Plans vs. Specifications: Which One Wins When Building a House?

Posted by Sherry Noyes on Mar 2, 2017 Sherry Noyes

All builders have two documents that guide them when building a house: the plans and the specifications. In a perfect world, those two documents seamlessly mesh together and support one another.

digital illustration looking up at a yellow road sign that reads "Oops!"

But we don’t live in a perfect world. And plans don’t always jive with specifications.

Your house plans are a set of scaled drawings that show contractors what they are building. Your specifications (or specs) are a written document that details what materials will be used and how to install things. So, if the plan illustrates one sink in the master bathroom, the plumbing subcontractor turns to the specs to find out exactly which sink you want installed.

And if the plans and the specs don’t agree? Say the plan indicates one sink, but the specs indicate two. What happens then?

You, the General Contractor, and the sub contractor need to figure out what to do next. This can delay the project and if it’s a substantial difference, it could affect the home’s value. Ideally, your bank or appraiser picked this up when they reviewed the plans and specs.

The trend in the building trades has been for the specifications to override the plans. So, barring any additional communication among your construction team, your master bath will probably wind up with two sinks.

Here’s what you can do to protect yourself against discrepancies between plans and specifications.

  • Draw up a construction contract that spells out which document takes precedence. Most contracts are written to defer to the specifications. Make sure you know what your contract says.
  • Meticulously review the plans and specifications and resolve any discrepancies before construction commences. Don’t hesitate to ask questions! And get help if you don’t understand what you’re looking at.
  • Know the construction schedule: when the foundation is being poured, when the roof is going up, when the floors will be installed, etc.
  • Inspect your construction site frequently. If you asked for a metal roof and you see piles of shingles at the site, you might have a problem.

 

For more information that will help you build a house or renovate your home, read our blog on things to know about construction contracts!

 

Topics: Construction, Building a house