Letter to the Architect

What happened to the quality in Architectural prints? Where did it go & when will it return?

I have been in the Painting Business practically all my life. My dad was a Paint Subcontractor and he brought me into the business at an early age. Since the time that my dad past away, I have worked as a paint Estimator for several Painting Contactors (large & small). That is until 2009 when I started my own Estimating Business, Blueprint Estimating Service. Today, we have customers that are spread over the U.S. & we use architectural prints created by Architects in many parts of the US. Unfortunately, most of them share the common thread of ‘Poor Quality’.

No matter where you are in the U.S., there is no denying the Estimating Process today has come a long way from where we were 30-40 years ago.

However, it is obvious to us at Blueprint Estimating, not all changes made to the estimating process are positive. It is evident that many of the Architects of today have digressed with creating prints today.
Seems prints today simply lack the quality of yesteryear.

Review the Pros & Cons below for what we have experienced and decide if you would agree.


  • Prints went digital. Paper prints were replaced with digital format. Not only does this change provide a quicker access to prints it also allows prints to be taken off with an estimating software for more accuracy. Digital prints also cut the time & cost it takes to distribute project documents to the multiple trades bidding the project.
  • Innovation with estimating software’s cuts tremendous time in the bid process. Estimating Software’s today, provide a more accurate bid & gives us the ability to make revisions to the bid faster than we ever could before. Software today provide the ability to create reporting that can assist you in running a project from beginning to end.


  • Prints went digital. Yes this can also be a con. Although prints are easier to access being digital, it also allows the Architect to be lazy and issue one file containing prints for all trades in the project. As to paper prints forced Architects to label each sheet with page number and title.
  • Architects are not doing their job properly. 98% of prints we see at Blueprint Estimating are issued in one file with all prints for all trades in the project. They have to be split & relabeled before we can start taking off the project. It’s not only us that have to do this. Every trade bidding that project has to do the same thing. So using small numbers, let’s say you have a project that has 5 trades (drywall, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and structural) and you have 7 subcontractors from each trade bidding the project. That is 35 companies having to do the same task of splitting out & labeling prints they will use to bid the project and say each of the 35 Subcontractors spend 3 man hours (35 subs x 3mh =1 05mh) all at the Subs expense, Opposed to 1 if the Architect did his job properly. On big project those numbers are much higher.
  • No standards exist for creating Architectural prints. We understand Architects want to be unique, however, there are certain qualities every set of prints should have. Such as a scale for measurement on every page.
  • Specifications too often are reused for multiple projects. The problem with reusing specs is they cause confusion because they don’t ever really fit multiple projects. This causes lots of time wasted asking questions for clarification & lack of detail needed for the project.
  • Too many addendums published for projects. A project with over 2-3 addendums clearly represents an Architect that just didn’t do his job properly. This is getting so ridiculous, as many projects we see have 9, 10, even 14 addendums. We recently completed a project that had 7 Addendums 15 Clarifications and 309 RFI’S. Just absurd! It seems as though Architects today depend on the RFI process to complete their set of prints. Think about it, seems they need the bidder to flag missing prints or details needed to bid the project. How is it Architects can issue a set of prints that just simply lack the necessary detail to bid the job i.e. a finish schedule or reflective ceiling plan etc. Architects are making more money than the subcontractors. Just absurd!
  • Revised prints rarely show the changes in a cloud nor do they provide any documentation to convey the changes made to the prints. Instead, a revised ‘Bid Set’ is issued & it is up to us to figure out what has been revised. Too often when ‘revised prints’ are issued, they reissue the entire bid set when not all prints have changes in them. Again, we have to go in, split up, label and compare the ‘revised prints’ to the original to figure out what has changed (if anything) in the print.
  • Cut off dates for questions - 98% of the projects we bid have a cut-off date for questions and most of the time the cutoff date is a week or longer before bid date. This is the time when most subcontractors are putting their bid together. This results in having to qualify the bid which results in revising the bid if you didn’t guess correctly as to what they wanted the first time around.
  • Prints lack detail needed to bid the project properly.

See list below for details on prints required for every project.

  1. Ceiling heights either on the finish schedule or on the reflective ceiling plan (preferably both).
  2. Measurement of some kind to check scale on every print page (only one per page).
  3. Actual Finish Schedule & Material Legend for the project.
  4. Reflective Ceiling Plan with specific materials used.
  5. Actual Door and Frame schedule.
  6. Wall cut thru of window walls to show height of drywall on it.
  7. A source, phone number, email, manufacturer, pattern, and color of all wall coverings and special coating materials.
  8. A North direction on every floor plan & reflective ceiling plan.
  9. Actual specification specific for Paint & Wall Covering, and Special Coatings for the job.
  10. We need to know if the Interior and Exterior Windows are Prefinished, Painted or Stained.
  11. We need to know if the Doors are Prefinished at the factory or if we are field finishing Paint or Stain.
  12. We need a window wall elevation to show how much drywall is on the window wall, and if there is trim around the interior windows, and if there is a window sill and what kind of finish.
  13. We need all pdf’s to be labeled with specific page numbers and names i.e. (A101 Finish Schedule)
  14. We need consistency with one scale to a page. Don’t change scale to different scales on the same page. If it is a different scale go to another page. Multiple scales on same page presents take off problems for different software programs.
  15. We need specifications to be split by trade. Too often, the mechanical color coding, pipe identification, labeling, stenciling, or banding is in the Painters Specifications. (Mechanical Contractor should be responsible) under the norm unless the Paint Contractor specializes in Industrial Painting ie Water Treatment Plants etc.
  16. The drywall contractor should be the trade responsible for putting fire rating identification of one or two hour fire rated partitions by stenciling rating on each side of rated walls above ceiling line. Too often specification’s show this responsibility to be the Painting Contractors. The drywall contractor is already up installing the wall above the ceiling. In many instances the ceiling is already installed before the Paint contractor starts the job.
  17. We need prints to have a complete list of abbreviations they use on the prints. Far too often we find they use abbreviations that are not on the list. They assume everyone knows what they are referring to but that is not the case.
  18. Floor coatings including clear floor sealer, should have their own specification section. Most painters do not do floor coatings and should not be forced to do floors just because they are incorporated into the Paint specification. If the Paint Contractor wants to bid floors they can do so under that particular Specifications Section.
  19. Please give a Paint Specification for all items on the project not a generic one that you have used for every project for the last 20 years.
  20. Please indicate on remodels or existing facilities if the existing surfaces i.e. CMU walls have been previously painted so we know rather or not to include block filler or primer.
  21. Painting Contractors should not be taping & finishing drywall (should be the Dry Wallers responsibility).Most painters paint they do not tape & finish. (Just an opinion).
  22. Never bid projects on a Monday or a Friday.
  23. Never bid a project within 2 days before a Holliday or 2 days after a Holliday.

There is no denying digital prints have provided a way to improve the bidding process. Architects, please step up and make an effort to provide the items we have noted above. However, it means NOTHING if the prints going digital lack quality and the needed information we have noted. Architects of today, please note this letter was not written to shame you, nor for purposes of discrediting your work. It was written as a plea for you to step up and put the QUALITY back in prints you create today. Please step up and do your job properly!