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Submittal package: Best practices & steps to get started

Picture of a job site working on the exterior of a building in Vancouver | Submittal package | Knowify

While the submittal process is a familiar one for contractors, familiarity doesn’t make it any easier to manage potentially thousands of items; it can quickly become a time-consuming procedure that no contractor looks forward to. Few things are as frustrating as a rejected submittal that brings more paperwork, all while the project itself is brought to a standstill.

Despite these grievances, the submittal process remains a critical part of the construction workflow. The paper trail they create is vital for the proper documentation of projects. Without properly submitted project information, projects run the risk of failure due to a number of issues, including supply and cost factors. 

Submittals are a way for contractors to prove their competence and professionalism to project owners. Moreover, contractors who work primarily in commercial construction are all but guaranteed to be a part of a submittal process in one way or another. It may seem trivial to submit every fitting, fastener, device, or wire, but doing so truly does pay dividends down the road. 

This article will provide an in-depth look at the different components and best practices for contractors to create submittal packages. Read on to ensure your submittals stand a better chance for approval. 

What is a submittal package?

A submittal package is a group of documents submitted for review by the architect, project owner, general contractor, or inspector. They typically include a set of submittal items such as:

  • Schedules
  • plans 
  • product data
  • Drawings
  • Designs
  • Samples

But why are these documents even needed in the first place? 

Construction projects are a symphony of specialties. Each trade has a role to play, but they must ensure their work fits into the bigger puzzle that is the overall project plan. For this reason, larger projects require a rather complex system of checks and balances.

Submittal packages are one such system. Before the fabrication, installation, or delivery of materials can occur, contractors must present documents per the specification requirements of the contract. The primary purpose is to serve as a final check that the contractor is going to meet the intent of the plans and specs.  

In other words, it provides sufficient evidence that the contractor has prepared to move forward with the next step of the project with the correct materials, tools, techniques, and outcomes in mind.

Contractors will assemble and sort a package of all materials that they will use during project execution. The appropriate section of the spec should correspond with this information.

Most of the time, this info will then be either approved or rejected. However, a third option does exist where the reviewer will request extra details or revisions before approval-more on this later. 

How to create construction submittal packages 

The submittal process typically consists of four major steps: 

  • Stakeholder meeting to discuss project requirements 
  • The contractor assembles all relevant documents  
  • The contractor sends the submittal 
  • Submittal is reviewed and given a stamp of approval or rejection 

Typical of the construction industry, there is always an added level of nuance. In some circumstances, the material that the project owner specs out may not be suitable material for the job or may not even exist.

If contractors feel that there is a better option or that the plans seem unclear, contractors have an obligation to issue an RFI. The RFI is a powerful tool to clear up any misunderstandings. It will initiate a process to formally suggest an alternate material or require the project owner to provide further clarification.

From there, a new submittal can be sent with the product information and shop drawings for the newly approved materials.

Before submitting, there are a few additional steps contractors should take. First, ask vendors or manufacturers for a spec sheet of the materials in question. Due diligence is everything when preparing to send a submittal.

How to create a submittal package:

  1. Obtain the necessary documents from the architect or engineer 
  2. Review the documents and compile all necessary information for the submittal package 
  3. Create the submittal package, including a cover letter, product specifications, drawings, product literature, and any other relevant materials 
  4. Submit the package to the architect or engineer for review 
  5. Ensure the product or material meets all of the project requirements 
  6. If approved, proceed with the construction project 
  7. Ensure the architect or engineer has all of the necessary information to make an informed decision about the product or material

Submittal package example 

Because no two projects are alike, each will require its own unique submittal package. As a result, smaller projects will naturally have fewer submittals than more extensive jobs.

However, contractors should aim to deliver consistently comprehensive submittals regardless of project size. Submittals can have hundreds of items, documents, and pieces of information attached to them.

For this reason, they can quickly become convoluted and disorganized. This means that contractors must work to find a balance between including too much information and not enough. 

Remember that if contractors fail to provide all relevant information, project management will likely send the submittal back until the submittal is complete enough for a thorough review. This can significantly delay construction and cause extra work for contractors.

To get ahead of this, double and then triple-check your submittal before sending it out to ensure you include everything you need.

List of submittal package sections: Required fields

1. Cover letter
A brief introduction to the project and an outline of the submittal package contents. Cover letters must make clear the type of product, the purpose of the submittal, and the contact information for the submitter.

2. Project specifications
A detailed description of the scope of work and any applicable technical requirements. It’s also common to include installation instructions here. These will provide detailed instructions on how to install the product.

3. Datasheet
A datasheet (a.k.a., spec sheet) summarized the technical components of different project phases. A subcontractor won’t be on the hook to create a datasheet; instead, the manufacturer will likely already have one that contractors can request and include in the submittal.

4. Drawings and sketches
Any relevant technical drawings and sketches of the work, as needed. 

5. Material submittal
A list of all the materials proposed for use in the project, including product data sheets, specifications, and any other relevant information.

6. Sample submittal
If necessary, contractors can include a sample of the finished product or structure. These are included to assist in a physical inspection prior to installation. This can help the architect or engineer to understand the materials better and identify any issues before fabrication.

7. Schedule
A timeline of key milestones, sign-off dates, due dates, and completion dates. 

8. Price quote
A detailed breakdown of the cost of the project, including labor and materials.

9. Payment terms
A description of the payment terms, including the payment schedule and any applicable discounts or other special conditions.

10. Insurance requirements
A description of the contractor’s insurance requirements for the project. 

11. Warranty information
A description of any applicable warranties or guarantees. 

12. Additional documentation
Any other documents necessary to complete the project submission, such as safety regulations, performance bonds, or certifications.

Creating submittals in Knowify 

The ability to create, organize, and manage submittals is just one of the many ways that Knowify aims to make the lives of specialty contractors easier. Knowify’s easy-to-operate software delivers a straightforward way to share materials, data, drawings, and everything in between for comprehensive, professional submittals. 

By using Knowify, contractors can streamline the creation and management of individual submittal documents, ensuring accuracy and efficiency.

  • Knowify provides a simple and efficient process for contractors to create and manage submittals
  • Allows contractors to access and submit documents directly from their Knowify account 
  • Powerful search function to quickly locate information 
  • Streamlines the communication and review process with other stakeholders 
  • Enables electronic acceptance of submittals, providing documentation and notifications when submittals are approved

To see for yourself, book a 30-minute demo today and save yourself hours of administrative work with Knowify’s powerful suite of construction management tools.