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Related Readings:
Realistic Job Pricing
Pricing Information
“General" & "Special" Conditions
Billing Formulas for Cost Changes
Change Order Proposals
Tracking Job Progress
Documentation of Job Problems
Charting Work Loads
Submitting Proposals
Importance of Mil Thickness
Calculating Overhead
Pricing Structure
Structural Steel
Making a Take-off
Understanding Blueprints
Architectural Specifications
Other articles in this issue:
Paintable Wallcoverings
Primers: Choosing the Correct Primer
Keys to Sales Success
Faux Finishing Ideas
Textured Coatings
Sprayed Faux Finishes
Estimating: Architectural Specs
Contractor Profile: Woods Painting Co.
Paint Product News
Painting Tips


PaintPRO Archives

Contractor Business, Architectural Specifications,
Estimating for the Painting Contractor

Article #2 of 7, Architectural Specifications and how they relate to the painting contractor. How to do a Bid Section, General Conditions Section, Special Conditions Section, and Technical Section.
by Len Hijuelos

In this second article on estimating, we will be discussing specifications and how they relate to the painting contractor. The painting contractor is somewhat unique in that he can be impacted by a number of other trade specifications while other sub-contractors are usually impacted only by their own specific section.

Most simply put, a specification book is a manual developed to describe the various requirements of a job. The manual is usually divided into four sections, each of which we will discuss in turn:

1. Bid Documents
2. General Conditions
3. Special Conditions
4. Technical Section

The Bid Document section will include the bid form to be used, the bid price, alternate prices, acknowledgment of addendum and firm/signature block.

The General Conditions section is usually a standard AIA document or an adaptation thereof. This is usually a boiler plate type document containing definitions of the various parties involved in the project, their relationships and responsibilities. The section may also include submittal and sample requirements as well as warranties and guarantees. This section is primarily of interest to the general contractor.

The Special Conditions section contains conditions and requirements developed for and applicable to a specific project. Some of these could have an impact on sub-contractors and should be carefully read and fully understood. You should be aware that the sub-contractor is bound to these conditions as well as the general contractor. Some of the requirements the sub-contractor need to be aware of, in no particular order, are the Hold Harmless clauses, special insurance requirements, special retainers, time of completion, liquidated damages, occupancy rights and change order pricing structures. The Special conditions may also include a part defining the alternate prices listed in the bid form.

While in the strictest sense, not considered a section, there is a device used by architects called ñAddendum.î This is a bulletin issued by the architect responding to questions by contractors, to correct errors, or to make changes in the drawings or specifications. Effectively, there are no limitations to the changes that can be made, or the number of addendum that can be issued. Addendum can make major changes in the project and every effort should be made to determine whether or not any have been issued. It should be noted when bidding a job that you have or have not seen the addendum, if any. Keep in mind that if any addendum have been issued, they will be part of your sub-contract.

The Technical Section are the nuts and bolts of the specification, and is usually divided by trade and/or material divisions and sections. This section describes how the building is to be constructed and what materials are to be used.

The different trade or material sections are denoted by a numbering system (Divisions and Sections). The numbering can vary from architect to architect, but as a rule, 09900 is used for Painting, 09800 for Special Coatings and 09955 for Wall Covering. It would seem that these sections should sufficiently cover the painting contractorsÍ scope of work, but there are a number of other sections that may have a bearing on his work. For example, some of the sections the painting contractor has to look at might be:

  1. Unit Masonry „ what kind of masonry, brick, CMU, split-face CMU; how is the masonry laid, tooled or raked joints, how deep.
  2. Structural Steel „ who is responsible for field spot priming.
  3. Wood trim, Millwork, Architectural Woodwork „ pre-finished or pre-primed; what kind of wood.
  4. Cabinetry „ plastic laminate or wood; if wood, pre-finished or field finished.
  5. Flashing and Sheet Metal „ what kind of metal, aluminum or galvanized, pre-finished or field-finished.
  6. Metal Doors and Frames „ pre-finished or field finished.
  7. Wood Doors „ plastic laminate, pre-finished or field finished.
  8. Overhead or Sliding Doors „ pre-finished or field finished.
  9. Windows „ what material, aluminum, wood, or wood clad; if clad, on one or both sides.
  10. Mechanical „ is any painting required, color coding, stenciling.

Two things need be kept in mind, one is that the general contractor assumes the painting contractor is going to do all of the required painting on the job, and the sub-contract will usually read to that effect. Secondly, regardless of the fact that painting may be specified in another section, very often the architect has language in the painting section, inferring that painting, wherever specified, is the responsibility of the painting contractor.

As to the painting section itself, probably the most charitable thing that can be said is that they are not very good. PDCA and paint manufacturers have made efforts over the years to upgrade architectÍs specifications, but without much success. For the most part the painting specifications are too general in nature to be anything more than a guideline. Some seem not to have any relationship to the project for which they were written. The wall covering section is very often incomplete, in that, no product selections or allowances are given. The best approach I have found is to review the specifications as early as possible, and prepare a list of questions or a request for clarifications for the general contractor to submit to the architect. If this is done on a timely basis, the chances are good that the architect will issue an addendum. If such requests are made a day or so before bid time, there probably will not be a response. AIA guidelines provide that addendum will not be issued any later than 48 hours prior to bid time.

It only makes good sense and is good business practice to make yourself as knowledgeable as possible about the specifications manual, not only for the painting section, but the other sections that relate to the painting scope of work. You will be better prepared to perform the job and you protect your interests as well. The next article will address basic blue print reading for the painting contractor.


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