Bid Documents for Construction Projects Explained: Essential Guide

Written by Bridget Cooper

DateJan 6, 2024
Reading time9 min read
bid documents

A construction bidding process involves a lot of paperwork to help the two parties, project owners and general contractors, come to a mutual understanding. These documents outline the project particulars, including designs, materials, costs, project delivery methods, construction contracts, and other crucial details involved in the construction project. Their main aim is bid solicitation by targeting qualified and interested contractors.

However, each document is different and serves a different purpose. Knowledge about them helps both parties accelerate the bidding and bid selection process. This guide will examine crucial bidding documents for construction and their importance in the entire bidding process. But first, let’s define bid documents. 

What are Construction Bid Documents?

Construction bid documents are paperwork provided by project owners to contractors. The documents invite potential contractors to send bid proposals for the construction project. It often include crucial details like project requirements, scope, and bid evaluation criteria. The documents help the general contractor understand the project better, helping them craft desirable construction bids. 

These documents also provide additional information, like project deadlines and how to communicate to project owners. They also include outline information on how to handle project delays and the payment process. That way, they're some of the crucial documents in the construction industry.

Now that we know what these documents are, let’s examine varying types of these paperwork.

Different Types of Construction Bid Documents

Construction bidding is a multi-step process involving different documents. Each document has its purpose, and understanding the document’s particulars helps contractors craft better bids. Let’s look at the common types of construction bid documents. 

Invitation to Bid (ITB)

An Invitation to Bid in construction is a formal document by project owners to potential contractors inviting them to bid for the project. It's the first step of the bid process where contractors are made aware of the project. The purpose of an ITB is to select a contractor who can complete the project by adhering to established standards, a specific timeframe, and at a reasonable price. 

For the purpose of fairness and transparency, a project owner issues an ITB publicly to target a wider pool of suitable contractors. ITBs can be offered for both private and public construction projects. 

An ITB has many elements, depending on the type of construction involved. However, the common ITB elements include:

Project Description

It’s an in-depth overview of the entire project. It helps contractors understand the project better. It mostly describes the location, type of project, and purpose of the project.

Scope of Work

The scope of work includes any special requirements, deliverables, and tasks. Contractors use this section to understand project requirements better. Understanding project scope ensures contractors cover the project in their bid package.

Evaluation Criteria

Project owners include factors they use to assess and select bids. They mostly focus on experience, price, and qualifications. It helps to focus on serious contractors and those capable of delivering the project.


It includes engineering project drawings, architectural designs, and plans. When you read construction drawings, they illustrate system requirements, layout, and desired design. Contractors use these drawings and plans to come up with project price estimates.


The owner includes the project’s proposed timeline, like start and completion dates. It’s also where owners include deadlines and milestones. Contractors use this information to determine if the project expectations are realistic.


This section includes dimensions, designs, materials, and other technical considerations for the project. Specifications help contractors understand the technical requirements and deliver the project accurately. Without specifications, contractors would have a hard time delivering the project as needed.

Submission Guidelines

Project owners outline the bid submission process in this section to interested and qualified contractors. Submission guidlines include bid format, deadlines, specific forms, or documentation they must include in their bid.

As a contractor, always take time going through section, since you coud be disqualified from the bidding process for missing key details, like a bid format.

Terms and Conditions

Terms and conditions are contractual agreements between project owners and contractors. It outlines details like insurance requirements, payment terms, and how to resolve disputes. It's common for terms and conditions to vary depending on projects and owners preferences.

A huge and complex project, like a mega construction, often has complex terms and conditions in place. In this case, it's best to go through this construction bid form with an attorney, who will explain and clarify certain details that might not be familiar to you.

Contractors must read an ITB carefully before submitting bits. They must check all requirements to ensure they fulfil them. Otherwise, they risk losing the bid. 

Instructions to Bidders

This bid document dives deeper into project instructions and crucial details that contractors must fulfill. It spells out the “rules of the game” to contractors to help target suitable bids. Instructions to bidders outline acceptable prices and experience to contractors, which they must consider in their bids. It can also include other requirements like mock-ups or site visits. The essence of this bid form is to sieve out unsuitable contractors and increase bid qualities. 

Here are a few details to expect in this document:

Pre-Bid Meetings

Contractors learn details of any pre-bid meeting, including venue, time, and date. If it’s offline, the meeting could be a site visit. If the meeting will take place online, it mentions the platform that will be used.

Contact Information

Includes relevant names, addresses, and phone numbers to clarify or confirm project details. It provides communication transparency between involved parties. 

Bid Evaluation and Award Process 

This section explains factors the construction owner will consider for a bid to be accepted. It also includes the right to reject contractor’s bids and the estimated time when they might award the contract. 

Bid Deadline and Delivery Method  

This section highlights when contractors must deliver their bids. It indicates the final delivery date and time for all bid submissions.

Project owners also specify how contractors should deliver their bids, whether in hard copy or electronically. The information in this section helps to smoothen the bid process by ensuring timely and accurate bid submission.

Specific Project Requirements

Bidders are required to fulfill certain requirements for their bids to be accepted. Such requirements include insurance policies, environmental and sustainability requirements, and proper licenses and permits to participate in the construction project. However, these requirements can change depending on the project.

Bid Security

In this section of instructions to bidders, the project owner specifies the type of bid security they prefer from contractors. A bid security could be a letter of credit, cashier’s check, or something like a bid bond. The bid security in needed to establish trust with potential clients that your construction company can fulfill contract's terms. Think of it as your financial proof.

You will also find the amount of bid security required as guarantee for the project, and how you'll deliver it. You can get all this details and information from your financial institution.

Contractors must pay attention to instructions to bidders to ensure they submit qualified bids. The document explains the project expectations more, ensuring it targets appropriate bidders. 

Project Specifications

Also known as Construction Specifications or Specs, this document dives deeper into project expectations. It highlights the materials needed for the project, installation methods, and craftsmanship required for the project. 

Specs also help contractors understand the designs and drawings better, ensuring they deliver the project as needed. Consider it as the project’s blueprints, focusing on minor details, like finishing, painting, and decoration. 

Besides understanding the expected project, contractors also use Specs to come up with estimated labor costs, material costs, and the cost of subcontracting. 

Here are the three main types of project specifications:

Prescriptive Specifications

This type of Specs provides contractors with details of materials needed for the project. The document also provides specifications on how to measure installations to ensure they align with the desired outcomes. Think of it as a quality control measure for the entire project. 

Performance Specifications

Construction owners use this document to lay out the operational requirements. To be specific, the document helps contractors understand how the final product should appear and function once it’s completed. Think of it as instructions detailing the desired result. Performance specifications give the contractor and subcontractors the flexibility to go about the project as they see fit. 

For instance, the performance specifications offered for a parking lot could include details like the desired number expected to fit in that space. The contractor could decide to use whichever materials they see fit to complete the project.

Proprietary Specifications

Although not as common as prescriptive or performance specs, proprietary specs are issued for a project that requires a specific product. It’s usually issued for an existing project that requires an upgrade. Proprietary specs are restrictive in nature, limiting the number of vendors allowed to bid. 

For instance, a construction owner could require the installation of electronic components from a certain brand, making it hard for other contractors to submit their bids for this project. 

Bill of Quantities

Think of it as a shopping list for labor, equipment, and material needed to complete the project. The construction owner hires cost consultants, construction engineers, and quantity surveyors to craft the documents based on the project’s specifications. 

Contractors use this bid form for cost estimations, which helps them decide whether the project is worth bidding on. Additionally, a bill of quantities ensures contractors craft their bids to align with the estimated costs, helping them increase their chances of winning the bid. 

The bill of quantities for construction has many benefits to both project owners and contractors. It ensures project owners have a rough estimate of acceptable project costs since they have a vivid idea of the entire construction cost. It also helps contractors estimate the costs and overheads they need to include to make profits. They use it to factor in overheads, like material, labor, and other overheads, to ensure they complete the project within the acceptable budget. 

These construction bid documents are often common in many construction projects. However, a construction owner might include more documents, depending on the type of their project.

Final Thoughts

Construction bid documents are crucial for targeting suitable contractors for a project. They also provide the necessary project details to ensure contractors don’t waste time bidding on a project they cannot deliver. Contractors are required to take their time going through these documents to ensure they satisfy all the requirements to maximize their chances of winning bids. 

Written by Bridget CooperUpdated on Feb 23, 2024

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