Your All Important As-built Documents

Your All Important As-built Documents

Put simply, as-built documents are the drawn and written documentation of your house as its been put up by your builder. Having gone through a long and arduous design and construction process, this might be the last thing on your mind as you receive your certificate of occupancy and ready yourself to move in, but trust me – it’s important that you get it, correct and complete.

08 - As Built - Cover

Turned over to you by your general contractor towards the completion of construction, as-builts document what’s actually been built on site. Composed of sets of drawings and specifications sheets, the former tell you where things go and run and turn, while the latter show what’s been put in and ideally how to maintain them.

So it’s like a user manual to the house?

Yes and it also acts like a map to those who can read it. Structures tend to fail in predictable ways, documentation of the actual construction could pin point where those failures could be and guide you as to how much work might be entailed to fix it.

08 - As Built A - x marks the hurt

What should as-built documents cover?

As-builts should cover the architectural works as well as works covered in various trades. While some things are easily visible like the drain lines under your bathroom slabs, for the most part, the majority of construction is concealed behind concrete and plaster. Supply as well as drain pipes are run through walls, while you can even have conduits running through your floors. Given a clean enough design, even the structural framing system can indistinguishable from your walls.

As-built plans give the reader a sort of x-ray vision, and shows the reader where things go.

08 - As Built B - x-ray

So it’s mostly used for repairs?

Yes. And it becomes indispensable when you want to renovate. From things as simple as driving nails through a wall to hang paintings, it could be disastrous not knowing where things like your air-conditioning drain lines are. For much larger renovation work, an as-built plan should show you where you columns are vs your walls, and hence what you can and cannot demolish or push out.

08 - As Built C - renovation

But won’t it cost more?

In theory as-built documents should be pretty standard between contractors and should be folded into the cost. Cost is less if an issue than the actual execution/ turn over. Shop drawings prior to implementation and as-built drawings are supposedly standards of practice, but you should definitely be specific about wanting to see samples as part of their basic information before any bid and requiring them as part of your contract. Theoretically you could stipulate that part of the requirements of getting the retention should be providing approved as-built documents.

But we’ve sub-contracted the work

All the trades need to provide as-built documents. On top of that, before you’ve even signed off on a contractor, they already know the scope limitations and should already consider the need for representation in trades that aren’t in their direct responsibility. This should cover their presence at meetings and coordination even for trades that aren’t directly under their scope.
Construction is complicated and nothing happens in a bubble. Everything happens on top of everything else. The trades intersect with each other and you have to know how things go together. Representation should include your contractor’s oversight on your other trades and a documentation at the very least on how everyone else’s work layers on top of his own.


But I have the design plans, what do I need the as-built plans for?

In construction as in life, nothing ever goes 100% to plan. Using design plans as a record of what’s been built would be like relying on business plan projections and not caring about the end of the year fiscal report. Whether it’s from client change orders, contractor mistakes, or even unforseen sign conditions or material unavailabilities, design plans are never executed 100% as imagined on paper. As-builts should show you the reality of what’s built. This is the reason the contractor is never given the design drawing soft copy of the plans. Lazier builders will just tend to copy and paste off design drawings when the reality has completely changed.

08 - As Built D - differ

Ahhh. I think I got it.

Really? Good! Let me recap anyway, TLDR style with a few additional tips in case you missed anything –

  1. As built documents are important. They cover all the trades and tell you what’s been put in your house, where things go, and how they need to be maintained.
  2. They’re especially important for repairs and renovations. In fact, ask for them first when you’re looking to buy an existing house.
  3. Design drawings are a poor substitute for documentation for as builts. This is why your designer should NEVER give their soft copy design drawings to contractors because it happens too often that they’re just copied and not drawn out as they’ve actually been built.
  4. As-built documents should be part of your contractor’s responsibilities by default. But you should make it a point to ask for them and shop drawings specifically when you finalize on a contract. Making releasing the retention contingent on getting approved as built docs might be something worth considering.



Gone through wanting to renovate only to find out you don’t have the as-built plans? Misery loves company! I’m sure other people would appreciate hearing about it. Email or leave a comment.

Know anyone finishing up construction work, or looking to buy an existing property? Share this along, and it might be helpful.

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