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Specifications - Part of Contract

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SPECIFICATIONS - PART OF CONTRACT A properly drawn set of specifications, with accompanying plans, is a part of the contract as a legal instrument, and performs the function of elaborating just what specific things the con tractor has to do and just how he has to do them. The specifications should contain a reference to the contract, and the contract should mention the specifications, in order that they shall be taken together as forming the parts of one en tire agreement. So far as referred to, the speci fications become constructively a part of the con tract. While in ordinary practice the specifica tions are made a part of the contract, and are with it signed and sealed, they are not in the legal form of a contract, because the burden of performance falls entirely upon one party. In the contract the owner agrees to pay certain sums for the performance of certain work by the contractor; but, under the specifications; the owner is a passive party, and for that reason practically all clauses of the specifications are directed to the contractor and are statements of his duties. There are practically no clauses in the specifications that require anything of the owner.

General Faults.

The man who draws up specifications finds himself between two difficul ties. On the one band, there is the probability 65 of making a specification too verbose, too cum bersome, and too unwieldy; and on the other, in the attempt to eliminate this fault, there is the probability of leaving out something which might be desirable and which is necessary to make the instrument intelligible.

A common fault in the writing of these docu ments is caused by the desire of the writer to show those who are going to work under them his vast knowledge of the subject covered by the specifications. He puts in many things that are not necessary to the proper guidance of the con tractor, and in many cases things that handicap the contractor in his work and bring about no compensating good. When this is the case, the contractor is liable to think that the specifica tions are antagonistic to his advantage, and he will act accordingly and be disposed upon the slightest pretext to attempt to "even up." Another grave fault is the placing of too many restrictions upon those who are going to do the work. The contractor should be re stricted as little as possible, the only require ments being that he must confine himself to good practice, and must, in the end, show proper and acceptable results.

The owner wants to get just as much for his money as possible—wants the best workmanship and materials because he is paying his good money for them—while the contractor, on the other hand, even though he may have no idea of skimping and no desire to skimp in any way, is working for his livelihood and wants to do the work as cheaply as may be consistent with ac ceptable performance, and so make as great a profit as possible.

If the specifications are clearly drawn when submitted to the contractor, he can make his bid accordingly; and no matter how severe the re quirements may be, his bid will make allow ances for the difficulties imposed by them. If, on the other hand, a specification is capable of sev eral interpretations, or if it is stated in such a way that there are "holes in it," the contractor will be led to take chances in his bid. This is especially true if the contractor has done much work under the architect, and thus knows how closely or how loosely he will be held to the let ter of the specifications. Bidding under such specifications works a hardship on the contrac tor who is unfamiliar with the architect. No matter how strict the specifications may be, and how well known to the contractor the architect's peculiarities are, the personal equation should have to be taken into consideration as little as possible. Remember that a well-defined speci fication is essential to a fair contract.

In the following pages, before giving a com plete specification for a building, some examples are given which have been chosen from speci fications used on many different contracts. They include examples of good as well as of bad prac tice. Here, for instance, is a specification for concrete which is very commonly seen: "All mixing must be thoroughly done, and must be to the satisfaction of the architect." One might say at the start that the two parts of this specification are redundant; but to the contractor it does not appear so. He will mix the mortar in what is from his point of view a most thorough manner, by turning it two or three times, and, after adding the stone, will turn the mortar, say, two times before loading it or shoveling it into place; and he counts this last shoveling as helping in the mixing. This manner of mixing is what he figured on in ma king up his bid. But the inspector may say that the sand and cement must be turned six times, and, after the ballast or coarse aggregate is added, the concrete must be turned four times before leaving the board. He thereby adds to the cost as estimated by the contractor 200 to 300 per cent for the board work on the mortar, and 200 per cent to the mixing in of the ballast, and thus makes the actual mixing cost perhaps twice as much as the contractor figured on. The inspector may or may not be wrong in his in terpretation of what "thoroughly done" means; but in either case controversy arises, and sus picions and hard feelings are created.

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