Stage 5: Specifications

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At this point all drawings are 99% finished. Although they contain generic specifications regarding the basic materials and structure, they make no mention of the numerous fixtures and fittings, manufacturers building products or any other requirements regarding special installations. Legally a contractor is required to provide what has been specified. This is because the more detailed the description of the contents and construction items to be used; the more precise the price can be established beforehand. "Extras" can be a big money maker for contractors. After a project is under construction, a contractor can charge large amounts of money for items that have been left out, but which are necessary for completing the finished building.

Specifications may vary in form from a generic outline list of item that simply determine the size, colour and manufacturer of the product, to a description of how each items is to be handled and installed. It depends on how non-standard the design is and who the contractor will be. One should generally be able to count on the builder to build to the building code, which covers a range of basic construction procedures. But unless the make and model of the bathtub is specified, how does one know what is being priced?

The specification also contains a description of general conditions for the contract which covers items such as cleaning up the site daily or at the end of construction, storage of building products, quality of lumber used, alternatives to a product not available, provision for permits and other items regarding health and safety on site as well as necessary insurance and other factors. The liability in the event of something unusual happening is spelled out. For a full specification, an experienced specification writer is used because they are versed in asking all the relevant questions and knowing where builders may find a loophole to their benefit. I should add that a good builder would be looking for these specifications, since it is really in their best interest to know what they are expected to provide in the long run. If an architect/designer is involved in the project from beginning to end, the contractor in their best interest will do a good job so that they can be recommended for another project. This aspect alone is worth the time and money to ensure a good quality finish. If the builder seems nervous about the level of specification and of the presence of a project overseer, then this is cause to be suspicious of the builder. A good builder asks questions and is respectful of the architectural intent and integrity of the design work.

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