It’s All in the Prints… Or Is It?

For those of you who have been in the contracting game for some time, you remember blueprints. Simply called, nowadays, prints. Probably because they are no longer blue. Duh.

Anyway, prints were done by very skilled technicians, be it an engineer, architect or detailer, by hand. I know, I actually took mechanical, architectural and structural drafting in high school for all 4 years. You had to know how to make angles, curves, a radius and circles to the exact scale. In fact, the straight lines too! And ALL the correct dimensions were on the prints.

The person making the drawings was required to have worked in the field as part of their qualifications. The architect helped build a house, the engineer a bridge or tunnel, the detailer some sort of mechanical contrivance. By the time they were employed as drafting types, they already knew what would work or not and how it had to go together. Every detail was covered.

Making these prints involved thought, the ability to use mathematics, vision, time and care by the draft person and best of all, you could read and understand what was drawn right down to every minute detail, and therefore you could SEE what you were supposed to be building and how to do it. The prints were your instruction manual.

If you had any question about anything it was drawn in the prints exactly how it was supposed to be built. Material specs were there, as well as sequence and layout of construction.

So what happened, how did this crafty art devolve? Computers and drafting software and digital storage of your work… that’s how. I can’t really blame AutoCAD or Tekla, but, it did make it so everyone’s work appeared the same. The ART of design was gone. And that is what happened. Everything became the same as everything else. And rarely do you ever see an architect or engineer or detailer ever step foot on a jobsite anymore, except maybe to get accolades for being a big wig.

It all became a game of cut and paste from one job to another and the best detail you could get on a print said “typical”, meaning ‘do it all this way’. There started to be pages of plans that had nothing to do with your project but they’re typical to construction so they get put in the plan set anyway.

And then there is my personal tick me off to no end: you have to be able to read 9 pages at one time to figure out how that corner column went together at the top and bottom. Page S3 says see detail 4/S6. 4/S6 says see architectural drawings. You find what your looking for on A17 and it says see detail 6/A23. 6/A23 says see structural drawings. Are you swearing yet? This is why we have this relatively new thing called an RFI. Request For Information, because there is not the information you need to see how the thing is supposed to be constructed.

OK. So what’s the point of all this? Why am I on this rant? Well, because I see too many building contractors I know get into trouble ONLY because of bad or incomplete or even wrong plans. This usually results in taking on a project leaving too much to “assumption”, not enough to fact and underbidding, making the project a loss, before you even start it.

When bidding a project make sure the plans are at least complete enough to know what your building, visit the site, ask questions, query anything that you think may be missing or wrong. Get all the answers to your questions before you bid.

A lot of guys tell me they don’t want to look stupid asking too many questions. You can either think your being stupid or know your being broke.

Well, what’s it going to be?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *