How to Write a Scope of Work (SOW)

Learn how to properly write a detailed Scope of Work to receive bids from your contractors.
How to Write a Scope of Work

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House Flipper
Why create a Scope of Work?
Creating a detailed Scope of Work document for your rehab project is critical because it establishes a clear project plan that your Contractors can use to provide accurate Bid Proposals.  If you don't tell your Contractor exactly what work needs to be included in their Bids, it leaves too much room for interpretation which can result in Change Orders, conflicts and disagreements.

Reason #1 More Accurate Contractor Proposals

Eliminates the guesswork for the Contractor so they can provide a more accurate estimate.

Reason #2 Makes Bid Comparison Easier

Ensures that all of your Contractor's are bidding the same scope so bids can be more easily compared.

Reason #3 Minimizes Project Disputes

Ensures that you and your Contractor are on the same page which should minimize disputes.

Reason #4 Minimizes Change Orders

With a detailed SOW document you are less likely to have expensive Change Orders.

Reason #5 Maximizes Profit

With less Change Orders you will naturally make more profit on your projects!

Documenting the Scope of Work

Step #1 Property Walkthrough

In order to create a detailed Scope of Work on the project you will need to walkthrough the property and make a list of all of the repairs needed on the project.

Here's what you'll need to help make a list of the Repairs:

Step #2 Take Photos or Video

One of the best ways to document the repairs is to take pictures or record a video as you walk through the property.

Taking photos & video will help you remember the condition of the property and help you create a more accurate Scope of Work once you get back to the office.  
FlipperForce House Flipping Software Founder Head Shot
Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words, but a video is worth a million!

Step #3 Take Measurements

As you walk-through the property you will also want to take measurements of the room sizes and materials that you are going to be replacing.  

Make a sketch of the existing floor plan and take measurements of the different rooms to help you develop plans and drawings of the property.

Writing the Scope of Work

Once you walk through the property and have compiled a detailed list of repairs, you need to put this information into a written Scope of Work document that can be given to your Contractors so they can provide an accurate Bid Proposal for the project.

Your Scope of Work Document should include as much detail as possible to avoid confusion and prevent disputes and change orders once construction starts.

Here are the 4 elements you should include in your Scope of Work Document:

4 Components of a Strong Scope of Work Document

  1. Detailed List of Repairs by Category
  2. Materials (designating who's responsible for purchasing)
  3. Property Photos
  4. Plans/Drawings

#1 Detailed List of Repairs by Category

Your Detailed List of Repairs should be organized by each Trade Category (ex. Demolition, Framing, Rough Electrical, Rough Plumbing, Drywall, etc.) so that your Contractor can provide a price breakdown for each Category.

Requesting bids by Category helps:
  1. Better understand how much you are spending and where we are spending our money on the project.
  2. Better estimate and budget repair costs for future projects.
  3. Create a Payment Schedule that can be used to pay the Contractors based upon work completed.
Your List of Repairs should be as detailed as possible describing the work that needs to be completed to leave no room for misinterpretation.  

Kitchen Cabinetry Installation Example:

Your List of Repairs should be as detailed as possible describing the work that needs to be completed to leave no room for misinterpretation.  
Scope Items
  1. Install kitchen cabinets per the Kitchen design attached.
  2. Install kitchen cabinets, base, upper & pantry cabinets.
  3. Install kitchen cabinet range hood cabinet.
  4. Install crown molding, base molding, filler panels, end panels, trim pieces & miscellaneous cabinet components.
  5. Install cabinet door pulls.
Miscellaneous Items
  1. Provide all necessary shims and fasteners as required to install cabinets.
Blanket statements such as 'Install All Kitchen Cabinets & Components' help cover yourself in case you miss any of the details, but it also helps to be as descriptive as possible so the Contractor fully understands the Scope of Work.

In the example above, if you just stated 'Install All Kitchen Cabinets & Components', there could be uncertainty about the other 'components' you need installed such as the Crown Molding or Cabinet Door Pulls.  If the Contractor wasn't anticipating installing the Crown Molding or Cabinet Door pulls this could lead to a dispute or an unanticipated costly Change Order.

#2 Materials List

Your list of repairs for each Category should also designate who is responsible for purchasing the materials.

There are 2 different classes of materials that your Contractor will install on your project:
  1. Rough Materials
  2. Finish Materials

Rough Materials

Rough Materials are generally materials that are 'rough on the eyes' that are typically hidden behind the walls or used to install the finish materials.  
  1. MEP Rough-In Materials (wiring, conduit, piping, ductwork, etc.)
  2. Rough Framing (studs & drywall)
  3. Installation Materials used to Install Finish Materials (mortar, screws/nails, etc.)

Finish Materials

Finish Materials are the wall finishes, floor finishes and fixtures that you can see:
  1. Cabinets/Countertops
  2. Floor Finishes (carpet, floor tile, wood flooring)
  3. Wall Finishes (paint, wall tile, woodwork/trim)
  4. Fixtures (light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, etc.)
House Flipper
What materials should the Contractor provide, and what materials should you provide?
Generally, your Contractor should be responsible for furnishing and installing all of the Rough Materials.  The Contractor should be responsible for purchasing the studs, drywall, conduit, piping, fittings, screws and fasteners for the project.

Trust me, you do not want to be responsible for selecting and purchasing hundreds of different plumbing fittings for your project!  You will be at the Home Depot for hours and you still won't buy the right thing...Leave that technical stuff to the Pros!

The real question is whether you want to purchase the Finish Materials or have the Contractor include the Finish Materials in their proposal?

If You Purchase the Finish Materials

Purchasing the Finish Materials for the project gives you more time and flexibility to select the Finish Materials, but ultimately comes with more responsibility to make sure the materials are delivered on-time.
  1. More Time to Make Material Choices -  You don't have to have your material selections picked out upfront, which gives you more time to pick the materials and shop for deals.
  2. More Flexibility - You can be more flexible about making material selections and changes without requiring the Contractor to revise his proposal or issue a Change Order.
  3. No Contractor Markup - If you purchase the materials you could potentially save on Contractor mark-up on the materials.
  4. More Responsibility - If you are purchasing the materials, you are responsible for having the correct amount of materials purchased and delivered on-time so the project schedule is not delayed.

If the contractor purchases the finish materials

If you decide to have your Contractor provide the Finish Materials you will need to have your materials selected upfront so that the Contractor can research the material costs and include those costs in their Bid Proposal.  

If you don't have the materials selected upfront, you can also have your Contractor include material allowances in their proposal.

For Example:
  • Bathroom Floor Tile:  $3/sf Material Allowance
  • Shower Wall Tile: $2/sf Material Allowance

# 3 Photos

Some things are just hard to explain, so sometimes it's best to provide a picture to help the Contractor visualize the repair and provide an accurate Bid proposal.  

Pictures are especially helpful when you plan on repairing items instead of fulling replacing them.  

For example if there was a missing roof shingle, you could take a picture of the repair to show the Contractor the condition & scale of the repair.

# 4 Floor Plans & Drawings

If your rehab project is a complete gut that involves re-configuring the existing floor plan you need to create drawings to show the changes you are making to the property.

Your Contractor will need 3 Different Plans:
  1. Existing Floor Plan/Demolition Plan
  2. Architectural Plan
  3. MEP Plans (Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing Plan)

Existing Floor Plan & Demolition Floor Plan

It's generally a good idea to create an existing floor plan that shows the current property layout and configuration.  

Once you create the Existing Floor Plan you can create a Demolition Plan which shows which items are being demolished from the property.
House Flip Existing Floor Plan Design

Architectural Floor Plan

The Architectural Floor Plans will be used to show modifications or new additions to the existing floor plan.

​The Architectural Plan should show floor plan modifications, new layouts, cabinet locations, and describe the finishes in each room.
House Flip Architectural Floor PlanHouse Flip Architectural Floor Plan

MEP Plan

MEP (Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing) Plans are used to show modifications or additions to the existing MEP Systems.

For MEP Plans, you do not need to draw up any kind of wiring diagrams, duct work layouts or plumbing risers.  Generally, your MEP Contractor can layout that information on their own.  

Your responsibility is to show the Contractor which fixtures are being relocated and how many new fixtures need to be installed.

Electrical Notes

For electrical you will want to make notes about light fixture re-locations, new light fixtures, switches & outlets.
  • Are existing lights being replaced?
  • Are you relocating any existing light fixtures or switches?
  • Are walls being modified that impact existing wiring/circuits?
  • Are you adding new lights, switches or outlets in a location?​

Plumbing Notes

  • Are existing plumbing fixtures being replaced?
  • Are your relocating any existing plumbing fixture locations?
  • Are you adding new plumbing fixtures?

Mechanical Notes

  • Are walls being modified that impact existing ductwork?
  • Are layouts being modified that impact the air flow of the house?
  • Are you adding any new supply registers/return grilles?
Electrical First Floor PlanElectrical First Floor Plan

Scope of Work Software

​Our Flipper Force House Flipping Software has a Scope of Work Builder tool that you can use to quickly create detailed Scopes of Work, built directly from the Repair Estimate you create with our Rehab Repair Estimator.

Learn More About Our Scope of Work Software

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