How to Write a Scope of Work for a Construction Project

When an owner decides to start a new construction project, the planning process is the first phase that takes place. Planning is a vital part of a business in the construction industry. Having a plan for a construction project aids owners to GCs to subcontractors, especially commercial subcontractors handling large-scale projects. A plan that provides work details and expectations for each member of your team is called a scope of work or SOW. Let’s take a closer look at how to write a scope of work for a construction project.

What is a Scope of Work? 

How to Write a Scope of Work for a Construction Project
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A construction project scope of work, sometimes called a statement of work, is like a playbook for every project. The scope of work tells a story. It includes the work to be done on a project, how the workers should complete the job, and who on the team is responsible for completing the different tasks on the project. A formal scope of work should be clear and concise, simple enough for a construction manager or worker to understand. Every member working on a construction project should be trained on how to write a scope of work for a construction project. 

Elements of an SOW

Project Overview: A brief statement providing a summary of the project, highlighting key objectives, and a short project description.

Project Scope: This portion should include all goals outlined in the construction contract. The project scope should state all quantifiable data, including budget and technical specifications. The project scope is also an acceptable place to list project milestones, as well.

Project Deliverables: This should outline all project objectives and targets. This section is designed to provide all relevant information that a contractor needs to understand the project’s requirements.

Project Schedule: The project schedule profiles the projected timeline for the construction project. The schedule should include delivery dates and the overall length of the entire project.

Project Management: This section of the SOW should detail the functions of the project administration. Project management entails payment information, any changes to the original contract, and legal requirements. Specific contract administration and time management details can be listed in the section too.  

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Tips for Defining the Scope of Work

1. Use obvious language

As mentioned previously, the scope of work needs to be clear and concise. Leaving room for interpretation can increase the risk of claims, litigation, and other related problems. Remember, not everyone involved in the contract may know the construction jargon you and your team are familiar with using. A section dedicated to terms and conditions or a glossary paves the way for a clear understanding of the terms used in the contract. 

2. Break down the project

Outline your project in broad terms, maybe start with the location and overarching project goals. Then, create a high-level model of who will be working on the project and what types of subcontractors will you need to hire. Next, think about the timing for everyone involved in the project and how different kinds of subs will overlap throughout the project. Breaking down the project by who, what, and when on a very granular level will help bring clarity to the scope of work.

3. Solidify objectives and deliverables 

The project manager must verify the objectives and deliverables stated in the contract. Objectives and deliverables comprise the foundation of a scope of work and need to be defined to keep a project on track. When a project steers off course, it affects timelines and budgets. Defining responsible parties for each task or objective BEFORE a project begins is an integral part of preventing delays and costly changes.

4. Visuals designs, diagrams 

Visual models of the project design can also define objectives and deliverables. All types of subcontractors, from framing to drywall, should be able to view project designs and diagrams. After all, they are the ones who will be carrying out the work drawn out in the design phase of a project. Subcontractors are masters at their profession and need to have access to design documents. Through BIM software, subcontractors can virtually access designs and building models, while architects and designers can show what the project would look like at each milestone.

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5. Signoffs

As the project manager finalizes the SOW, they should have contractors sign off on each objective for the project. Having signoffs on the individual goals and milestones strengthens the original contract. When everyone signs off on the benchmarks, they are saying that they agree with them. That way, if someone wishes to change the scope, they’ll have to submit a new deliverable or change order. Plus, signing off on individual objectives and milestones protects all parties. Therefore, when everyone agrees to the pillars and goals, it protects parties in case a dispute arises. 

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Smart Goals

Specific – Be specific about the goal you want to accomplish. Use the ‘w’ questions (who, what, when, where, and why) to help define and clarify your goals.

Measurable – Using metrics to help determine if you’ve met your goals is a great way to track tangible progress. Setting milestones with specific, quantifiable goals for each stage of the project can help indicate if the project is on track.

Achievable – Goals need to be reasonably achievable to inspire motivation instead of discouragement. Make sure to access your team’s capabilities to ensure your goals are attainable. 

Relevant – Make sure your goals make sense with a broader objective. For example, if the goal is to complete a project, make sure the goal aligns with your company’s purpose.

Timely – Providing a targeted timeline is imperative, especially when working on construction projects. Timing should include a start and end date and any milestones you reach along the way. Creating time-based constraints generates a sense of urgency and helps keep the project on track and workers motivated. 


Before creating a scope of work, you’ll want to find the right template that will fit your upcoming project. Check with your company if they prefer a specific format or provide a standardized template for a scope of work. Look at an example of a previous scope that your company successfully used to complete a project to guide you.

Creating a scope of work for your next construction project is only half the battle, making sure your team has easy access to view the scope is the other. Hosting your statement of work in a centralized location through a project management software provides online documentation so that employees can refer back to it throughout the project. If updates or changes to the scope of work are required, amendments to the original scope live on your project management platform for everyone to view.

Therefore, documenting not only your scope of work, but all construction documents are crucial to keeping records available and ready to view.


The scope of work needs to explain all the work involved in every step of a project. The elements should include a project overview, scope, deliverables, schedule, and management. Using the various tips we provided, combined with SMART goal planning, you now have the tools to communicate with your team on how to write a scope of work for a construction project. 

Contact us for an eSUB CLOUD demo and to learn more about how project management software developed for subcontractors can streamline your processes for more profits and less chaos.

FAQs: How to Write a Scope of Work for a Construction Project

What is a Scope of Work (SOW) for a construction project?

A Scope of Work (SOW) for a construction project is a comprehensive document that outlines the details and expectations of the work to be performed. It serves as a playbook for the project, defining tasks, responsibilities, project goals, and technical specifications for all team members involved.

What are the essential elements of an SOW for a construction project?

The key elements of an SOW include:

  • Project Overview: A brief summary of the project, highlighting objectives and providing a project description.
  • Project Scope: Details on goals, budget, and technical specifications.
  • Project Deliverables: An outline of project objectives and targets.
  • Project Schedule: A timeline for the construction project, including delivery dates.
  • Project Management: Information on project administration, payment details, contract changes, and legal requirements.

Why is using clear language important when writing an SOW?

Clear and concise language in an SOW is crucial to avoid misunderstandings and potential issues. Using plain language helps ensure that all parties involved, even those not well-versed in construction terminology, can understand the document. It reduces the risk of claims, disputes, and litigation.

How can I define the objectives and deliverables in the SOW effectively?

To solidify objectives and deliverables in the SOW:

  • Verify the objectives and deliverables in the contract.
  • Define responsible parties for each task or objective before the project begins.
  • Having all parties sign off on individual goals and milestones helps strengthen the contract and protect all parties in case of disputes or changes to the scope.

What are SMART Goals, and why are they important in an SOW?

SMART Goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely objectives. They are important in an SOW because they provide clear, quantifiable, and realistic targets. Using SMART Goals helps track progress, align goals with the project’s purpose, and set a defined timeline for each stage of the project, ensuring it stays on track.

How can I ensure that my team has easy access to the SOW for reference during the project?

Hosting the SOW in a centralized location through project management software is an effective way to provide easy access for your team. It allows employees to refer back to the document throughout the project and ensures that any updates or changes to the SOW are readily available for all team members to view.

What is the importance of documenting construction documents, including the SOW?

Documenting construction documents, including the SOW, is crucial for keeping records readily available and organized. It helps ensure that all project-related information is easily accessible, making it easier to manage the project efficiently and make informed decisions.

How can project management software benefit subcontractors in managing their construction projects?

Project management software designed for subcontractors can streamline processes, increase efficiency, and reduce chaos in construction projects. It provides online documentation, facilitates communication, and allows for easy access to critical project information, making it easier to complete projects successfully.

How do I use the provided tips and SMART goal planning to write an effective SOW for a construction project?

You can use the provided tips and SMART goal planning to create an SOW by following clear language, breaking down the project, defining objectives and deliverables, incorporating visual designs and diagrams, and obtaining sign-offs. This approach helps you communicate effectively with your team and ensures a well-structured SOW for your construction project.