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What is a construction submittal?

What is a submittal? #

Submittal definition: A submittal is composed of construction documents, shop drawings, or product samples that are turned in by a contractor to a GC, owner, architect, or engineer for approval of equipment, materials, or products before they are fabricated, delivered, installed, or used on the project at hand. 

To expand on the above definition, a submittal is a formal request sent by a contractor to a General Contractor or owner seeking approval for something prior to proceeding. Submittals are commonly used when the contractor has selected a material—for example, a particular kind of light, a plumbing fixture, etc.—that they believe satisfies the requirements of the specification sheet but for which they would like final approval by the GC or owner prior to actually installing the materials.

The submittal process can vary depending on the exact project and specific needs of the design team; however, submittals can serve as an important legal protection to contractors since they demonstrate that formal sign-off was received prior to installation. If a GC or owner complains that they do not like the material post-installation, the contractor can always point to the submittal as a way to say, ‘you approved it!’.

Note: The submittal concept is captured in a more informal way in residential contracting with things like selection sheets, which many contractors rely on to document a client’s choice of light fixtures, tile, etc.

Types of submittals #

There are many types of submittal documents that will vary depending on the type of project. However, the three most common are the following:

Product data #

Product data will include documents that provide specifications, technical data, and manufacturer information on all materials to be used on the construction project. Documents can include manuals, blueprints, ratings/standards, or warranty information.

Drawings #

Submittals will include detailed plans of certain pre-construction aspects of a project. These plans are used to help fabricate, construct, or install individual components of the project. As such, these drawings will include detailed drawings on dimensions, joinery, materials, and processes for proper installation.

Samples #

Samples will encompass physical samples of the materials used in the project. Examples could entail flooring, tiles, paint, metal, fixtures, mock-ups, etc. These samples are vital for the submittal review process for quality, performance, and delivery of the project.

How does the submittal process work? #

The specification sheet for a roofing job specifies a TPO membrane of at least 60 mil thickness. The roofing contractor selects GAF EverGuard TPO, 60 mil, along with associated accessories (vent boots, scuppers, etc.). The contractor presents the product sheets for those items, and send them to the GC (or owner) for sign off. The GC receives the submittal, compares the selected items to the specifications, and finds the selection acceptable. He signs the submittal without further comment, and the contractor is now free to install the selected TPO material.

Construction submittal best practices #

Be clear and concise #

When developing a submittal, ensure that all information is clearly communicated and will be understood by those who will review and read it. Keep information to relevant details that are up to date and useful to the construction project. Doing so is vital for a smooth submittal process that will streamline workflows that all stakeholders will be sure to appreciate.

Double-check for errors  #

Before a submittal is sent out, it’s vital that contractors check, double-check, and then checked again to ensure that each document is error-free, thorough, and accurate. Outside of basic grammar and spelling, review all numbers, specifications, details, drawings, and samples provided to ensure they are in line with the quality and completeness that is required of professional submittals. Any mistakes that slip through the cracks can result in serious consequences. Once complete, construction submittals will go through a lengthy approval process by many different stakeholders. For this reason, if subcontractors can have a thorough review process of their own before sending it off to a GC, they can ensure that all bases are covered upfront. This goes a long way in fostering a smoother review process and will demonstrate exceptional professionalism.

Be timely  #

Subcontractors need to prioritize completing and reviewing submittals so they can be sent and reviewed on schedule. Enough lead time needs to be allowed so the proper revisions can be made without delaying any on-site aspects of the job. Failing to do so can result in delays or damaged relations with GCs or project owners, or project managers. Do not push your submittal schedule to the last minute.

Stay organized #

It’s best to use construction management software to keep all documents easily accessible and in one place so they can be sent as one complete package. Sending documents separately or via different formats can cause confusion or lost documentation. This complete package should also include a cover sheet with a comprehensive list of all documents inside. This helps reviewers keep track of all construction contract documents and ensure the relevant information can be accessed when and where needed. 

How Knowify helps manage and improve submittals #

Knowify offers a clean, easy-to-use submittal tool. You can create submittals and attach any files required; the submittal is then sent to whoever you choose electronically, and they can review and sign off (or reject with comments) the submittal. You and your counter party will receive notifications each step of the way, ensuring that the submittal process proceeds smoothly and efficiently.

See how it works: