Building Construction Management Musts: Eight Essential Contract Documents

People don’t do work on a handshake anymore. You need a contract. Actually, there are several important documents that are needed for every job. If you’ve gotten along fine so far without extensive documentation, consider yourself lucky.

The Agreement

A general contractor in Washington DC must provide you with an agreement before any work starts. The agreement outlines what work will be done, and it’s the most essential part of the contract documents. Here, you will want to make sure that the job is outlined in such a way that there’s no confusion about what work will be done and who will pay for what. Doing a good job here will prevent a lot of confusion, and possibly a lawsuit, later.

The General Conditions

The general conditions of the contract define the obligations and rights on how to execute the project. So, for example, this part of the contract might specify the payments to be made, when payments will be made, who will pay for materials, where materials will be purchased, and when and where the work will be performed as well as when it should be finished.

The Special Conditions

The special conditions are usually an extension of the general conditions of the contract. This part must specify the conditions and clauses to each part of the job. For example, if there are special instructions that apply to one part of the project, but not another, here is where those special instructions would be laid out and defined.

Bill of Quantities

Here is where materials and tools of the trade will be listed. It’s basically a materials list. This is important because it’s where you and your customer will agree on what types of materials are needed and will be used in the project.


Every legitimate project has drawing associated with it. It’s how the contractor knows what to build and how to build it. Basically, it’s the blueprints or design for the project. This probably one of the more important parts of the contract because designers, customers, and contractors all have to come together to agree on what the project should look like.

The Specs

The technical requirements to complete every little task are included here. Also, the details of every material being incorporated into the construction process is added here. This part of the contract adds intelligence to the job. Why? Because it specifies common standards, deviations that are acceptable materials that will suffice, and any required testing that must be done during and after the project is completed.


A construction schedule goes into the nitty-gritty details of how a project will be completed. Sometimes, construction contracts will require updates to the schedule throughout the process based on logistics of the project. For example, some projects are held up due to regulatory licensing or permits. Other jobs may be delayed because of a materials or construction error or a test that failed during the project.

Pricing Schedules

The breakdown of all items used in the project is contained in the pricing schedule. This is usually an itemized list, but it doesn’t have to be. Think of it as the basis for an invoice (though it’s technically not an invoice).

About the author: Steve Fountaine loves buildings and construction. He often writes about the steps towards a successful building project.