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Writing a Better Proposal

Now that you have spent considerable time taking off the project and then turning that takeoff into an estimate, it is time to write the proposal. It doesn’t matter how good of a job you have done with preparation of the estimate, or how much time you’ve spent-it all comes down to the proposal. Can you write an effective proposal that will be clearly understood by the person reviewing your bid?

Being a little vague or ambiguous with the proposal can sometimes work to your benefit, but more often than not, the poorly written proposal can lead to a conflict. I don’t know about you, but I’ll go the extra mile to limit the conflict in my life.


For clarity, I would list the CSI sections that are part of your scope. I would list my specific notes (inclusions/exclusions) that are related to each section. For example:

Section 7210 Building Insulation

Scope of work


Section 9260 Gypsum Wallboard

Scope of work


And so on … .

If you have not prepared a list of standard notes, I would suggest that you take the time and develop that list.

Your list of typical notes might include some of these items:

Cleanup. Who collects the trash? Where will the trash be deposited? How will you get the trash out of the building? Who pays for the dumpster or haul-off?

Doorframe installation. Aside from the installation, who is responsible for receiving and distributing the doorframes?

Backing and Blocking. Define what you have included and where you have it.

Firecaulking. Do you have the firecaulking that is related to your work? What about the sealing of penetrations through the firerated partitions-Who is responsible for this?

Layout. Have you included the layout of your work in your price? Are you expecting the general contractor to provide control lines?

Overtime or work performed at night. Have you reviewed or discussed the schedule with the general contractor? Be sure to state it in your proposal if you have included overtime. You might want to even qualify the amount of overtime as an “allowance.”

Scaffold and lift equipment. If there is a large area of high work and you have included the necessary scaffold, then you should let the contractor know that you have allowed for this in your price. The contractor might also have an allowance for scaffold in this area.

Hoisting of your material. Who is responsible for providing the hoisting if the project is multi-story?

Demolition. Existing projects will probably require some demolition; make sure that you address what you exclude (or include) related to the demolition.

Patching and repair of existing. An existing project will almost always have a certain amount of patch and repair. It can sometimes be very difficult to determine the extent. Do your best to quantify and qualify what you have included. Again, this
might be a part of the scope that you want to provide an “allowance” or not-to-exceed price.

Engineering and shop drawings. Don’t we just love this one! If you are including Section 5400 in your scope, you definitely need to address this. If your intent is to exclude engineering and shop drawings, you had better state it. If you are including this as part of your scope, make certain you have provided an appropriate fee as part of your estimate.

Sequence-of-work. If your project has fire-rated walls, there has to be a logical sequence-of-work. You might want to state that your board-hanging and fire-taping at the top of the walls would take place before the work of the other trades that might impact your ability to perform this work.

Level of finish. If the specifications or drawings have not addressed the level of finish that is expected, then you should qualify the level of finish you will be providing.

I hope this will assist you in writing a better proposal, and before you sign the contract and say, “I do,” make sure that the contractor knows (without a doubt) what you are agreeing to do.

About the Author

Charles Mahaffey is president of Accuest, LLC, Marietta, Ga. Accuest provides estimating and consulting services for commercial drywall subcontractors.

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