Bidding Commercial Jobs with Incomplete Drawings

Thoughts on how to account for items left out of the architect's drawings, when bidding on a commercial job. December 14, 2009

I'm curious as to how everyone else bids commercial work.

1. Do you just bid what you see on the drawings that pertains to your scope of work? In other words, if the architect/designer didn't draw it, you don't add it in, but make it up in change orders?

2. Do you bid it on how you think it should be done? In other words, do you add for something that you know should be included but isn't shown on the drawings? For example, the drawings don't show countertop supports in an unsupported span but you know there has to be something to support the top - do you include the supports in the bid?

I've heard of companies bidding the job as drawn and others bidding it as they know it should be done. Just wondering pros and cons of each method.

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor G:
Bid what is asked for, and then include at the same time a separate bid page for each additional item you feel is needed along with a brief explanation and specifications. Essentially use the form of a change order. Keep the language of your explanation(s) neutral and free of blame, but clearly indicate that the items are needed and not optional. They can either accept the additions now, or deal with them later as change orders as they please. You have that way bid what they asked for and at the same time offered to add what has been omitted.

From contributor J:
If you read through all the typical specs for a given job, you will generally see a line that reads, in effect, that you will provide any and all materials needed to make the job whole and complete, regardless of whether or not you see it on the prints.

To use your analogy, if they don't show top supports for an open 10' span and you don't provide them, to make the job complete, rest assured you will be notified of it.

From contributor A:
1) Yes, but clarify if you are excluding something that is not drawn that may or will be required.

2) Bid to the plans and specs, clarify what is not clear, don't include it unless instructed.

Send written communication and make sure you get a response from the architect via one of the GCs (RFI). You should send an RFI on the top supports and ask if they are part of the miscellaneous metal which will give a better look and a clear installation beneath the top. Don't ask one general, or you may include something someone else isn't. If you are too late to answer questions, then you need to include something to hold the top up. On a negotiated job, include separate line items for things you know they need but weren't clear about.

From contributor O:
There is a bit of an art to selectively "missing" some things one knows by experience will be needed on a job but leaving them out on purpose so as to win the job with a low bid, and make the difference up in change orders.

This is always a bit of a gamble, but one can stack the odds with some confidence when all factors are weighed. The experience of the GC's estimators, your relationship with them, your skill at negotiation and salesmanship, all play a part.

From contributor L:
This is an area where knowing the GCs and architects pays off. We bid as drawn with add-ons for things that may be needed but were left off. To good GCs we will bid it as required for a reasonably complete job and note those items as included. There are those GCs that make a living off change orders and back charges - be careful! Get everything in writing!

From contributor B:
When GCs send a set of drawings to a millwork contractor for a bid they expect him/her to bid all millwork. If everyone is busy you might get to pick and choose what to bid in the package, and when work is slow all incomplete bids will most likely be rejected.

In a slow economy like this one, GCs are looking for the low bid. You need to make sure that your base bid, the number they're looking at first, is the lowest number possible which must include all your direct and indirect expenses and a reasonable profit.

I have seen very detailed plans that spell out the last details, but seems like everything that I have looked at in the past 6 months leaves a lot for interpretation.

Example: The plans call for plastic laminate casework but don't specify brand and number. In that case qualify your bid and spell out what you are quoting.

One more: If they want $2 slides, then that is what you quote in your base bid. If you want to sell them $12 slides, then offer it as an Add Alternate.

Cover your bases and sharpen your pencil and good luck.