The Specifications Overrule the Drawings….or Do They?

The contractor calls you about a high end residential project and says “the drawings are calling for wood base but the specs are calling for a 4″ vinyl base. Since the specs overrule the drawings, should I install the vinyl base?” What do you tell him?


Video Tip 002.

I discuss whether the Specifications overrule the Drawings is actually a true statement and show evidence in the AIA A201, General Conditions. If you think you know the answer, you’ll want to check out this video and be sure to leave a comment below!

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16 comments… add one
  • Marcos Santa Ana

    Great job, David. Use a transparent marker tool for the next video tip.

    • David

      Thanks Marcos!

      i was playing with the yellow transparency marker and doing some tests and it didn’t seem like it was showing up well enough on the screen. i will play with it more to see if i can get better settings. thanks for checking out the video tip!


  • Rick Hallenbeck

    Great clarification on governing documents.

    As a suggestion it would also be helpful to also clarify the conflict resolution with the Contractor and ultimately who is responsible to pay for an increased cost for a 12″ base in lieu of 4″ base when the Contractor bid a 4″ base.

  • Victoria B Lara

    David I also thought specs overruled the dwgs…and the way you explain it great using common sense sometimes helps a lot! Hahaha…great videos! I thank you in behalf of the entire aging intern architect (AIA) community….

    • David

      you are welcome victoria! it’s definitely one of those things once you get that “aha moment” you start to wonder how you ever thought otherwise.

      thanks for watching,


  • stanley lonseth

    David –

    Interested in knowing what your follow-up was to Rick Hallenbeck’s question above on October 12, 2011 re: about clarifying how you are to resolve differences between the spec. and drawings when clearly there is a price difference between what the drawings show and what the specs call for. My ‘experience’ is that IF the contractor can show his bid results for the 4″ vinyl base ( versus the 12″ high wood ), the owner ends up paying the difference between the two items after a general contractor would provide a proposal for the difference in work scope. However, it may also include a higher cost for the more expensive material due to the contract execution. So, while there is no doubt that the drawings and specs. are complimentary per the AIA A201, Article 1.2.1, the contractor will make the argument that because of conflicting information, despite him not notifying the architect nor the owner of the discrepancy beforehand of the discrepancy, he went with the less expensive material in consideration of his bid. And will make the argument that, as should the architect, that IF there had not been any conflict the owner would have ended up paying a higher contract amount anyway for the 12″ base. The problem is the owner is now paying much more for the difference of materials because it is after the contract has been signed. Inevitably this almost always puts the architect in bad light with the owner due to such a ‘lack of coordination’ within the architect’s documents. Right ? I would apprciate any other thots you have. . . .

    • David

      hi stan,

      yes, that situation sounds like the architect would get involved as initial decision maker and if that wasn’t successful, then meditation would follow. let me share some additional thoughts on the next podcast.

      thanks, david

  • stanley lonseth

    Thanks David for the response. . . I look forward to the next podcast with further clarification.


  • Muhammad Alnakash

    Thank you David, you are absolutely correct about the word “complementary”.
    I had many of these situations, where it is uncomfortable the first few times, but it gets better as you grow thicker skin to counter balance the contractor’s skills in pointing the finger at the architect.


    • David

      You’re most welcome, and yes it goes against what seems to happen in the real world and yes having a thicker skin is helpful for an architect. thanks for checking out the video tips!


  • Molly McCabe

    Great subject, thanks for covering it!

    • David

      Hi Molly!

      You’re most welcome 🙂

      Thanks, David

  • Milton Dalida

    So, if the Specifications don’t override the Drawings, and there is a conflict, which one does the Contractor and Architect follow? Since they are complimentary, the Architect and Owner is to be notified. Then does the Architect and Owner have the final decision?

    • David

      Hi Milton,

      The Architect will need to review the conflict and issue written clarification to the Contractor. Depending on the conflict, the Owner may need to be involved in the final decision.



  • Bridget

    Wouldn’t this situation infer that the contractor was responsible for providing BOTH the vinyl base and the wood base in his bid, if he didn’t clarify that one outweighed the other beforehand? I would argue that both are called out/specified and therefore both are required in lieu of any RFIs stating otherwise

  • Visualizzatore profilo privato

    Hello colleagues, how is the whole thing, and what you want to say regarding this article,
    in my view its really amazing in support of me.

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