Making Submittal Shop Drawings for Architects

Cabinetmakers discuss what shop drawings are good for in commercial work, and how to create them efficiently. October 15, 2009

Can anyone share some insight as to how they do submittal drawings for architects? We are getting into more commercial and they want scale layouts (1 page), cross sections, notes, etc. (just like they do and get paid for). We have AutoCAD (2D) and KCDw and a never used TurboCAD (3D). We are a two man shop.

Forum Responses
(CAD Forum)
From contributor O:
Hire it out? Use eCabinets?

From contributor A:
Submittal drawings are shop drawings; they should be drawn the way you intend to build the items. The architects want a drawing that is visually similar to theirs including filed dimensions, relation of your work to work by others, sink cutouts, appliance or equipment openings and - most important - your manufacturing methods for achieving the design. The level of detail varies by firm and by architect and project. For a larger shop, shop drawings are the instruction sent from the office to the shop.

Most grade rules have scale requirements and detail requirements along with sample and material requirements. This is what architects are used to seeing. Depending on the size of the project, you may be able to get by with less. A lunchroom in a small office should be easier than a school or big office building.

The cost of the drawings is included in the price for the job. We do fully detailed drawings for every project. 25 years ago we were drawing on a board and they were not of the best quality, but as the quality of the customer moves up, so must your drawings.

This is also your opportunity to draw a detail to your standard method of manufacture vs. the slight differences that they draw. I have attached a simple sample that includes the section and elevation from the bid, then our shop drawing.

From the original questioner:
We have tried (admittedly, half-hearted) to sub them out, but it was cost prohibitive and metric was a problem (locally). I haven't used e-cab in a long time. I don't remember being able to get drawings like we need. I am sure it's changed quite a bit since then. Does anyone know if TurboCAD would allow me to draw it once and get plan, elevation, and maybe even cross sections?

Contributor A, thank you. I realize what they want. I must admit I am not convinced it's necessary to build effectively. I feel as though I am just regurgitating their work and there is not enough money to cover the time and still be competitive. What you have described is exactly what I am being asked to do. Kcdw is not capable of producing anything like that, and again, Acad 2D takes forever.

From contributor M:
Shop drawings are different from layout drawings.

You submit shop drawings to show what you are building in what dimensions and quantities and how your product is going on the wall and how it relates to appliances and other equipment and assemblies, but not how it is built. Once the GC receives your drawings, he or the architect is going to redline your submittals and make sure that you are going to build what is in the scope of work.

Shop drawings require plan and elevation drawings. If not drawn to scale, then everything of significance should be dimensioned. Put as little information that relates to your scope of work as possible, but don't volunteer information that can be used to the GCs advantage in case of a conflict.

Layout drawings are drawings and other narratives your crew can build the product from and should include everything to prevent someone saying "I thought we're doing this."

KCDw drawings are perfectly suited for shop drawing submittals. You can put plan and elevation drawings on the same page, but you don't have to. Paying for professionally drawn shop drawings may be a small investment that can pay back quite handsomely. Check the AWI book of millwork for shop drawings standards.

From contributor J:
Contributor M is right on. Architects go by the Architectural Woodworking Institute standards, AWI. You need to comply with those standards. You need to show plans and elevations at mim. 1/2" scale, cross sections to 1-1/2" to 3" scale, and details at 6" or full scale.

You need to specify materials to be used, thickness, hardware specs, etc. Room location, relation of millwork to other trades, equipment location, etc. Also, and this is important, you have to exclude everything that is not in your scope, like appliances, fixtures, glass, metals, etc.

Commercial work is a different game than residential. You are dealing with architects, general contractors, construction management, etc. They want to see represented on paper a combination of graphics and writing - everything you are going to do, from scope of work to details of construction to quality of materials. Again, take a look at the AWI. Just doing a layout with a parametric software showing basic elevations and plans will not do it!

If you are not sure how to proceed or how to handle the submittals and approvals, it is a good investment to freelance your first projects to someone with the experience that can help and guide you. You then may want to hire someone to do it in house.

When you quote commercial work, you always have to account for shop drawings. As soon as you make your submission, you can send a requisition for shop drawings.

From contributor B:
To answer the original poster, yes, you are spitting back their drawings. First off, the plumber does not have to provide sections of a manufactured faucet he proposes to provide, he just matches the spec. We should be no different. Give us the WIC/AWI spec and our product must meet it; if it doesn't, like anything else, it is rejected at the site. That is what the arch review is for.

What this is all about is the AIA documents that are set up to allow architects to make mistakes and make anyone or everyone else pay for the fix. Does anyone live in an area where architects will regularly pay back charges? They don't in the Midwest. We should be able to provide per the drawings and specs and leave it at that. Show me an architect that will stand behind his/her work like we have to and I'll show you one I like.

From contributor W:
"He who fails to plan, is planning to fail."

Prove to an architect you have read his drawings. Save the millworker an awful lot of money if the architect has made a mistake! (He has a disclaimer on his drawings to this effect!) In the end, shop drawings are for the millworker's protection. I have a homeowner that on Friday did not understand why I want their signature on the drawings until they called their architect. (Six edits, 12 rooms, different designs, colors, materials.) I require signoffs on drawings and get paid for them. If the homeowner wants to save the money, I stamp their drawings with my disclaimer. That usually changes their mind. I am a small shop. The dues I pay to be a member of the AWI have been worth every penny on this issue alone.

Won’t KCDw do 2D face elevation, top view and cross sections, and allow for the posting of text?

From contributor B:
If they don't make a mistake and we build per his plans, then everything is okay. A signoff by the arch often isn't worth the paper it is written on. If you don't provide what he thinks you should, then you pay. I recently replaced an entire job of drawer slides that the architect approved but the owner didn't like. It's not my fault that the arch didn't confer with the owner. Guess who paid? I did.

From contributor U:
Shop drawings do two things. They prove to the architect, GC, site super, client and other trades involved that you are going to build something that aligns with their work and performs the function set forth in the original design. And more important to them, it limits their liability. If what you build falls off the wall and kills someone, then they get to point at you, for the way you built or secured it.

We once built an elliptical lighting structure, 12' wide 6' deep and 11" tall, to hold 12 lights and stainless steel signage hanging at an 11.67 degree angle to level. The architect's drawings showed plan, elevation and section, but neglected to refer to how we were to hang this thing 10' off the ground from a decoratively uneven concrete ceiling. Other than 3 vertical lines terminating before the ceiling. The shop drawings had to have an engineer's stamp, at our initiative and cost, detailing how many, and what gauge, threaded rods and nuts welded to steel plates would hold it up.

Commercial work is, by definition, out in the public and takes more abuse. And therefore needs to be built accordingly.

AutoCAD in 2D is what we used to draw them. It's also acceptable to hand draw them. They just want confirmation you're on the same page as them, and it's not their fault the thing collapsed and killed someone. How you build should be AWI or AWMAC (here in Canada) standard already. It's like the building code, just strong enough that it won't fall down.

Read the fine print - they'll also want an extended guarantee.

From contributor B:
Architects by definition were the master builders. They should draw and specify all. The engineering of your above connection should have been borne by them, but then they would have to take responsibility for it. We can't have that.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for all the discussion. I am always finding things that won't work/pass code and suggesting the fix. I don't get paid for that even though it saves others money in the long run. If I miss something, I pay. One hand should wash the other but it doesn't. Only once did the architect firm pony up on a blunder that I know of.

KCDw will print a basic elevation and plan view, one per page, and if you want it to be to scale you must adjust to a specific printer. A large cab run will fill a page while a small run will look lost on a page. Notes (text) are cumbersome and must be typed every time (no copy and paste of anything that I know of). I don't think cross sections are available; I could be wrong. I know it sees it in 3D, but often does not reflect reality in the elevation.

Contributor U, in AutoCAD 2D, you are drawing it at least twice, right? Every change at least twice? And still not getting manufacturer info.

From contributor U:
Adjustments are adjustments regardless of program or pencil sharpness.

For sales to residential I prefer 3D. But changes through scaling throw off material thickness and rail and stile sizes. At least in 2D I can go in, change what I need to, save as "original" revised1.dwg and still have the starting drawing without eating as much memory on my network.

From contributor D:
Read the spec book and get after that project, with or without CAD...

From the original questioner:
Again, we know what they (architects) want and what the drawings are like. I am hoping for that elusive cost effective and simple way to provide an acceptable product. No more than we have to, and no less. As with most of us (I assume), I would rather spend as little time behind the computer as I can, and put more effort into selling/producing value added cabinetry.

In my competitive marketplace, it appears that drawings are given basically for free. Now please don't jump on me. I know the cost is "in there" somewhere, but it seems that if I take out engineering, drawing, site measurement time, etc. and just price hard goods (cabinets!), we are competitive. Or, it could just be a percentage coincidence.

It has been said many times, and many ways, the customer will pay us a rate for our stuff. They don't care and won't pay for all the other stuff it took us to get there. They don't care how many times I pick up and put down their door (or get behind a computer) - they are only going to pay $X for it.

From contributor O:
Having been on both sides of commercial work, the submitter and submittee, I can attest to the fact that just about every purchased piece of a commercial job that involves specified materials for which any engineering is required, requires shop drawing submittals.

Even packages for which the materials are essentially catalogued items, made for stock, and not built on a per-job basis - those packages require the submittal of catalog cuts and drawings.

The advice given earlier about understanding clearly what kind of minimum information needs to be put on paper, and submitting only those few things, is very apropos here.

Find and use some easy to learn 2D package with good cut and paste capabilities, ease of dimensioning, and the ability to paste in library items you can resize as needed, and you should be good to go.

From contributor T:
What are shop drawings really for? They are for your production. You need to produce a set of drawings that you can use in your shop and not a set of drawings that look like copies of the architect's drawings. Your drawings also need to explain the installation of the final product to your installers. If you produce drawings for submittal purposes, you will always have to finish the drawings once you get your approval so they can be run through your company's processes. Try to complete your shop drawings, including all information relevant to your processes, before you submit them.

I have been in the business for close to 35 years and I always try to convince companies that their shop drawings are for their use and they send out those drawings for approval. As someone already posted, the architect's stamp is pretty meaningless as they assume no responsibility for anything on your drawings. Their review is for design intent and compliance only.

Produce drawings that work for your shop, not what somebody else wants to see.

From contributor D:
Use your technical drawing skills, the best that you have in stock! The CSI standard format presents an awful lot... I reiterate, "read the spec book."

From contributor Y:
I agree. Isn't it odd that nobody else even mentioned technical drawing? Somewhere along the way they started pushing CAD and forgot all about plain old drafting. In my opinion, it's much more important to get the correct information on the drawing no matter what method you use.