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How to Track and Manage Submittals [Free Downloads]

Steven Peterson
Published Apr 23, 2024

Getting submittals approved is one of the most critical tasks on a construction project because construction tasks can’t begin without approved submittals.

For instance, a delay in getting the structural steel shop drawings approved delays the fabrication and installation of the steel and all subsequent tasks. If these delays push the installation of the exterior finishes into the winter, the project cost will increase as productivity decreases and additional weather protection is needed. To meet the project’s budget and schedule, GCs need an effective process to get submittals approved quickly.

We've created a free submittal log template and submittal letter template for you to use as you build your process. 

Download the Submittal Log Template (Google Sheets)

Downlod the Submittal Log Template (Excel)

Download the Submittal Letter Sample (Google Doc)

Download the Submittal Letter Sample (Word)

In this article we'll walk you through how to submit construction submittals and avoid delays in your project.

Key Takeaways

  • Submittals are used in the construction industry to communicate to the owners how the GC plans to construct the project.
  • A critical aspect of good construction management is for GCs to establish procedures for identifying and tracking submittals through their approval.
  • A submittal log is a valuable tool for managing the submittal process.

Overview of Construction Submittals

A project’s contract documents (blueprints and specs) often allow general contractors to determine the construction processes and select some materials. For example, the construction documents may specify a product from a specific manufacturer and allow the GC to use approved equals. To ensure that these decisions are consistent with the design intent, the design team often requires GCs to provide submittal packages with information about how they plan to approach the project’s construction. The design team reviews and often approves the construction submittals to ensure that the project owners get what the construction contract requires. Common types of submittals include:

  • Product data providing detailed information about the products to be used in the construction project. This submittal document should show that the proposed products meet the product specifications in the design documents and may include the manufacturer’s certifications for the materials. This is particularly important when GCs propose to use “or equal products.
  • Material data for materials (like soils and concrete) to be used on the job site. The construction documents may also require material samples to be submitted for testing and inspection.
  • Product samples and mockups showing how the finished products will look. Mockups are used to ensure that the installation procedures can meet the project’s quality requirements.
  • Shop drawings and engineering calculations showing how the GC plans to fabricate materials (such as structural steel, trusses, and rebar) off-site and assemble them on-site.
  • Manufacturer’s warranties and operation and maintenance manuals for the equipment installed on the project.

The Construction Submittal Process

The requirements for the construction submittal process are often found in Section 01 33 00 Submittal Procedures of the specs. This section establishes the workflow for the submittal review and approval process, including the length of the review period, the types of reviews, and the procedures for amending and resubmitting submittals. It also identifies the identification, content, and format of the submittals, the use of standard submittal forms, and the requirements for a submittal log. GCs should carefully read this section, as submittals that do not meet its requirements may be returned without review and will have to be resubmitted. Change orders extending the construction time are seldom given for submittal delays that could have been avoided by the GC exercising proper care.

The required submittals are found in the individual spec sections and are often listed under the “Submittals” heading near the front of the section. Additional submittals may be buried in the specification’s text. The entire section should be read carefully. The reader should look for any submittal requirements, as missing one may delay the project. As submittals are identified, they should be recorded and tracked in the submittal log.

The preparation and approval of submittals is time-consuming so the project management team should include a submittal schedule in the construction schedule to ensure that submittals do not delay construction. This schedule should prioritize the submittals with the shortest lead times to ensure they are completed first. When team members realize that a submittal will delay construction, they should contact the designers, suppliers, and subcontractors to see if there is a way to streamline the process. The submittals should be tracked on the project schedule just as the construction work is tracked.

The Submittal Transmittal Letter

A submittal transmittal letter or cover sheet accompanies the submittals. The GC should read the Submittals section of the project’s General Requirements to determine the requirements but here are some of the things that should be included in the letter:

Contractor’s Name: The name of the general contractor. When suppliers or subcontractors prepare submittals, they should include a transmittal letter with their names.

Submittal Number: A unique number should be used for each submittal. This number is used to identify and track each submittal. These numbers are often assigned sequentially, so missing submittals can be easily spotted.

Project or Contract Number and Name: These are assigned by the owner, making it easy for the submittal to be routed to the person handling the project.

Date: The date the submittal transmittal letter was prepared.

Description: A summary of the materials and work covered by the submittal, including the scope of work associated with the submittal.

Source: Information identifying where the submittal requirement is found in the project plans and specs so that the reviewing parties can quickly find them.

Attachments: A list of the documents that accompany the letter.

Comments: Any additional information needed to understand and process the submittal.

Contact Name, Number, and Email: This information should be for the person handling the submittal so that the design team can quickly get answers to questions about it.

Here is a sample submittal transmittal letter, which can be used as a template for developing one for a specific project.

💥 Download the Submittal Letter Sample (Google Doc)

How to Use a Submittal Log

A submittal log tracks and manages submittals and ensures they aren’t lost. When awarded a contract, the construction team should read through the specs, identifying and recording all submittal requirements in the submittal log. This list should be developed during design when the GC is involved in the preconstruction phase.

Submittals can be grouped when they have similar requirements and will be prepared by a single stakeholder. For example, the electrical specs may require submitting product data for several components. In this case, we recommend listing the product data on one line of the log and each component on a separate line under the product data submittal. This helps ensure the submittal is complete.

Once the construction team has a complete list, the submittals may be incorporated into the schedule, and the team can request that suppliers and subs prepare them. The team needs to track the submittals from the initial request through the distribution of the approved submittals.

GCs should check the Submittal Procedures section of the specs, as there may be additional project requirements. In our submittal log template you'll see these fields:

Submittal Number: A unique number assigned to the submittal.

Submittal Type: Identifies the information that needs to be delivered with the submittal. When multiple submittal types are required, they should be listed on separate lines. The template includes the following submittal types: product information, product samples, material data, material samples, mockups, shop drawings, engineering calculations, certifications, warranty, operation and maintenance, and other.

Description: A brief description of the submittal.

Source: The location on the plans and specs where the submittal requirement is found.

Responsible Party: The person, supplier, or subcontractor responsible for preparing the submittal.

Review Type: The type of review required by the contract documents. The template includes the following review types: review and approve, review and comment, for information only, and other.

Priority: The priority for processing the submittal. Submittals for work performed in the early construction phases are typically given a higher priority than those in later phases so that the design team can focus on processing them. The template includes the following priorities: urgent, high, medium, and low.

Due Date: The latest date the submittal may be approved to avoid delaying construction. When establishing this date, the GC must allow time after the approval to review and distribute the submittal.

Status: The status of the submittal. The template includes the following states: requested by GC, received by GC, approved by GC, submitted to owner, approved, approved except as noted, revise and resubmit, rejected, reviewed with no comments, reviewed with comments, and submitted for information only (no further action is needed).

Dates: The dates track the submittal’s progress through the process and show when a submittal has been stuck at one stage for too long so the project team can follow up on it. The template includes the following date fields: requested by GC, received by GC, approved by GC, submitted to owner, returned to GC, and sent to subcontractor or supplier. If a supplier or subcontractor is not involved in the submittal, the unused fields should be marked as “not applicable.”

Comments: Any notes or comments about the submittal, such as notes about following up on a late submittal.

💥 Download the Submittal Log Template (Google Sheets) 

Final Thoughts

One of the most important keys to a construction project’s success is getting the submittals approved so the construction is not held up. Submittal delays can quickly blow the budget and derail the construction schedule. Using a submittal log to track and manage the submittal process reduces the risk of delays, giving GCs more time to construct the project.

Steven Peterson

Steven taught construction management, estimating, and accounting at Weber State University for 22 years. Before teaching, he spent 10 years working for small and medium-sized general contractors and now works as a consultant. Steven is the author of Construction Accounting and Financial Management, Estimating in Building Construction, Construction Estimating Using Excel, and Pearson’s Pocket Guide to Construction Management.

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