A Guide to Construction Submittals

A Guide to Construction Submittals

A construction submittal is a document containing information about a construction project. Contractors create submittals and send them to the architect or engineer in charge of the project. They provide information about equipment, processes, materials, tools, or products — all of which contractors or subcontractors use to complete work on the project.

The purpose is to ensure that contractors use processes and supplies that fit with the engineering requirements for the project. The architect, engineer, or another design professional involved in the project typically signs off on the submittal before the contractor can use the proposed items or processes for their work.

Meanwhile, contractors can use requests for information (RFIs) to ask architects for more information about their designs to help them select the correct methods and materials for their job. The design and construction sides of the project can use these two document types to leave a paper trail when they communicate with one another.

Here is a closer look at the different types of construction submittals and details of the requirements and formatting of the documents.

The Importance of Construction Submittals

Construction submittals are important for several reasons. First, they ensure quality standards are met — contractors must the correct materials, products, tools, processes, or prefabricated parts for the project. Second of all, the documents also ensure time is not wasted by redoing or repairing an element that was not up to specifications.

This is helpful during all steps of the project for all employees. For architects and other members of the design team, in particular, submittals bring up choices that they might not have considered during the initial design phase.

Submittals can also affect cost estimates. Once approved, the contractor can be sure of the cost for that particular element of the project. However, if the submittal shows that changes are necessary, they can adjust the price in their construction takeoff estimation software and plan for the increased expense.

Submittals can also be useful in ensuring compliance with building ordinances, which could specify safety requirements, such as the location of gas or electric lines, the size of exhaust vents, and other details.

Types of Construction Submittals

Because there are so many different elements involved in construction projects, there are many different types of submittals. However, some are very common.

  • Product data submittals: These documents contain information about a product that the contractor plans to use in the course of their work. It could be an appliance, type of hardware, paint, light fixture, or any other item. The submittal provides the product details that the designer needs to approve of before work begins.
  • Shop drawings: Shop drawings are for fabricated elements that will get installed during construction. These plans often require exact measurements, which necessitate using AI to measure the distance of your drawing.
  • Materials: Materials submittals can include information related to the qualities, sources, specifications, and other important data.
  • Site dimensions: In some cases, the nature of the job site can affect the design and engineering choices. For example, dimensions for framing can depend on site dimensions and existing features.
  • Samples: In some cases, descriptions and images are not sufficient to show actual color and texture. In these instances, contractors submit physical samples. One common example of this is flooring. In this case, contractors would submit different types of tiles, coverings, carpeting, or hardwood to ensure accurate flooring estimates.
  • Color and finish: Painting estimates require information about color and product choices. Contractors can provide color charts and samples to ensure they select the correct paint and stain products.
  • Description and performance: These submittals delve into the performance characteristics of products used in the construction project. The goal is to ensure they fit with the other aspects of the design and will provide the desired performance in the setting in which they will be placed.

Regardless of the subject, the submittal document itself will have similar elements.

Important Elements of a Construction Submittal

There are different types of submittals, but the documents have a similar format to make them easier to compile and read.

  • ID: This part identifies the submittal with a number or code.
  • Type: This part of the document explains the type of submittal, such as sample, materials, product description, or shop drawing.
  • Description: This section explains the reason for the submittal.
  • Submitter: The document then identifies the contractor or subcontractor. In cases when a subcontractor submits the information, the document may identify both them and the primary contractor.
  • Reviewer: This person looks at the information and either signs off on it or requests changes.
  • Date approval: This date is when the contractor needs approval so that they can begin work.
  • Necessary information: The main part of the document focuses on providing the necessary information about the product, such as dimensions, manufacturer, color, drawings, or other essential data.

One document can contain information about multiple elements. For example, a product data submittal could be organized in rows, with each row listing information about a different product the contractor plans to use.

The Construction Submittal Process

The submittal process requires specific steps to ensure all the necessary information gets included in each document. This process happens throughout the overall project timeline so that contractors do not have to delay work plans to wait for approval from designers. It includes the following steps:

  • The contractors, owners, and designers will typically settle on the details of the submittal process when they meet to plan the details of the project and a list of items that need submittals before work actually begins.
  • Contractors will then work with the relevant subcontractors to get the necessary information about dimensions, colors, product details, performance specifications, or samples.
  • Contractors can use information from the estimation software they used for the bid to match the submittal information with their original plans. Surveyors can make changes to their reporting estimates that will change the overall cost of the project.
  • The subcontractors will compile the necessary information on the document and submit it to the relevant member of the design team. They will then wait for the review process to be complete before sourcing the necessary materials, products, or fabricated pieces.

It is possible to streamline the process for contractors by using data from estimating software to create submittal forms automatically without requiring contractors to spend time manually entering the information.

The Submittal Review Process

After the documents get passed to the design team, they will review the information to confirm that it fits with the overall plans and meets any necessary compliance requirements.

Here is how that process plays out.

  • The architects and engineers receive the submittals and supporting documentation. They plan the reviews, aiming to complete them by the due date to keep the project on schedule and give the contractor time for any corrections or changes.
  • The design team will review the documents to ensure they meet all requirements. Once they have done so they either send approval to the contractor, whose team can start work. Otherwise, they return it to the contractor with additional comments. The contractor can then make the necessary corrections and submit it again.

The timeline for review should take into account the possibility of some need for resubmissions or corrections. With some projects requiring hundreds of different submittals, there are bound to be a few changes.

How To Improve Construction Submittals

Submittals can affect the timeline for a project and create extra work for contractors and subcontractors when they collect the necessary information and supporting documentation for their work.

Here are some options for streamlining the process.

  • A cloud-based system can give anyone who needs to prepare submittals access to information regardless of their location. This trait is important for subcontractors who may not be in the same location as the contractor.
  • Smart takeoff software used for estimating can streamline the document creation process and even provide automatically-produced reports that can serve as supporting documentation.
  • Software with automated measurements can ensure pinpoint accuracy.
  • By automating data collection and reports, contractors can limit errors that could cause delays due to corrections and resubmissions.

Cloud-based software can also help contractors track each submittal to ensure quick responses.

Submittal Template

The exact layout of a submittal template can vary. However, it will likely have the following information:

Submittal ID#:


Submittal Type:


Date Submitted:


Submittal Name:

Supporting Evidence:



Attachments (drawings, product specifications, color grids):



Review Status:


Reviewer Comments:


With a well-planned system using cloud-based software that provides easy access to the necessary information, you can streamline your submittal process.

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