Architectural Woodworking

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Shop Drawings



I only do architectural millwork occasionally, and mostly for people I've known well and for a long time. But a big contractor asked me to bid on a particular job that suits my expertise, and to provide shop drawings.

In all the rest of my work, my shop drawings consist of enough information that I remember what I'm doing when it comes time to build, plus a perspective sketch so the customer understands what they are getting. On this one, the drawings will be reviewed by the architect, etc.

Is it customary to charge for drawings like these? Plans, elevations, sections, and some details rendered in Layout. In this case, I have to fill in gaps in the architect's knowledge, and actually redesign the piece and add some support members for the contractor to supply.

Thanks in advance,


6/5/20       #2: Shop Drawings ...
Jared E

Your drawing time ought to be built into the cost of what you're selling. Many take a deposit upfront to provide shop drawings before the job starts. I take 5% of the estimated job before I draw, in the hopes that it keeps my job from being shopped elsewhere.

6/6/20       #3: Shop Drawings ...
james e mcgrew  Member


Damn right you charge... I pay 1k to 2.5 k on average got a decent job of 60-100 cases plus a desk or two

6/6/20       #4: Shop Drawings ...


You probably know all of this, and some here will disagree, but to me shop drawings serve multiple purposes.

They indicate to the architect/designer/client what your interpretation of their design intent is.

They afford you the opportunity to insert your procedures/product line/materials towards the end of approval by the designer of record.

They allow you to address any ambiguities in the bid drawings, and any differences between conceptual design and reality, or any differences between what is drawn and the space it needs to fit in to.

They allow you to "value engineer" the project so that you can use less expensive materials or methods while keeping the same price, or conversely, allow for the addition of change orders should the decided upon materials or methods lead to greater expense than what was initially bid.

My personal favorite, it allows you something to put in front of all interested parties should anyone say, after the project is built, "That is not what I wanted." Over the course of my working life, that has happened three times, when the designer/architect has not communicated with the client as to what was being provided. It is a great feeling to be able to pull out a signed shop drawing in those circumstances, instead of relying on verbal discussions, finger pointing, and the selective memory of duplicitous designers/architects/contractors.

Shop drawing expenses should be accounted for either as a line item in your bid, or as an added component of your hourly shop rate.

I have NEVER done shop drawings prior to being awarded a project. If they are asking for shop drawings prior to your being awarded the project, then you are an architectural millwork consultant, and should charge accordingly for your input and expertise, just like the architect or engineer is doing.

In that case, get your drafting money up front, unless you like drawing for free, because otherwise there is a good chance that will happen. There is a reason that they want your input, and without the guarantee of getting the project, you may just be providing your design and construction skills for free to the contractors "go-to guy", or to the low bidder on the project.

Nice work on your website, by the way. I especially like the lectern radial wall unit with the octagonal elements; is that your design?

Good luck with your contractor.

6/8/20       #5: Shop Drawings ...

Thanks for all the comments, Tony. You added a good bit to my idea of what to do with shop drawings.

The pulpit was our design. I saw the pattern in an old door in Sitges, Spain, so it fit in perfectly with the 16th-17th century Spanish mission theme for the church. We played a lot with it to figure how to wrap it on a ~3' radius wall.

For me, it's always been about designing interesting stuff, so I often stretch specs to get them to a better place ;?) This project caught me flatfooted, having been out of the shop for a while due to COVID and just not thinking about business.

You are right, I should have started with a fee for design and folded it into my price if awarded, instead I did my usual of factoring it into overhead.

6/13/20       #6: Shop Drawings ...

Give a bid

Get the contract.

Provide shop drawings.

Send a bill for shop drawings.

Get shop drawings back, change as needed. Any changes that add, write a change order explaining the cost impact.

Get approved written change order back with new contracted amount in writing.

Submit a materials draw fee. Put on invoice “production will not proceed until clients moneys received under the current economic conditions”

You cannot afford to work for free, or get burned like I am.

12/18/20       #7: Shop Drawings ...

shop drawings are part of the job, and should get paid for when done. Our shop drawings and submittals range form 3-5 % of the total contract. We usually have a line item on our schedule of values for them. I would never consider doing them without being awarded the contract. It is SOP for shop drawings to be due with in 30 days of an executed contract. I used to have an independent contractor do my shops, he would charge 1-3% and I would make about the same off his efforts. After a few sets he knew what I wanted in the shops and what the Arch. wanted as well. Then he had a brain anurism and could no longer do them. I am back to doing them myself and for the money I really do not mind, plus I really know how to build and install the job, it is just finding the time to do them is sometimes is difficult. Once you build up a library of Arch. symbols and learn your way around drawing they actually go quite quick. Just remember that architects love lots of details, even if they do not mean much, such as call outs and such. Plus leave them plenty of room to add mark-ups, and sometime even some mistakes for them to catch. In 30 years I never had a set of shop drawings that were not mark-up somehow somewhere. After all that is part of their job. A well thought out and drawn set of shop drawings will usually start your relationship with the achitect on the right foot unless of course he has someone under him review them and never actually sees them himself, were as all your efforts have gone to waste (but you did get paid)

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