What is a submittal in construction? A comprehensive guide

Written by LetsBuild

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Construction projects involve multiple experts, like architects, consultants, electricians, and compliance professionals, working together to ensure successful outcomes. Each expert has a crucial role, including approving design changes, guiding the contractor, etc.

To that end, project managers and contractors must issue construction submittals to these experts for approval, review, or guidance. The submittals include samples, drawings, project data, material listings, quality assurance, etc.

Many types of documents during construction make up submittals. In most cases, project managers usually attach these documents or submissions to the project manual for easy accessibility and to provide information to all stakeholders.

Free eBook: Quick guide to Lean practices for construction professionals

Why submittals are important in the construction process

Submittals are vital to make sure the project is executed according to the specifications and designs. They ensure the contractor adheres to the defined guidelines, uses the correct materials, and stays within the timelines.

Basically, submittals provide checks and balances during construction, enabling the results to match the project designs and meet the project owner’s needs. They provide the outlines for each task and define responsibilities for different teams for successful execution.

A good example is the shop drawing, which provides detailed plans for fabrications that are completed off-site. The illustrations allow contractors or fabricators to know what on-site teams want and what materials are needed.

These documents allow experts to review project plans at a detailed level before green-lighting contractors and project managers. This approach minimizes delays, costly setbacks, and material wastage.

You might also like: Maximising ROI with construction project execution software

Types of submittals and their requirements

There are different types of construction submittals every project manager and contractor should know, including:

Shop drawings

Shop drawings are highly defined drawings, showing detailed information, such as materials, thicknesses, joinery, dimensions, etc. They can be drawings for windows, roofing assemblies, storefronts, etc. These drawings are mostly prepared by the fabricators and reviewed by the architect and engineer to ensure the configurations are correct

Product data sheet

This document highlights the specifications of materials and products required for the project, including drywall, steel, paint, flooring materials, sealants, roofing, etc. The sheet covers different details, such as warranties, formulations, and performance of the products to ensure they align with the project requirements.


Samples are mostly used by interior designers to review and visualize surface materials like floor tiles, fixtures, carpets, masonry, countertops, etc. This allows the designer and project owner to determine the ideal aesthetic requirements for the project to ensure seamless coordination with other finishes.


In some cases, a project might require mock-ups to determine or demonstrate how the actual construction will be set up. The goal can vary including determining weep holes, the thickness of airspace, the length of brick ties, etc. While uncommon compared to other types of submittals, mock-ups offer a way to prevent setbacks.

More to read: What are preliminaries in construction contracts?

Maximising ROI with construction project execution software | LetsBuildCommon challenges in managing submittals

Building submittals help to ensure project success. Unfortunately, there are roadblocks that might hamper the creation of submittals:

  • The time factor: Some submittals can take weeks to create and this might affect the project’s timelines. For instance, building a product data sheet requires the manager to know all the required products and materials beforehand, which can be difficult.
  • Inadequate resources: Some teams rely on paper trails, spreadsheets, or email for the submittal process, risking delays when a document is misplaced or lost. This can also lead to disconnected operations due to the lack of central document control.
  • Limited information: Disconnected processes and delayed tasks can deny teams crucial information needed to create submittals. This leads to incomplete or inaccurate submittals and delays.

In most cases, a lack of communication and coordination is usually the main course of these challenges. This results in poor productivity, confusion, and delays, which can impact the project’s budget and deliverables.

Further reading: 5 effective ways to simplify complicated construction project management tasks

Best practices for managing submittals effectively

The good thing is there are several approaches that project managers and contractors can take to improve the construction submittal process. This includes:

  • Getting proper project management software: Software solutions can automate and streamline the submittal process. They also provide real-time visibility into the status of each submittal and support collaboration with other teams.
  • Establishing lines of communication: It’s vital to create communication channels to ensure team members can share information in real-time. Most software solutions offer this capability, making it easy for teams to collaborate on creating submittals.
  • Defining roles and responsibilities: Project managers must define clear roles and responsibilities for every team member in the submittal process. This will hasten the process once every member understands their roles and streamline administrative work.

More importantly, project managers must develop a submittal review and approval system to reduce delays and support communication. Ensuring transparency and accountability is also vital to avoid confusion in the process and improve your team’s performance.

Streamline your submittal process

Traditionally, construction firms have used manual systems to create, track, and approve submittals. These systems have been quite efficient and disconnected, leading to delays and wastage of resources.

With automation, firms can leverage digital construction solutions like LB Aproplan to collect data for submittals and standardise their processes. These solutions connect your workflows and teams to deliver collaborative workspaces for efficient submittal processing and tracking.

Book a personalised demo with us today to learn how we can help you improve your construction management processes.