The Importance of Documenting Your Project 


If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it hundreds of times, document, document and document again!! 

It is essential that all construction projects be documented as the work advances. The importance of proper and consistent documentation cannot be overstressed, no matter what the specific circumstance! 

I am currently involved with a project that will end up in a legal battle at the end of the project.  I have no doubt that this will end badly for both the contractor and the owner.  I have already issued an article on this situation entitled “ The Quality of Design and Engineering on Construction Projects” which describes the specifics of this individual situation. 

This brief article is to attempt to drive home the point of documentation and the importance of timely and consistent documentation on any construction project, regardless of  the type.  

Contractors are constantly blamed for projects that are not completed in accordance to an initial schedule and projects that cost more than the original estimate.  This continuous blame is almost an expected criticism of all construction projects, and as a contractor we have become so used to being accused of both schedule delay and budget overrun that an experienced contractor has grown callouses to protect themselves from such accusations.  

The stage is set on almost every construction project when the owner is focused on price and focused on time.  Both of these entities apply considerable stress on a contractor that is legitimately attempting to give an owner the best price, as well as the shortest time sequence for project completion.  If you think about what is occurring, the owner is demanding the most economical price for the shortest possible construction schedule.  In today’s construction industry, this is almost an impossible scenario, and the owner will either get the best price or the shortest schedule, it is impossible to obtain both goals.  

However, all contractors would like to get the project and their competitors, if more aggressive than themselves, will simply drop the price and cut the schedule to succeed in being awarded the project.  The number of times I have heard contractors say, if you don’t get the job, you have no chance, so get the job no matter what!  Yes, this continues to occur even though history has repeatedly shown disastrous construction projects resulting from this concept.

Falling into this trap, both the owner and the contractor must realize the very difficult playing field that has resulted.  The lowest value and the shortest time will almost always result in eventual disaster leading to litigation.  

With that in mind, document, and this is intended to be directed to both the owner and the contractor. 

Do NOT allow the following situations to deter you from documentation. 

  1. Familiarity between the owner and the contractor
  2. Familiarity with design professionals such as the architect or the engineers 
  3. Agreements made, other than those specifically noted on the contract 
  4. Supervision that either can’t write or refuses to write. 
  5. Excuses such as “ too busy “ or “ I don’t have the time “ 
  6. Feelings of embarrassment or intimidation 

Although I have said this over and over again within this website, the importance of documentation is so essential that it requires repeating.  

How do we professionally document and what should we document?

  1. Daily reports! This is the most important document that exists on the construction jobsite! 
  2. Change Orders
  3. RFI’s ( Request for Information ) 
  4. Shop drawings and material submissions
  5. Construction schedules 
  6. Notice of delay 
  7. Custom correspondence, emails, letters, etc. that identify specific issues, questions, etc. on a project. 
  8. Requisitions and payment delays 

What should we document?

  1. Manpower 
  2. Deliveries to the jobsite 
  3. Visitors to the jobsite 
  4. DELAYS – what they are and how they are affecting the project in terms of cost as well as schedule
  5. Lack of decision making – details as to how the lack of a decision is affecting the cost as well as the schedule 
  6. Follow up to all the items noted and continuous documentation of continuing issues and problems.  

There are several issues of awareness that any construction supervisor or manager must understand. 

  1. Weather effect on schedule and cost.  If a project is delayed  by whatever reason and subjected to a shift in calendar scheduling, does this push your project into the winter, does it cause additional costs for frost protection or even hot weather accommodations?  All of this results in additional costs. as well as slows the project down, costing money. 
  2. Special owner privilege to architects, engineers or other professionals that the owner has demanded be used on the project.  If the contractor is expected to provide the owner the lowest price for the quickest schedule, the owner cannot cost the contractor money or slow them down due to nepotism on their part. 
  3. It is essential that the supervisor on the project understand the project.  If details are missing, if dimensions are inconsistent or any other details are missing, documentation supporting these issues is essential to properly and clearly explain why the project costs additional money or takes additional time.  
  4. All construction superintendents or managers must understand that projects will fail and financial issues will always come up.  You must identify legitimate issues that cause these failures on the project, that is your survival. 

Failure to document will result in failure to collect your money and promote litigation that will not end well!

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