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Millwork Drawing Interpretation3/5/20
I own a small woodworking company focusing mainly on residential projects. However, we've had two local construction companies reach out to have us produce commercial cabinets for their projects.
I don't have background that would aid in understanding the drawings. From what I can understand, it's a drawn out process of confirming the elevations, confirming materials, etc.
I'm curious to know if anyone out there has some insight on how I might be able to go about this more efficiently in order to win more jobs. Additionally, how I should package the information to be most presentable.
Any advice, further questions as to what I'm looking to do, etc. would be greatly appreciated!
In commercial you will need to submit samples of laminate, wood and any other finishes you are providing. For hardware we do a hardware page with pictures of the hardware, for chemicals; glues, adhesives used on site we do pages and SDS sheets in the shop drawings.
If there is a lot of specialty equipment that needs to fit in the casework and mill work we will include cut sheets form the approved equipment so its easy to reference.
Shop drawings need to be your interpretation of how you are going to build and install the project and submitted for approval before you order materials.
In commercial work generally speaking the contract takes precedence over every thing, then the specifications, then the plans, then the elevations, then the sections, then large details.
So the job could have uppers with no light rails in elevation, the section could show a dashed light rail with a note to provide light rails where under cabinet lights are called out and the only place to find the lights is the electrical plans.
Anecdotal story from me, sorry not more than a warning. I did a total of 1 commercial job for a general contractor. It went okay, the biggest effect on me was slow payments and carrying all the material cost. What I found out latter was the general liked to shop around for inexperienced small shops who were likely to underbid the job due to lack of the process knowledge. Made a lot of sense to me after the job was over. My biggest surprise was on delivery day. The job site was a muddy quagmire. No way to estimate the need for a trip back to the shop and get a pickup. Off load the work, one piece at a time into the pickup and getting stuck a couple of times. A couple hour delivery became a day for 3 employees. There went 18 man hours. Good luck!
Been a long time since Builders were contractors, Remember these days you are more likely dealing with Professional Buyers...
Experience here has been a lot different than Rich's though I have no doubt thats a daily occurrence for many. The range in "commercial work" is so wide you could be speaking to anything from a small strip mall or single story commercial project with 5 or 50 boxes run by a design/build GC working with the owner or you could be talking full on Architects, interior people, huge drawing sets and so on. Landing on a disaster in either situation is just a roll of the dice but the alternative is a nice job.
We are a small shop and bust our butts (i.e. probably work a lot harder to complete) than most and provide a LOT more interaction than any of our contractors are accustomed to. That doesnt neccessarily equate to miles more work. But being in the process seems to help a lot and with regards to the contractors your dealing with, for me it gets you in and around their world and you will quickly get a feel for the ones to avoid.
We are lucky in that in our area there are not a ton of options so I have a direct and open conversation with any contractor that we simply cant be their bank. We have a few that will push us with regards to deposits stating that they can order $$$$ worth of xyz and not be invoiced til it lands on the job and have 30 day terms. I make it clear to them that thats all well and good but I simply cant do that and just like they receive deposit on the start of the job we require that as well and if that not acceptable they have to look elsewhere. Thankfully every single contractor we've dealt with other than one are more than willing to incorporate deposit into the job, payment of all but 10% on delivery of the material, and zero of them have held the 10% until job completion, they have all paid the 10% within 30 days of final delivery.
Maybe we are lucky, maybe its because of the open dialogue, maybe its the service and interaction, or a combination, who knows.
With regards to reading drawings, if thats a short-fall in your skills you would be best to look into some classes or education on plan reading as its a MASSIVE part of the process and in my experience you will be expected to be able to read/review the drawings in detail, find and identify all of your scope in the project, outline that scope in detail as Alan states, and then it had better fit. There is the opportunity to have a little bit of back and forth with the contractor/architect but I dont think you will get very far if they pick up straight away that you have no comprehension of the plans. You may find a contractor that will get you rolling on smaller projects and spend some time with you helping you understand the plans a bit, who knows.
There is a decent book called Blueprint Reading, Construction Drawings for the building trade and no doubt a ton of others which may be a good start. Getting into a good 3D CAM software as well where you can import .dxf's of the prints and highlight/markup your scope right on the plans in the computer can be very handy and doing the work of fairly quickly 3D modeling the space around your work can really help you get your head around the drawings quickly.
The approach we take on a small scale is to protect ourselves, and dont undervalue what you provide. Dont be afraid to say, this is what I can offer, and this is what I need. They will either accept or walk away but dont budge. As many have said, its not worth the risk, a single non-payer or slow payer, will cripple a small shop. So make sure your arrangement gets you covered out of the gate and anything left hanging is money that wont destroy you to wait on or never see (which hopefully never happens).
Ive never looked but I would imagine there are miles of webinars, youtube videos, on-line courses, and so on, with regards to plan reading. Hit the bookstore, library, amazon, and get sharpened up, and ask a couple of your builders for some past projects to work up and bid as practice. I'd bet if they see your eager youll get a lot more help from them than you'd think.
We do both residential and commercial and commercial is a lot easier once you get the hang of it. 1) Get the AWI manual and learn it. It is the basis for all commercial millwork. 2) Line item everything. If it exists, give it a cost. Our last line is always 'shops, submittals and field measure'. This is a pretty standard 10% for us. We had one customer balk at it and I asked if his draftsmen and advance guy got paid. He backed right off. He just wasn't used to seeing it listed 3) write your own contract. They all want to treat you like the painters. We charge 50% on acceptance of contract, 25% when our product is ready for delivery and we stick to it. We had one GC who signed and then wanted to do 3rd party checks will all kinds of paperwork. We sued him and won because he had accepted our terms on signing. 4) Charge an extra 10% so that when they hold retainage for 60 days, it is the extra anyway. 5) Talk to your main supplier about a job account. Millworkers are lousy business men. We never know when to stop work for a slow payment. Your sheetgoods supplier will have a person who is very good at that and you have probably gotten her call from time to time. She is an asset, not the enemy. 6) do perfect shop drawings, get the signed before cutting one stick and don't deviate without a CO. Ever. 7) There is no 'next job'. Get your money. They chose you because you were cheapest. That is the only reason they are talking to you. For $10, they will choose the next guy for the next job. They won't give you a bonus if the job goes perfectly, don't eat their loss if they screw up.
Change orders = Written Signed change orders, job superintendents lie like crazy, they will say: "what you don't trust me" the answer is Always, NO