top of page

How to Prepare Construction Submittals - Your Construction Submittal Checklist

Updated: Sep 11, 2021

construction submittals

Construction Submittal Is Part of a Detailed Planning Process

Construction Submittals follow a defined process to ensure the accountability of all project participants and that construction runs smoothly.

The following are the steps to doing your own Construction Submittal:

NOTE: Construction Submittals are something different to what is referred to as just “Construction Submittals”, to learn more about Construction Schedule Submittals - Click Here!

Step One: Pre-Construction Conference:

This step is to bring together the architect, engineer, general contractor, and sometimes the owner’s representative and subcontractors as well.

This is also called a pre-submittal meeting or conference, or submittals meeting.

(The term submittals meeting also describes the meetings that many city and local planning departments offer developers to discuss the outlines of projects that they intend to submit for formal review. That’s a different usage that we don’t go into here.)

In this step, the parties clarify and confirm the submittal process.

This includes everything from setting deadlines for delivery and review of submittals, to deciding on the format or electronic tool use and determining how you will route the submittals among the participants.

The purpose of the meeting is to make sure that all the individuals who play a part in the submittal process understand how they should work together and to establish good lines of communication.

The participants often discuss how they might avoid submittal delays and mistakes, which increase costs.

The submittal schedule often becomes a process for addressing ‘gotcha-type’ contract issues without deriving meaningful feedback or clear answers,

It’s important at this stage to set up a clear process with expectations and response time with consequences for both parties, not just one.

Prompt response in the submittal process which includes meaningful answers helps to keep projects on schedule with a common understanding of conformance with the contract documents,” he adds.

Step Two: Submittal Schedule Development:

Again NOTE: this is different than “Schedule Submittals, which are when the contractor submits the schedule to the owner’s side for review.

This instead is when the general contractor receives the plans from the owner’s side and then should prepare a Submittals Schedule - which should list all of the items that require submittals, along with a timeline for those submittals.

Preparing construction submittals is the responsibility of contractors, but architects and engineers lay the groundwork.

As construction plans are being drafted, the design team needs to identify the types of submittals and the relevant technical specifications that are required. You may collect this information in a log or register.

To limit professional liability, experts recommend that architects and engineers take no action on submittal that is not specified in the contract drawings.

The schedule of submittals needs to be coordinated with the building schedule, so there is enough time for the architect to review submittals without delaying construction.

The submittal schedule should factor in time for the architect to send submittals back if changes are needed. Materials that you need early in construction or that require long lead time should also be given priority.

The Engineers Joint Contract Documents Review Committee calls for the contractor to submit the schedule of submittals within 10 days of contract start.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) also has standards covering submittals.

Step Three: Submittal Preparation:

The general contractor should either prepare the submittal or delegate it to the relevant subcontractor.

The submittal might be in many forms, such as shop drawings, physical samples of materials, and data about the items. The preparer should explain any deviation from the construction documents on the submittal.

If a subcontractor is preparing the submittal, it should first go to the general contractor for review, to either approve it or return it to the subcontractor for further work. Once the general contractor deems the submittal acceptable, they are to stamp it - traditionally, this meant using an actual rubber stamp, but today’s stamps are mostly electronic.

The stamp acts as a signature representing acceptance.

The general contractor reviews the submittal to make sure it accurately reflects field conditions, its dimensions are correct, and it meets all contract requirements.

Step Four: Submittal Review:

In this step, the architect reviews the construction submittal. They have a legal responsibility to approve or reject it.

Each submittal must clearly identify the part of the building to which it applies. The design team is responsible for approving the submittals and making sure the materials selected to comply with the requirements laid out in the construction documents and meet the use and performance needs of the design.

The designer or consultant who works on the building system in question reviews the submittal and makes any comments or requests changes. It then goes to the supervising architect or engineer. Each reviewer checks the submittal for compliance with the construction documents and the quantity and installation requirements.

Because a shop drawing that is not designated as “rejected” is considered approved, architects and engineers must properly label the outcome of every review. Some common submittal results include reviewed, approved, rejected, revise, or resubmit.

Architects should also qualify their review comments with limiting language, such as:

“Review is limited to general conformance with contract documents and design concepts and does not release contractor of its responsibility to determine and control construction means, methods, techniques, sequences, and procedures as well as quantities of materials and dimensions of work.”

During the submittal meeting, an approval workflow is to be set, and all related documents go to the project’s reviewers in the order indicated by that workflow. Then, the documents go back to the general contractor and subcontractor. Although the process may seem lengthy and laborious, following the sequence ensures that all participants are aware of the status, comments, approvals, and rejections that occur at other levels.

No redesign takes place during submittal review. If a reviewer identifies a problem and requires a design change, you should start a new submittal.

However, a designer may make minor corrections that do not need to be resubmitted.

The contract should also discuss the length of time allowed for the review of the submittal. This time period can be specific (a set number of days or weeks) or broad (a “timely” review).

There is often tension between contractors, who rush to get submittals compiled within a short window and want to start ordering materials as soon as possible, and architects, who often feel squeezed by the contractor to complete their review quickly but want to make sure they have vetted the contractor thoroughly.

The architect stamps the submittal once they have approved it.

While this is the architect’s legal responsibility, contractors who do not carefully handle submittals may increase the frequency of project failure or litigation,

So, it’s in the contractor’s best interest to make sure that all materials match the plans and that no unapproved changes have been made.

Types of Construction Submittals and the Information They Include

There are many types of submittals, including product data, shop drawings, and samples.

As mentioned earlier, the Engineers Joint Contract Documents Committee and the American Institute of Architects have standards governing submittals. The type of information included should vary with the type of submittal.

Shop Drawings: These are the most common type of submittal.

The American Institute of Architects defines shop drawings as “drawings, diagrams, schedules, and other data specifically prepared for the work by the contractor or a subcontractor, manufacturer, supplier, or distributor to illustrate some portion of the work.”

While the term shop drawing technically encompasses other information beyond images, most construction professionals think of shop drawings as drawings. These detailed drawings are different than the plans produced in the design phase, and true design work should not happen through the submittal process.

These diagrams illustrate how the building components and assemblies are planned to come together during construction.

Remember though, contract documents and anything contained in a shop drawing does not alter the need to comply with specifications and drawings in the plans.

This means that shop drawings are not formally part of the agreement between the owner and contractor and are not legally enforceable. If a contractor wants to do something different than what is in the contract documents, a formal change order must be approved by the architect.

Shop drawings include quantities, dimensions, and performance and design characteristics, as well as other data.


These are examples of the physical products that builders wish to use in construction.

They may be full specimens, such as brick, rebar, or quantity of soil, or partial, like a paint swatch or a square of wallpaper.

Samples help designers assess aesthetic choices since the texture and color of physical samples can vary greatly