what is a submittal

What is a Submittal? How it Works in Construction

What is a Submittal?

Submittals in construction are documents, samples, and other information that must be delivered to architects, engineers, consultants, and more on a project before work begins.

These are essential for any project because projects run on specifications and plans. This means that subcontractors can use the drawings provided to determine what materials they will use. The project manager or construction manager adds these to the Project Manual. The Project Manual can be quite extensive because it includes important information like drawings, selected products, quality assurance and testing information, documentation, and more.

What is the Purpose of Submittals?

Submittals facilitate efficient project coordination by helping teams build smoother workflows, ultimately leading to successful project delivery. These documents, from material samples to technical data, serve as the blueprint for translating design ideas into reality.

By providing detailed information upfront, submittals become the tool that streamlines communication among architects, engineers, contractors, trade contractors, and suppliers, helping to avoid costly mistakes and delays down the line. They also enable thorough review and approval of essential components before construction starts, ensuring compliance with specifications and standards and alignment between multiple stakeholders.

Common Types of Submittals

There are many types of documents and more that make up submittals. The engineers or architects might want the subcontractors to follow different standards, meaning the information needed will differ based on the type of submittal and the standards used.

However, these are the more common submittals and information required.


Samples are the product examples that will be used in construction. Usually, contractors select them, and the construction manager takes them for analysis. These could be specific samples of soil, paint, or more. The samples offer the engineers and designers a chance to make final aesthetic choices for the whole project.

Sometimes, it will actually be a mock-up. A recent and famous example of a mock-up would be the 30ft border wall mock-ups erected in San Diego. While these were created to showcase whatever specific contractors would do in multiple scenarios, given the contract, the principle is the same. Mock-ups are physical examples of what might be constructed.

Product Data:

Product data is technical information about the materials usually provided by the manufacturer. Usually, it can include dimensions, materials, characteristics for use and performance, warranty, and more. But it can also be product manuals, blueprints, and other documentation. These submittals are more informational since they help the construction manager, engineers, and architects determine if the products proposed will work with the overall design and standards of the project. 

Shop Drawings:

Shop drawings, blueprints, diagrams, drawings, schedules, and others are classified as shop drawings. These shop drawings illustrate the work a subcontractor would do and its specifications. The standards will differ based on the project and who is managing it. However, whatever is needed should be included in the contract.

Construction Submittal Process

Submittals are a helpful set of documents that ensures all project participants are accountable and stay on track. While there are multiple construction submittal templates, it is vital to understand the process to find out which template works for any project.

Here are the most common submittal example steps for preparation and execution.

what is a submittal


The pre-construction phase of a project is just as essential to the submittal process as any other phase. The pre-construction conference generally allows everyone to ask questions and discuss the project by bringing everyone together. The submittal process can and should be clarified at this meeting because it ensures all stakeholders understand the standards and expectations. This phase is essential because it makes delays and mistakes less likely and provides everyone with valuable information.


It’s essential to set a submittal schedule. The schedule will help keep the project on track because the architect or engineer has only so many hours to ensure that the materials used will be stable for the project. Since not every submittal needs to be completed before construction starts, this helps space out their time and guarantee projects are successful. They don’t want to do submittals purely on a first-come, first-served basis, as this would not be the most efficient way to do it. Finally, suppose the engineer or architect doesn’t approve of the materials. In that case, it allows affected parties to either resubmit it with different materials or give them time to purchase them.

Submittals Prep

With the schedule set, subcontractors should begin their submittal process. Before they start the process, they need to gather the necessary documentation and samples. It may be a straightforward process, like getting color approval, but there might be a more complex approval process in other areas. Regardless, everyone must submit all required documentation outlined at the pre-construction meeting.


The review process is done on the architect’s or engineer’s side. They will look at the materials list and all supporting documentation to determine the effect of the materials on the project. This is done to prevent issues down the line, protect the structural integrity of the building, and prevent rework and delays. Once the submittal is approved or disapproved,  the contractor or subcontractor can resubmit it with new materials, or they can get to work.

Submittals and RFIs, What’s the Difference?

Submittals and Requests for Information (RFIs) have different but complementary roles.

Submittals are usually the documents or samples contractors and suppliers send for approval before construction activities start. Their role is vital to ensure compliance with project specifications. RFIs, on the other hand, are inquiries that seek clarification or additional information about project plans, particular specifications, or designs. Submittals focus on materials and product due diligence, and RFIs are simply information requests for broader project-related queries to ensure clarity and minimize potential errors.

While they are similar, it is essential to acknowledge that they have different purposes and shouldn’t be used interchangeably. Submittals are about the quality and compliance of materials, while RFIs are critical for teams to improve communications and update any project’s status and complexity.

The Right Software Like eSUB Cloud Can be a Big Help

Subcontractors are turning to construction management software to simplify document management, improve change order process, and upgrade the collaboration between the field and office— improving productivity and saving a lot of money and time.

eSUB’s cloud-based project management solution was designed specifically for construction subcontractors, giving them a real-time view and account of their documents and processes, and enabling them to manage it all within an easy-to-use platform. Our mobile app allows you to gather information, fill out a report, digitally sign it, and immediately share it right from the field to improve the submittal process.

See a quick testimonial video where contractors describe how eSUB Cloud helps their businesses.

If you would like to improve your submittal process and maximize the benefits of an innovative construction management software, schedule a demo to learn how eSUB can help.