Specification Review Checklist


Specs explain the entire project.

Reviewing the specs is important to the estimating process.

When completing a construction specification review, an estimator should follow a systematic approach. The specifications, include information for each CSI division, however, none should be reviewed in isolation. Even though our focus is electrical, also known as CSI Division 26 (and previously Division 16), information related to the electrical specs will be shown in other sections and must be reviewed.

Why do we look at other specs sections other than electrical?

An untrained estimator may think that reviewing the electrical specs is enough. It’s not. A thorough construction specification review must include the “front end” of the specs (CSI Division 0 and CSI Division 1). This information includes the drawing list, Invitation to Bid, bid scopes, and summary of work. It may also include the project schedule, (Can you get it done it time with your team and tools?), walk through information (Often this in mandatory!), existing conditions, alternates, and allowances. This section also includes bonding information.

Never bid a job you cannot bond! Knowing your bonding capacity is important. Believe it or not, some contractors don’t know that there is an individual project amount bonding capacity, and an aggregate amount. The aggregate amount is the total dollar amount of all projects. If you have never bid a job with a bonding requirement, know that it takes time to get a bond. If you would like to work on projects requiring a bond, find a local agent and work on your bonding before you bid your project!

Before we move to reviewing the electrical specs, let’s talk about some other spec sections that are worthy of review.

In a previous blog post, I mentioned construction specification Divisions 10, 11, and 12 which detail specialty equipment and furnishings. The reason to review these specs is to determine if there is an electrical component with any of the equipment, and the requirements for the electrical contractor. You don’t need to spend hours reviewing these specs; it’s more like a quick review so you can watch out for these systems in the electrical specs and on the drawings.

Existing Conditions

It goes without saying that you want to know existing conditions. Will there be demo involved? Will the demo involve the removal of hazardous materials, such as ballasts containing PCB’s? If so, as an estimator, you want to be sure to cover the removal cost if it is part of your scope. Sometimes salvaged materials will be required to be returned to the owner so it is best to have this information before you bid the job.


Concrete is a related spec section to electrical because some electrical equipment will require the use of a concrete foundation, such as a transformer or generator pad. Pole lighting may require bases made of concrete. Know your scope. Sometimes another contractor is responsible for concrete work, all or in part.

Fire and Smoke Protection

Fire stopping is required on projects. Generally this is a boilerplate spec section, however, be aware of specialty devices that cost more than the norm. Some pathways cost hundreds of dollars, so it is best to give this area of the specs a quick review to be sure to cover the cost of potentially expensive items.

Building Modules

We have seen more modular building. As a matter of fact, yesterday I reviewed a job for a KFC. I did not realize that the building was going to be built in four sections at an offsite warehouse. The customer wanted a price for a “stick built” electrical estimate as well as an idea of what it might cost for the electrical including modular construction. We have also seen projects where a portion of the building is built offside. One such project was a hotel where only the bathrooms in certain areas of the building were modular. It’s good to know this up front because you may unknowingly cover the costs for lighting fixtures, receptacles and other devices that are part of the modular construction and therefore not in your scope! With the rising cost of labor, I would suspect that modular building will become more prevalent.

Heat Tracing

Heat tracing is one of those gray areas where it’s not always clear “who owns what.” It’s good to review the specs in this area to see if the electrical contractor will be providing the circuit for the heat trace only, or the cable as well. The same would apply to electric heating mats, snow melt, and the like. If you have a question about your scope of work and cannot find it in the project documentation or specs, always consult with the general contactor and/or issue a Request for Information (RFI).

Next time, we’ll discuss all the hidden gems in the electrical specifications!



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