Scope of work in construction: a complete guide and examples

Comprehensive guide to construction scope of work. Define objectives, deliverables, responsibilities, and timelines. Access real-world examples and templates for well-defined, transparent projects aligned with client expectations.

Scope of work in construction: a complete guide and examples

Knowing exactly who is responsible for what job is important to navigating the complexity of construction projects. Documentation outlining required work not only provides guidance to workers regarding expectations but ensures that the project will meet its main goals and objectives. Keep reading to learn more about what a scope of work is and what to include in one.

What is a scope of work in construction?

A scope of work (SOW), also known as a statement of work, describes at length what work is required to successfully complete a project. It may be a separate document (attached to a construction agreement), or it may be integrated into the contract with its own designated section.

A scope of work describes the tasks that need to be done, as well as who is responsible for completing them. It creates a foundation for how work will be split up, and sets expectations for each worker’s responsibilities. Enough detail should be included, with obligations clearly communicated, to ensure that all team members are kept in the loop and understand the project’s short to long-term goals.

Projects that lack a scope of work may run into problems like project delays and payment disputes.

When scope of work changes

While developing an initial scope of work in construction is important, they’re not necessarily set in stone. It’s not uncommon to modify them via change orders or partial terminations throughout the project’s life cycle as expectations and needs evolve. Changes happen more frequently when the initial document lacks clarity and detail, causing miscommunications between the many parties involved in a construction project.

Scope creep happens when contractors are asked to conduct work that wasn’t originally included in their contract. Asking contractors to do work outside of their scope can lead to disputes, which is why you must always request a written change order before expanding a worker’s responsibilities.

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What to include in a scope of work

A construction scope of work template should include these general considerations.

A project overview

Start with a statement or description that summarizes the project as a whole, including its purpose, what the finished project will be used for, and all the stakeholders involved. List and define the project’s main goals and objectives, as well as what success will ideally look like by the end.

Expected deliverables

A scope of work in construction should explain the deliverables that workers will be assigned. What smaller tasks will help the project progress and reach its main goals? Enough relevant information should be included so contractors understand the project’s requirements throughout each phase.

A schedule and timeline

While the construction schedule doesn’t have to be finalized (at least in this document), you should have a general idea of the project’s timeline based on the tasks required for the project. Describe when each task is expected to be done so contractors can plan their work around pre-set deadlines.

Defined terminology

Abbreviations and construction industry jargon creates a lack of clarity. While it makes sense to assume that construction professionals will understand what’s being said, stakeholders and other people referencing the scope of work should also have a general understanding of the ideas being conveyed.

Aim for terms that everyone can understand—or if specialized language is used, include a definition with an explanation of its use in context.

Clear wording can also reduce the risk of disputes since it eliminates misunderstandings.

Things to keep in mind

The more detailed a scope of work in construction is, the greater the likelihood of the project’s success. A good scope of work prevents delays, lessens the chances of change orders, and helps construction firms avoid payment disputes. Here are some things to keep in mind when drafting one.

Adding in visualizations can help

Whether it’s drawings, photos, or graphs, visual aids help clear up ambiguity. Defining terminology can go a long way, but words can still be subjectively interpreted, which is why including additional visualizations can help reduce misunderstandings.

Consider, also, visual plans like BIM models, which allow workers a reference to compare project progress to.

Set realistic expectations

The expectations outlined in a scope of work in construction should align with the project’s ambitions, but should still be reasonable enough that goals will actually be met. Overarching goals should be specific enough to provide the information necessary to complete the project.

Specify, for example, the materials and the amount of labor you’ll expect to need for each task. Contractors should be provided with information on what they’ll need to know, such as how much time they’ll have to finish their job.

Make sure all signatures are collected

It may seem like a simple thing, but it can go a long way in preventing disputes.

Each contractor and subcontractor that’s hired should sign off on the scope of work to verify that they’ve read through and understand what’s required of them. It may even help to have them sign when they’ve completed a milestone to confirm the work was completed by them.

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Construction scope of work examples

A scope of work can vary depending on each individual construction project. You may be able to find more generalized construction scope of work templates online, but they can differ in complexity based on how large the project is. Some examples include scope of works for subcontract or public works projects.

A subcontract scope of work is usually found in a separate section of a subcontract agreement, and so some items listed above aren’t usually included.

A public works projects scope of work is not unlike what’s described in this article. It usually starts off by defining terms so everyone involved in the project understands what they’re working on.

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A scope of work in construction is a crucial document, as it outlines the work necessary to successfully complete a project. While it’s a start to managing labor, technological solutions simplify workforce management.

Bridgit Bench is a workforce management solution that makes the job of project managers much easier. Our platform’s organizational dashboard allows users to track project progress and manage construction personnel.

Use workforce intelligence to plan your workforce strategically, retain your top talent, and realize the full potential of your employees. Project intelligence lets you leverage historical project data and make informed staffing decisions.

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Construction scope of work FAQ

What is the difference between a scope of work and a statement of work in construction projects?

While both terms, scope of work and statement of work, are used interchangeably in construction, they can have different meanings depending on the context. Let’s take a closer look. A scope of work refers to a detailed description of the work required for a specific project, such as tasks, deliverables and timelines. A statement of work may include an SOW but will also specify information like terms and conditions, project objectives, and criteria for acceptance. 

How can visual aids improve the clarity of a construction scope of work?

The scope of work may be text-heavy and long; including visual aids such as drawings, photos, or BIM models can help improve the readability of the document. Giving visual representations of the tasks and objectives can reduce potential misunderstandings from text-based descriptions. Making sure everyone is clear about the project’s requirements is a best practice for avoiding scope creep down the line.

How can a scope of work prevent scope creep in a construction project?

Scope creep can derail a project, set you behind, and create an uncomfortable dispute. A well-defined scope of work in construction can offset this risk by providing a solid foundation for outlining the project’s tasks, deliverables, and responsibilities. The SOW serves as a continual reference point for all parties. If work falls outside the agreed-upon scope, then there may be a process for adjusting the scope effectively and with minimal delay.

What role does a scope of work play in dispute resolution?

If there’s a dispute, your agreed-upon scope of work will be the first reference point for both parties. Since SOW’s serve as the contractual basis for the work being performed, reviewing the document is critical. It is a good idea to provide a clear framework for resolving conflicts, including mechanisms for altering the scope of work to avoid scope creep.

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Michel Richer

Michel Richer is the Manager of Content and Product Marketing at Bridgit. He started in the construction industry early on with a local restoration company. Michel is driven to propel the construction industry forward by helping to eliminate outdated, ineffective processes.

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