Construction Scope of Work: What Subcontractors Should Know

Published: January 13, 2022
Last updated: April 19, 2022
Read time: 3 minutes

On a construction project the most important part of a contract or agreement is the scope of work (SOW). The scope of work will tell you what needs to be completed, how it needs to be completed, and when it needs to be completed. It will, and should affect your estimate, schedule, and construction on a project.

What is a scope of work?

The scope of work explains all the work that is to be completed on a project, and can be found in a project’s contract documents. A scope of work will set the foundation for a construction contract. It should clearly outline the expectations of a general contractor or subcontractor. If a scope of work is not clearly defined it can lead to miscommunication, disputes, and project delays. 

Modifications in the scope of work: It isn’t uncommon for the scope of work to change before or during construction. When the scope of work changes, there will be a change order released that explains any modifications to the scope of work. 

As a contractor, you may be asked to perform extra work that isn’t originally included in the scope of work. Do NOT perform work not included in the scope of work before getting a written change order. There should never be any questions about what work is being done and what is being paid for. By getting any changes to your scope of work in writing, you ensure that you’re paid for the work you complete.  

What’s included in a scope of work?

1. Definitions

A well-made scope of work uses common terminology to avoid disputes, claims and litigation. For any industry specific jargon, or abbreviations definitions should be included. Anyone reading the scope of work should be able to understand it whether they are versed in construction or not. 

2. Project Overview

The scope of work should include a concise description of the project. This should include critical activities that need to be completed for a successful project delivery. 

For example: The government needs a highway milled and paved to repair an existing section of roadway. Their project overview might look something like this – 

“The Scope of Work includes full width milling of asphalt pavement, placement of asphalt overlay, base repairs, traffic control, and other incidental items for 100 miles of roadway. 

3. Deliverables and Milestones

This section should state all project goals that need to be accomplished during the scheduled project duration. It should include all relevant information to provide subcontractors and general contractors an understanding of the project requirements. 

4. Project Schedule

The project schedule section in the scope of work should delineate what activities will be completed with the scheduled project duration. This section should be more specific then the deliverables and milestones section, and should include a basic schedule or description of the schedule including, but not limited to the NTP date, project completion deadline, and specific work 

For example: The following project schedule is for a roadway construction project where work is only allowed to be completed on the weekends-  

The Work is to be accomplished during the period June 22, 2023 to August 19, 2024; between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., on Saturday and Sunday.”

5. Project Management and Administration

This section defines the administrative and management responsibilities and procedures for the construction project. It should include, but not be limited to the following information:

  • How change orders are handled
  • How material submittals are processed
  • How payments will be issued
  • Contract and legal requirements
  • Safety reporting guidelines
  • Testing and inspection guidelines

6. Special Requirements

There are often special requirements for projects. This could include bonding requirements, required years in business, or specialty construction expertise. 

For example: A private company could require you to follow prevailing wage rates – 

“No less than the prevailing hourly rate of wages shall be paid to all workmen performing under this contract in this area according to the rates determined by the Department of Labor.”

Why should you include a scope of work section in your bids?

Scope of works aren’t just reserved for owners to tell contractors what the scope of work is. It can also be used by contractors in their bids to convey the work they will be doing. This ensures that the owner understands the contractor’s scope of work. 

As a subcontractor you should always include a scope of work section when submitting bids to owners or general contractors.

Here are just a few of the reasons why:

  • Prevents miscommunication between your company and the general contractor
  • Helps protect your company from lawsuits and contract disputes

For example: A parking lot striping subcontractor submits a bid for striping a parking lot. In their scope of work they say-

“All striping to be performed per ADA requirements, and local standards. Only minor parking lot cleaning is included in the bid. This does not account for any power washing or major cleaning required.”

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Hayden AbrevayaProduct Marketer

Hayden has worked in the heavy civil construction industry in estimating, project management, and concrete production. He is an avid learner and lean construction proponent who believes that the construction industry is ready for technological advancements in all aspects of the construction process. At Billd he uses his skills to help contractors grow their companies by providing them the information they need to win more bids, and take on more projects.