Successful Capital Improvement Projects - Part 4: Obtaining Contractor Bids

You’ve assembled your team and compiled your bid documents.  As a building manager, you’re well on your way to a successful capital improvement project. Now it’s time to start obtaining contractor bids for the capital improvement project.

The capital improvement bid process is overwhelming. Where do I start?

First, determine the basis for the final decision. Will you choose the lowest bidder? Or will you base your decision on the contractor’s qualifications? Maybe you’ll use a combination of the two, using the best contractor for the price. Knowing this up front will guide the bidding process for you and the contractors.

Next, you need to determine whether the bid process will be open or closed. An open bidding process is typical (and usually required) for public projects. The request for bids must be publicly advertised. Closed bid is used for private projects. In this case, specific contractors are sent requests for bid that include the required documents.

So, if you’re using the closed bid process, where do you find qualified contractors?  Unless you have previous experience with capital project contractors, that can be the biggest hurdle you’ll encounter. You’ll need three to five qualified contractors to make the bidding process effective.

If your project team includes a building engineering firm, you’re in luck. That firm probably has lots of experience with contractors. Chances are their contractor list was built through dozens of projects. That means they know who’s reliable and who’s not. Save yourself headaches and stress and engage the engineering firm to help you find the right contractors. In fact, they can manage the entire bidding process for you. You can move on to your other duties while the bids come in.

The pre-bid meeting

It’s a good idea to hold a pre-bid meeting at the project site. That meeting should include your capital improvement project team and all the contractors who are bidding on the project. This meeting enables the contractors to get a complete understanding of any constraints caused by the site itself. You’ll also get a chance to answer any questions. Doing this makes it more likely that the bids you receive will be accurate the first time.

Collecting and reviewing capital improvement project bids

This is another phase where the engineering firm on your team will be able to lighten your load. The engineers can collect the bids and do a preliminary review. They’ll return any bid that’s incomplete or inaccurate. The contractor may have an opportunity to re-submit, if you and the engineering firm agree.

Evaluating bids

Once all the bids have been collected, you’ll need to review them. This is the point at which you determine who makes it to the next phase of evaluation. Again, an engineering firm can be a big help in this effort. If you followed our earlier advice and pre-determined the basis for your decision, you’ll be ready to go!

Final capital improvement project bid phase

Once you have eliminated any bids that are not qualified, you’ll have a list of finalists. The final assessment includes owners or your association board. They should interview and approve all contractors prior to you awarding the contract. This helps insure buy-in and support during the project. Once you have board/owner recommendations, you can award the project and you’re on your way to a successful capital improvement project!


At Engineering Support Services, we specialize in helping building managers through all types of capital projects. We can help build the team, compile the bid package, manage the bidding process, develop the project plan and more.

Come back to our site regularly to follow our series on capital improvement project management. Or follow us on Facebook for updates on our series. In our next post, our professional building engineers will share helpful tips for securing funding.