On The Advantage of The Construction Proposal

Considering a renovation for your home?  A Kitchen or Bathroom? An addition or even a new build?  Initially you need to ascertain, approximately, what you would like to accomplish- a rough scope of the project.

Unfortunately, this is where most people immediately call prospective builders in to review and cost the job.  Hopefully they are referred and hopefully you have called at least 3 of them, good and good, but how do they know what they are bidding on?  They base it on the one hour conversation they have had with you and usually that’s it!  Most people go into the building section process under prepared which measurably decreases builders bid accuracy.

A good builder will be able to advise a client of this needed data so the bid may be more accurate and the clients expectations are more likely to be fully realized, but what about the other 2-4 other tendered bids based solely on an initial conversation? Are they going to be equally as thorough or particular? Maybe, but highly unlikely.

What you as a client needs is a well-organized Construction Proposal, be it for a renovation or new construction.  This shows not only your scope of work, but also your budget and design tastes.  It may be referred to as a Tender, a Call for Tenders, or an Invited Tender.  Whatever the name, the object is to procure a package that clearly shows the prospects you are interviewing that you are engaged and committed.  It also helps to ensure that you will receive accurate and comparable bids from your prospects.  If they all leave the initial visit with a package consisting of hard copy, digital copy or both detailing the scope of your proposed project, the bids will hold much more worth.

There is an appealing side effect to this preliminary effort; your job becomes more desirable.  If a contractor is good then he or she is probably busy.  Be mindful that while you are interviewing them, they are interviewing you as well.  Providing an indication that you are serious about undertaking your project and that you can make a decision goes a long way to ensure their interest in this ‘courtship’ stage of a business relationship.

Depending on the scale of your renovation, a spec sheet can be a one page hand written document, or a 10 page brand, detail and method specific scope of work that lists the tasks required to complete the new build or renovation

Keep in mind, if you feel you are capable and if the project is smaller in scope, you can do all of this yourself.  But, as projects increase in size so, of course, does the complexity of the Proposal. You may need to hire an architect or designer (or both) to help in its creation.  Many building firms offer in- house design and architecture.  In turn, many designers and architects offer a list of builders they can recommend and work well with.

There are four major components you may want to include in your Proposal but not all are required.

The Specification Sheet.

Depending on the scale of your renovation, a spec sheet can be a one page hand written document, or a 10 page brand, detail and method specific scope of work that lists the tasks required to complete the new build or renovation.  It can indicate everything from the type of paving stones to sink and faucet models.  Your designer should be able to help you with these.  Write your spec sheet in bullet form on a room by room basis in a roughly chronological fashion.  For example if you would like to remove that annoying wall between the kitchen and family room, you would do so before you install the kitchen cabinets.

Plans and Drawings.

From a scale hand drawing on graph paper to a compete set with site plans, floor plans, elevations, sections, details, electrical layout and engineered drawings.  These are vital for bid accuracy and worth investing in as they are required eventually in most cases by a municipality in order to issue permits.  Changes are most cost effective when done on paper, not in the field.  Spend the time getting it right here…plan your work, work your plan.


This refers to any kind of photo or picture, either hardcopy or digital media, referencing your aesthetic preferences. In simple terms, pictures of things you like; a fireplace, a kitchen layout, a bathroom vanity, a chair, or colours in nature.  It is all useful in understanding the look and function of what you ultimately want to achieve.  In the past references were the pretty pictures (and they still are) that one would cut from related periodicals and magazines like   Architectural Digest, Dwell, and Fine Home Building etc… there are thousands to choose from.  A better one stop shop is www.Houzz.com.  There, you can enter very specific search words for your particular area of interest; cool bedrooms, minimalist kitchen, Queen Anne front entry, virtually anything, and up pop the pictures! You can create an idea book by pinning photos (a la Pintrest) and allow anyone you want access to it online.  The great thing about Houzz is that it is free, inspiring, and you are not eventually faced with recycling a stack of outdated periodicals.  It is important to note that although house photos are important, you can also provide references that have nothing to do with architecture, like an animal, tree, colour or landscape that inspires you.  It may sound corny but it gives your designer valid insight into what you value aesthetically.

And if you want to be really thorough….


No job is more appealing to a builder than one that is already cleared by your municipality to commence.  It also tells the builders that everything they are bidding on is actually allowed to be built.  This means less changes/no changes = no added costs.  Not to say changes can’t happen but keeping them at a minimum is imperative to remain on budget.

A Construction Proposal can vary widely in cost.  A designer can help with specification sheets and simpler detail drawings and they bill typically, from $50-$150/hour where I’m from, depending upon their experience.  Larger scale projects may require an Architect where billing methods vary and are heavily based upon their experience and portfolio.  Some charge hourly rates from $50-$200 and some bill as a percentage of square footage (mostly for new construction) anywhere from $2.50-$15.00/sq’.  High end Architects often bill as a percentage of construction costs of the awarded bid, usually 3-8%, but can go higher for bigger names.

The following is a list of questions you should answer before soliciting any professionals to start your project.  You do not need a definitive answer for all of them, but they should all be considered.  Once this is done, a list can be provided to your potential Architect, designer or builder etc.  Answering these questions will give all parties involved, including yourself, a great perspective on your project.

    • What is the approximate budget for your project?
    • How is this project to be funded?
    • What is your ideal start and completion date?
    • Who will be involved in the decision making process?
    • What kind of project will it be? For example: Entire house? Entire floor? Kitchen? Master suite? Bathroom? Landscaping?
    • What are the main goals of your renovation?
    • What are the long term plans for the building you are renovating?
    • Is this project your principal residence?
    • Will you be residing in this residence during construction?
    • How long have you owned your home?
    • What is the age of the building?
    • How long have you been considering this project?
    • Have you undertaken prior renovation projects, and if so how was your experience?
    • Are you going to be working with an Architect or designer?
    • How important are green initiatives to you?
    • Do you have sketches, drawings, spec sheets etc.?
    • Are you interviewing other renovation companies?

Although the amount of time and work going into the preparation of a Construction Proposal may seem daunting, you must keep in mind that you are saving yourself many hours and costs in the long run.  Also remember when it comes to filling any of these four suggested Proposal inclusions, ANYTHING is better than nothing.