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RFI Refusal

What do you do when your RFI is met with a refusal to forward your question(s) to the architect? Here is the back story: The spec book stopped at the end of Sect. 3, so the sub went to the GC’s office to look at the plans/specs and found many more details that were not included in the invitation, such as a semi-gloss paint without a specified Level of Finish. The invitation to bid was made on July 23, and the bid was due July 31. He was told to simply bid with the info in hand.

Bid with the information at hand, being careful to spell out exactly what is included on the bid form. If semi-gloss paint is included without a finish level, bid industry standard (GA 214), and call it out as such, based on specs available. Offer VEs based upon what is not shown versus what is—in today’s design/build market, many times the architect is simply unfamiliar with industry standards for our scopes and can use some help. The main objective is to have your bid compared “apples to apples” so you make it to scope review.

—Glen Riffe, Area Manager, Denver Drywall Company, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Responsible contracting would indicate that a Level 5 finish would be used for semi-gloss paint. An option would be to bid the project with Level 4 and an add for the Level 5, and let the GC make the decision for the price that he wishes to submit.

—Ernest Lanning, President, RMC, Miami, Florida

The picture is wrong. Without a set of specs, full plans and details, and short bid time, all spell for a problem in the construction of the job for the low bidder. Pass on this one or get all of the info—before bidding. Look for a better project to bid on. This may save you $$, and bad relations with all involved in the job. In my mind, and from past experience, there is real opportunity for failure in this deal!!
—Laddy A. Dale, Dale Enterprises Inc., Grand Junction, Colorado

Give ’em CYA numbers.


This happens too often. GC will not admit that this is just another shortcut. GC will often justify with, “They don’t need all that” in a hurry to get a bid together and anxious to get a job done. These habits cloud their minds, alter the outcome, often with a less desirable end product. Here is a radical concept: Require an architect to hold one-hour meetings with all potential subs interested in bidding, and answer all questions. The result would reshape the process, as the GC would get specs that could then be built more affordably and on time … the subs can show an architect things in specs that do not make sense in the “real world”… the end user gets what the architect had in mind.


The only thing to do is submit your bid with clarifications.

—Amy Melton

Qualify your bid proposal with clarifications and exclusions.

—Jonathan Diepstra, Estimator, The Bouma Corporation, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Do not bid.


Stay right with them in the “gray area,” make sure all the escape doors are open. Document in front of the file all the stuff that will eventually come to light. Make sure that when it comes to contract bargain time that you have this “gray area” realized. These guys are trappers and they love to get ya.

—Jeff Muller, Vice President, M&O Exterior Applicators, Inc., Frederick, Maryland

Bid with the info given, and as always, qualify your bid by stating the page numbers and dates of the bid docs that were supplied and used for your bid. Use the lowest levels generally acceptable for the type of project and if they later want an upgrade, that is a change order.

—Brad Hollett, President, Accelerated Construction ACT Architects, Jacksonville, Florida

Call and talk with the architect to get clarification. Bid the job with qualifications. The GC is looking for someone to bid stupid so they have an advantage of winning the project. “Stupid bid” who didn’t qualify his bid will find out his mistake after it signed a contract. Crooked and stupid mix.

Note all exclusions to bid package for details not figured or level of finish you have proposed. Note the pages of the print and spec book pages you bid from. I would also include the RFI sheet and note that all the items in questions would be additional cost.

—Ron Smith, President, R. Smith Enterprise Inc., Schererville, Indiana

Bid as a Level 5 finish. Any wall that has semi-gloss paint on it needs to be a Level 5.

—Exterior Walls Inc.

Bid it with stipulations, or just bid a Level 5 finish so the proposal will cover any range of bids.

—Alan Castro, Advanced Specialty Construction Inc., Fort Walton Beach, Florida

This is an invitation to lose money. General contractors who are looking to squeeze the subcontractors sometimes act in harsh ways as this are telling you something. It won’t get better in the future. Walk away!


The construction industry has changed significantly in the last year or two. The abuse of flowdown liability is rampant, with contracts spelling out risks and liabilities to subcontractors that were unheard of formerly. We recently had a general contractor say that sequencing the trades wasn’t his responsibility and that the trades had to sequence and coordinate themselves! The incident in question cost us. We’ve also seen an increase of clauses in contracts indicating that the sub is to perform all the work coincident with his scope, whether or not it is shown on the drawings or specifications or bid request, but per the architects’ Design Intent! Now we’re also expected to be mind readers. Where am I going with this? Specific to the question posed, if a request for information is presented in writing (evidence) and is refused in writing (evidence), the subcontractor who posed the question has a leg to stand on in case the issue were to go to court. In my experience, if a general contractor sees that the sub is preparing his case from day one—in case an issue were to go to court, the general will usually comply or bend on the issue. Nobody wants to go to court. Put your bid proposal in clear and complete language and make sure you don’t sign a contract with onerous or incomplete scope.


On public works and some structured hard dollar bids, bidders can submit a pre-bid inquiry. You word the pre-bid inquiry to ask the question but state that unless otherwise advised, you will bid “such and such.” As long as the bidder’s interpretation is reasonable, the owner and architect will be bound to your reasonable interpretation because they failed to respond. This is in American Law Institute, Restatement of Contracts. If this is an after-the-bid RFI, then you can word and handle it similarly; however, if the A/E persists in non answers, you must keep asking more forcefully and perhaps threaten delay time and or money.


Use the information you found and know from your experience what should be included in your bid proposal. Make sure that you qualify that info included was not part of the bid package. You can also include this as an add alternate.


You define the information that you have at the time of the bid and make it clear what your assumptions are or understanding is at the time of the bid.


This would be a red flag to me and would cause me to avoid the bid. I would send a letter to the architect, owner and general contractor stating that I was not willing to accept the risk of anticipating their intentions.


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