on a 45 degree angle and with lots of them close together along with a steel beam. It was a nightmare to lay out and nobody saw it coming except the framers. It wasn't on the drawing that way.

A standard scope letter is something that I have been looking to create. Here is a link to some basic ideas I will incorporate if anyone is interested.
Also, does anyone usually warranty light bulbs?

If anyone can direct me to information where to get more ideas about good things to clarify in my bids I would appreciate it.

Joined: Nov 2006
Posts: 348
ITO Offline
No warranty on lamps, but I do furnish spares before I leave. Generally I leave a case of lamps and they owner think this is great.

If I have time tomorrow, I will post my scope letter again.

Last edited by ITO; 10/29/07 10:01 PM.

101° Rx = + /_\
Joined: Feb 2004
Posts: 75
One thing you might want to exclude is blocking. This is one of our standard exclusions especially on wood frame buildings. Also if you are going to have to run EMT in the walls allow a lot of time. It is an art form of its own and it can take for ever if you aren't used to it. On jobs like these the GC will like to throw things out there like "its a design/build" or "You should have known you would need that" and my personal favorite "Do what ever you normally do" These are all traps to try and make up for lousy engineering at your expense.

Joined: Nov 2006
Posts: 348
ITO Offline
Please delete the previous post, there is some kind of dumb time limit on editing posts and I missed it. Here is the edited version:

Good call on the blocking I added it to my list.

My favorite GC line is, “It’s a performance spec, it says right on the plans you have to do what ever it takes to meet code, even if the plans show otherwise”.

1) Labor, materials and permit
2) Taxes
^^^Somebody has to pay them, figure out who that is before you sign the contract
3) Fixtures, and lamps and appurtenances LABOR
4) Fixtures, Lamps and appurtenances FURNISH
5) Panels, transformers and breakers LABOR
6) Panels, transformers and breakers. FURNISH (Specify if FBO or existing) FURNISH
7) Plywood Backboards.
8) Cable Tray
9) Electrical Service from gutter to lease space.
10) Utility meters
11) Utility Fees
^^^I NEVER agree to pay these.
12) Landlord Utility tie in fees ($___________)
13) 1/2" Minimum Conduit Size
14) MC in lieu of EMT (Home Runs in EMT as per local code)
15) House keeping pads
16) Transformer pads and bollards per POCO Specifications
17) Pole bases
18) Utility pull Boxes
19) Cutting and concrete patching as shown on plans
20) Ditching and back filling
21) Surveying, establish grades and site layout
^^^Either cover it, or specifically exclude it.
22) RTU/AHU Controls
^^^I always exclude this.
23) RTH/AHU Disconnects
^^^I always exclude this.
25) RTH/AHU Starters
^^^Look out for these, they will get you.
26) RTH/AHU Duct detectors and Annunciators
^^^So do they come with the AHU or not?.
27) Unit Heaters
28) Conduit for HVAC control Wiring
29) Wire for HVAC controls
^^^I always exclude this.
30) Make Safe for demolition
31) Demolition
^^^Which is it, are you going to make it safe for others to remove, or are you going to pay electricians to do grunt work?
32) Temporary receptacles and lights (Allowance:____________)
33) Trailer hookup (how many____________)
34) Consumption of temporary power
^^^I always exclude this.
35) Task lighting for other trades.
^^^OSHA mandates 5ft candles lighting levels for construction, which is not enough to paint the walls with, make the other trades furnish their own task lights.
36) Daily clean up for electrical only. NO composite clean-up crews.
^^^Composite crews will ensure you use your high dollar labor to clean up the sheet rocker’s mess.
37) Roof flashings or penetrations.
^^^We are not roofers, we don’t know how to seal a roof penetration.
38) Cutting, patching and painting.
^^^You cant paint with Kliens.
39) Fire stopping and caulking.
40) Fees from architect to obtain CAD files if As-Builts are required in electronic format.
41) Access panels
42) Overtime or night labor
43) All work performed during normal business hours
44) Blocking for fixture support.
45) Dumpsters.
^^^This one may seem dumb, but some GCs don’t want to furnish a dumpster, look out they run about $1,000 a month here.
46) Completed operations endorsement CG 2010 & CG 2057 Requirement
^^^Look out for this one it’s in your contract and it can cost you a $1,000 to pick it up. This is just the GC making you buy some of his insurance for him.

Division 17-18
43) Fire Alarm Systems
44) Conduit for fire alarm system
45) Conduit to accessible ceiling space ONLY for fire alarm systems
46) Ring and string wall drop ONLY for fire alarm systems
47) Telephone/DATA systems
48) CAT-5 ONLY for Telephone//DATA systems (no terminations)
49) Conduit for telephone/DATA system
50) 3/4" Conduit to accessible ceiling space only, for telephone/DATA systems
51) Ring and string wall drop ONLY for telephone/DATA systems
52) UG conduit for telephone service entrance to space
53) Plywood backboards.
54) Telephone service box, and M66 Blocks.
55) Sound Systems
56) Speakers Furnish and Install
57) Conduit for sound systems
58) Wire for sound system
59) EMS, BAS
60) Lighting Control / Dimmer Panels (includes contractors) FURNISH
61) Lighting Control / Dimmer Panels LABOR
62) Emergency exit and panic bar hardware install.
63) Conduit for EMS and BAS systems
64) Door Hardware
^^^Don’t do it, it’s a trap.

RenoSteinke: I've deleted the post as you asked, ITO.

Last edited by renosteinke; 10/30/07 08:00 PM.

101° Rx = + /_\
Joined: Feb 2004
Posts: 75
The dumpster thing reminds of a job we did. The GC had a dumpster on site for everyone to dump their garbage into. What we didn't know is that when the guy came to pick it up the dumpster the Superindentant would go inspect the dumpster. He would analyze the garbage and decide how much was from each trade. 25%-electrical, 30%-plumbers 20%-stucco etc. A couple of months later we started getting back charges for "our percentage" of the dumspster.

They did the same thing on the scissor lifts. Everytime we would use one of the so called community lifts he would make a note and then back charge us for however many days we used the lift.

We don't do work for that GC anymore.

Joined: Nov 2006
Posts: 348
ITO Offline
It is short sighted BS, but that is what being a GC is all about, cutting a corner so you will be low, then hoping your subs don't catch on until its too late and they have to foot the bill.

Realistically what would a job site look like if every sub had a dumpster on site? What would the the bids to the GC be if every sub included the cost of a roll off dumpster? Pretty soon the GCs would figure out they could save a tone of money by just including one in their general overhead.

101° Rx = + /_\
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