“Well, If It’s Not on the Drawings…”

Recently, I was preparing a masonry spec section for a remodel project.  The project has an existing CMU wall which is to receive a small area of new CMU infill.  It’s an exterior structural wall, and the architectural drawings indicate that the infill CMU is to be grouted solid. 

I asked the structural engineer if we need reinforcing bars (rebar) in the cores of the CMU, and I told him that I would delete rebar from the spec section if we don’t need rebar, so that the Contractor knows he doesn’t need to provide it. 

The engineer said, “You can just leave it in the specs.  If the rebar isn’t on the Drawings, they’ll know they don’t need it.” 


“Drawings and Specifications are complementary and what is called for by one shall be as binding as if called for by both.”  This is according to the General Conditions of the Contract for this project.  This is a typical provision in construction contracts.1 

So, if rebar isn’t required for that wall, there should be no rebar in the spec or on the drawings.  If rebar is in the specs, even if it’s not on the drawings, rebar is required by the contract.  If rebar is on the drawings, even if it’s not in the specs, rebar is required by the contract. 

Design professionals need to completely comprehend this concept, and for some unknown reason, many don’t.  Contractors need to completely comprehend this requirement, and for an understandable reason (it’s not in their best interest at times) they don’t always seem to grasp this.

The lead design professional on the project, the entity who is performing construction contract administration, is the party who must enforce the contract documents, including the specifications.  This party has to understand the relationships among contract documents before he or she can properly enforce them.  If the specifications and drawings have been prepared to be complementary, and are clear, concise, correct, and complete, they will be easy to understand (for all parties) and easy to enforce.

I’ve said this before, on my informational website, www.specificationsdenver.com :

“Unless the design team intends for something to be included by the contractor in the project, it shouldn’t be in the specs (or drawings).  There shouldn’t be a bunch of things in the specs ‘in case we need them’ if we don’t actually intend for them to be in the project, because by doing that, we’ve taken the first step to our documents’ not being taken seriously by the contractor.  If there is extra information in the specifications, the contractor will assume that the specifications are boilerplate specifications that are reused on all projects, and are not specific to the project, and will ignore all the specifications. 

“Also, the architect should enforce the provisions of the specs and the agreement and the conditions of the contract, or else these documents won’t be taken seriously.  We have to say what we mean, and prove that we mean what we say.”

If the contractor starts ignoring the specifications, the architect or engineer who’s doing construction contract administration will have a much harder time trying to enforce the specs.  When the specs include a lot of inapplicable things, the contractor will start ignoring the specs, because guessing at the intention of the specs, or constantly asking about the intention of the specs, will be a waste of the contractor’s essential time.  (Of course, the contractor is usually contractually obligated to ask for clarification in the case of conflicts in the documents, but it’s not fair for design professionals to knowingly issue documents with conflicts.) 

So, architects and engineers, remember that the drawings and specifications are complementary and what is called for by one is as binding as if called for by both.  Enforce this during construction! 

And, architects and engineers, don’t put extra stuff in the specs!  It wastes your time and the contractor’s time during construction, and it may waste the owner’s money.



  1. AIA A201, The General Conditions of the Contract for Construction, indicates that the Contract Documents consist of “the Agreement, Conditions of the Contract, Drawings, Specifications, Addendaet cetera.  AIA A201 goes on to say “The Contract Documents are complementary, and what is required by one shall be as binding as if required by all…”  (AIA A201 is used on most of the projects I work on.)