This section is from the book "Cyclopedia Of Architecture, Carpentry, And Building", by James C. et al. Also available from Amazon: Cyclopedia Of Architecture, Carpentry And Building.
The opening description of the work should be straight-forward, clear, and concise, and the specification carefully classified according to the different trades, so that each sub-contractor and the estimator of every small shop may find the work he is to do definitely indicated. It is easy for a general Contractor to unite sub-contracts and let several to one firm, but very difficult to subdivide a specification where trades are not separated.
This should not lead the Architect, however, to separate work among different trades where for safety, warranty, or promptness, certain parts of the work should all be under the control of one contractor, e.g., the roofer.
Each item describes the class of material to be used and the kind of labor to be employed. The number of pieces and the dimensions are left to the plans; though, when the plans are incomplete on account of the small scale, the quantities and sizes must be specified fully and completely.
The usual method of arranging a specification is to classify the items under each building trade, and then subdivide the building trades as much as possible. Commence with the work to be done on the foundation of the building, and carry the description up through the building to the roof chronologically in the order of construction. In this way there is less danger of omissions. Sometimes it is advisable to describe a certain part entirely under the trade that would have general charge of it. For example, an iron staircase would be described under "Iron work," and the description would include a wooden hand-rail. Metal flashings are often specified to be furnished by the carpenter, mason, or plumber for use in connection with their work, though frequently these are provided by the metal worker and set by the carpenter, mason, or plumber.
An expeditious method of writing specifications, which may be employed to advantage in large offices when the writer is not intimately associated in the work of preparing the drawings, is to write each item on a catalogue card. The best sizes for this are either 4 by 6 inches or 5 by 8 inches. The latter is preferable, being the width of ordinary typewritten specifications, and large enough for notes and memoranda regarding each particular item.
Guide cards may be used to separate these items under their different headings, and the items can be easily rearranged or added to at any point. When a new specification is written, all that is necessary to do is to put markers or wire clips on the cards that are to be used, making any changes that may be necessary in pencil on the card and writing or dictating any additional items for insertion. The whole specification can then be typewritten from these cards on which the "signals" have been placed, making as many copies as required. Whenever cards are removed from the case, large "out" markers are put in their places, so that they will be returned to their proper locations.
When the specifications are ready to be typewritten, they should be carefully checked up with the drawings and with the "Specification Reminder," which will be explained later.
In writing out the specification, it is advisable and usual on public work to number every clause under the different trades in order. These will be found very useful for reference and correspondence during the work. An index may be placed at the beginning of the specification.
There are many indirect items which should be fully covered by the specifications - for example, that the Contractor shall take care of certain minor points, such as clearing out rubbish, covering the windows, and heating the building while the plaster is drying, putting up staging, etc. Even when there is a general Contractor for a building - which would relieve both Architect and Owner of any direct responsibility - it saves much discussion between the subcontractors if such points as these are included in the specification.
Where there are definitely stated requirements in State or Municipal building laws, use the same wording or expressions in the specification. These are the result of long study and practical experience, and often the difference of a single word will confuse or make the meaning much less clear to Contractors. The specifications may be abbreviated by referring directly to the building laws, and omitting what is there clearly stated.
Electric wiring, for example, should be done according to the "Rules and Requirements of the National Board of Fire Underwriters for the Installation of Electric Wiring, as Recommended by the Underwriters' National Electrical Association."
While every specification should require that the work as a whole and in all details shall be carried out to the satisfaction of the Architect, such requirement must carry with it the full understanding that the Architect shall be satisfied when the Contractor has furnished what the clear meaning of the drawings and specifications calls for, and under no circumstances shall the Architect demand other than what is required by the drawings and specifications, under the excuse that what has been furnished is not satisfactory to him.
It is often desirable to stipulate that certain portions of the work, etc., are warranted to exercise their functions properly when completed, and for a certain period of time thereafter. For example, the heating specification may stipulate that the apparatus is to maintain a temperature of 70 degrees when that of the outside is at zero or 30 degrees below. Or it may be that the roofer is to warrant the roof to remain waterproof for a certain length of time. Such warranty clauses should be sparingly used, as, in case of defect in the portion warranted, it is generally as expensive to get the person who installed the defective portion to remedy it, as to get the work done over by another party, and the delays incident are annoying in the extreme. When such warranty clause is used, it is generally made an excuse for constantly changing the work from that specified, under the plea that, if carried out in accord with the contract, the work cannot be warranted. Such changes are always in favor of poorer work. It is generally better for the Architect to know just what will do the work, see that such is installed, and leave the warrant clause out.
Specifying a particular make or brand of material is apt to carry the impression that the writer's knowledge is limited or that he is unduly influenced in favor of the article specified. If a particular appliance is required, it is well to except it from the contract, and say that the Owner will furnish a delivered on the site, which the Contractor is to set in place and connect, etc.
In large and important work it is sometimes customary for the Contractor to submit the names of the sub-contractors whom he proposes to deal with, for the approval or disapproval of the