272. Too much emphasis cannot be given to the importance of complete and concise specifications for any building, for it is the specifications that defines the quality of the work and materials, and to a very large extent the cost of the building, and the various questions that arise during the progress of the work. The first requisite in specifications is that they shall cover every part of the work ; the second, that they shall be written so as to be readily comprehended by the contractor and his foremen, and the third, that they shall be concise, describing as accurately as possible the quality of the materials to be used, how the work is to be done and everything that effects the cost that is not sufficiently shown by the plans and details.
It is also desirable that all work of the same kind or character shall be described in the same place, and not scattered through the specifications. The architect should not expect the contractor to do anything not provided for by the plans and specifications without extra compensation, nor to do the work better than the specifications call for. He must therefore be sure that everything which he wishes done is clearly indicated either by the plans or specifications, and that no loopholes are allowed for poor workmanship or inferior materials. The portions of the work to be done by each contractor should also be clearly stated, so that there can be no misunderstanding as to who is to do certain portions of the work. It very often happens that some minor details, such as closing up the windows, protecting stonework, drying out the building, etc., are not properly specified, and the contractors dispute, much to the annoyance of the architect, as to who shall do that part of the work. Such annoyances are largely avoided when the entire contract for the erection and completion of the building is given to one person or firm, but even then it is better to have the duties of the sub-contractors clearly defined.
As a rule, the form, dimensions and quantity of all constructive materials should be fully indicated on the drawings, so that only the kind and quality of the materials and the manner of doing the work need be given in the specifications. In regard to the finish, both exterior and interior, the wording of the specifications will depend in a great measure upon whether or not the detail drawings are made before the work is estimated on. If detail drawings are furnished to the contractor with the general drawings the specifications may be much abbreviated, but if such details are not made, the size of all mouldings, the number and size of members, and the amount of dentil work, carving, turned mouldings, etc., should be accurately described, and the detail drawings should be made to conform to the specifications. Free hand sketches in the margin may be effectively used for illustrating this part of the specification. General clauses should be avoided as far as possible, as they only cumber the specification and tend to obscure the really important portions.
The following forms of specifications for the various kinds of work generally included in the carpenter's contract are given merely as a guide or reminder to architects, and not always to be copied literally.* Figures or words enclosed in ( ) may be changed to suit special or local conditions or the preference of the architect, or are suggested in place of the preceding word or words.
Every specification should be prepared with special reference to the particular building for which it is intended.
The use of standard specifications is not recommended, as when such specifications are used the architect is more apt to overlook important points, and the use of such forms, moreover, tends to a lack of progressiveness and a study of the best construction to suit the varying circumstances of different buildings.
The author would recommend to the young architect that before commencing to write or dictate his specifications he make a skeleton, consisting of headings of the different items to be specified, carefully looking over the plans and revising the skeleton until everything seems to be covered and the headings arranged in their proper sequence. The specifications can then be filled out in the manner herein indicated.