Editor's Note: In the August issue of Concrete Surfaces, we looked at The importance of being able to read construction drawings in "The Importance of Reading Blueprints". Part 2 explores Construction Specifications.

Construction specifications are written statements defining the required quality expected for the project, the materials to be used, and means and methods of installation. Also included in most specifications are the General and Supplementary conditions. These are the terms upon which the owner, architect, engineer, and construction manager base the process of the project.

Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) sets the standards for building specifications. In the past there were 16 divisions, but in recent years the specifications were expanded to 49 divisions. (Visit www.csinet.org, and go to the Formats & Standards page, and scroll to the bottom to download a free breakdown of the numbering systems). Occasionally the older 16-division format is still used. When preparing to bid or to build a project, refer to the table of contents for the project specifications related to your area of interest.

I always start with what I call the anatomy of specifications, or basically how each division is broken down. These subtitles are:

Related Documents
Related Sections
Description of Work
Quality Assurance
Special Inspections
Project Conditions

Related Documents - This includes the drawings and the General and Supplementary Conditions. The General and Supplementary Conditions include information such as how to get paid, retainers, insurance requirements, prevailing wages (if applicable), submittal procedures, safety requirements and other pertinent information. The Division 1 portion of the specification on some jobs can be very large and full of detailed, pertinent information that can affect the bid amount and the installation process.




A. Drawings and general provisions of the Contract, including General and Supplementary Conditions and Divisions 01 Specifications, apply to this Section.


A. Section includes polished concrete finish includes:

1. Solvent-based Polished Concrete Dye floor finish for Interior use.
2. Penetrating Agent for Enhanced Penetration of Solvent-based Dye into Polished Concrete
3. Approved Densifier
4. Approved Stain Protection
5. Approved Cleaner

Summary - Usually gives a quick overview of what this specification section covers.

Definitions - This is where definitions specific to the topic of the specification are defined, such as flatness and levelness of floors, building envelope, etc.

References - Publications such as American Concrete Institute, ASTM, Portland Concrete Association and other various related industry documents are used in this section. Simply listing these documents imports them into the specifications and the contractor is responsible for knowing, understanding, and being familiar with the referenced documents. These documents can also be very lengthy, and extensive, and are usually industry-specific.

Description of Work or Work Includes - Similar to Summary of Work but this includes more detail, such as cleaning of the floor, add additional sawcuts, etc. This section can be very helpful in understanding the scope of work to be included in your bid.

Quality Assurance - The quality of the manufacturer and contractor are specified here, such as years of experience, certifications of installers on specific product systems, etc. Quality Assurance can eliminate a contractor from bidding. Frequently, mock-ups are specified in this section. When reviewing the specifications make sure the Quality Assurance requirements can be met.

Submittals - Product material information, color charts, tech data sheets, MSDS information, smaller material samples to assist the owner and architect in the selection process, contractor certifications, methods and procedures, warranties etc. are outlined here. These usually require the contractor to refer to Submittal Procedures as outlined in Division 01. Submittals can be very time consuming and it is important to get them correct on the first submission.


A. Prepare and submit in accordance with Section 01 33 00 - Submittal Procedures.
B. Product Data: Manufacture's technical data sheets and installation instructions for each product specified.
C. samples for Initial Selection: Manufacturer's color charts showing full range of colors available.
D. Qualification Data: For firms indicated in "Quality Assurance" Article, including lists of completed projects with project names and addresses, names and addresses of architects and owners, and other information specified.

Special Inspections - Special Inspections can refer to several areas of interest, such as material and jobsite inspections or even final inspections of the installation. Materials must meet certain standards upon inspection. Jobsite inspections occur when the contractor must review and either accepts or rejects the jobsite, sometimes before bidding, thus assuming responsibility for the site as is. Other times it may mean inspecting the previous contractor's finished work before applying your scope of work. Special Inspections might also mean meeting certain standards after the installation process has been completed. To assure that the owner has received what was specified on the project, an independent testing lab performs the special inspections.

Project Conditions - Outlines what the project condition should be upon arriving at the jobsite. Accept the jobsite conditions.

Products - Manufactured products are specified, usually three or more, but not always. In some cases the language used might be "bases of design" and only one product is identified and it is up to all the other manufacturers to meet or exceed the product specified. In more rare cases the specifier might use language that says "no substitutions allowed."



A. Manufacturers: Subject to compliance with requirements, provide one of the following systems, including particular components as specified in more detail in the following Articles.

1. System No. 1

a. Solvent-based Polished Concrete Dye floor finish for Interior use.
b. Penetrating Agent for Enhanced Penetration of Solvent-based Dye into Polished Concrete
c. Approved Densifier
d. Approved Stain Protection

2. System No. 2

a. Dye, Densifer, Protective Coating and Joint Sealant: L. M. Scofield Company, "Formula One Polishing Concrete System"

3. System No. 3

a. Equivalent system comprising products from other manufacturer(s) with proven track record of application as complete system, subject to approval by Architect.

Execution - Frequently this section uses somewhat generic, step-by-step product installation instructions. But in some cases, the specifier will add a step or procedure that might be out of the normal industry accepted installation standards such as three coats in lieu of two coats, an extra grinding step or to allow a certain cure time on a product.

Protection - The specifiers always want the work protected and use language such as protect for 72 hours, protect during your work, protect after your work is complete from damage until the project is turned over to the owner. This section is usually short but can have significant cost impacts if not qualified in the sub-contract. So be sure to qualify what protection you have included.


A. Protect floor from traffic for at least 72 hours after final application of sealer.

B. Protection of Finished Concrete: Protect areas scheduled for polished, dyed concrete finished throughout construction following application of finish, to prevent damage and contamination by oils, dirt, metal, excessive water and other potentially damaging materials.

1. Provide diapered or non-marking tires on equipment that will be used on concrete surface.

Maintenance - Some specifications may require a certain amount of maintenance to be priced into the job or the owner wants to know the maintenance requirements for the installed products.

Warranties - One-year warranty is most common, but in the last few years owners are requiring extended warranties; two, three and as high as five years for floor-type work. Extended warranties are common for waterproofing, windows, roofs, etc. In most cases the warranty information is found in the product specification section, but sometimes there is a project default warranty in Division 01 so be sure to check.


Not all of the sections mentioned will be used on every job or every specification section or they may be outlined in a different way. But detailed information will be defined so pay careful attention when reviewing.

The most common mistake made when preparing a bid is to skim the specifications and make assumptions about what is typical and common.

Read the specification section carefully related to your scope of work when preparing a bid as well as other specifications that apply. Highlight key items, be familiar with your industry and the standards that guide and control your industry. Write a detailed proposal letter that includes the scope of work, exclusions and qualifications. More on scope letters in the next issue.

So when it comes to specifications I always say, read them or weep.

Coming up in part 3: How do I find what I need?

Visit www.printreading.us for an extended version of the article. Also visit www.dorfonconcrete.com.