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How To Bid On A Construction Job

Bidding on a construction job can be a big challenge, especially if you're new to the game. Figuring out how to bid on a construction job involves understanding the project's scope, estimating costs accurately, and crafting a proposal that stands out and positions you for a winning bid.

Whether you're tackling your first bid or aiming to improve your success rate, this guide simplifies the process into manageable steps.

We'll break down the process into detailed steps so you can grasp everything from the initial project evaluation to submitting your construction bids with confidence.

UPDATED AT: May 21, 2024

Construction Job Bidding

Bidding on a construction job involves several steps. You’ll need to first understand the scope of the project. Then run through a site visit and work with the developer and architects to understand all of the intricacies of the project. Then you’ll work through generating estimates and eventually submit your bid to the developer.

You’ll want to ensure your estimates are as accurate as possible, but also that your bid is competitive. As you’ll be compared head-to-head with other contractors.

The sections below go into the construction bidding process in more detail. But before we get too far, it's important to understand the difference between a bid and an estimate.

Bid Vs. Estimate?

A construction bid and an estimate are both critical components in the planning and execution of construction projects. Still, they serve different purposes and are used at different stages of the project lifecycle. Below is a short summary of each.

Construction Estimate

An estimate provides a preliminary calculation of the potential costs associated with a construction project. It is often used in the early stages of project planning to give the project owner or client an idea of how much the project might cost.

Clients often request estimates from several contractors to get a sense of the project's potential cost. Estimates help clients make informed decisions about whether to proceed with a project and which contractor might be the best fit for their budget and requirements.

Construction Bid

A construction bid is a formal proposal submitted by a contractor to complete a specific project at a defined price. It is used when the project's scope is clearly understood and the client is looking to select a contractor to carry out the work.

Bids are used in competitive bidding processes, where several contractors submit their proposals, and the client selects one based on various factors, including cost, the contractor's experience, and the proposed timeline.

What Is The Basic Construction Bidding Process?

The general process of bidding on a construction job involves several key steps, from the initial review of project documents to the submission of the bid itself. This process can vary depending on the type of project, the client (public or private), and the specific requirements outlined in the bid documents. However, a typical construction bidding process includes the following stages:

1. Bid Solicitation and Document Review

Bid Solicitation marks the beginning of the process, where project owners issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) or an Invitation for Bid (IFB) to attract contractors.

This document details everything about the project, including costs, contract type, and delivery method, ensuring potential bidders understand what's required. Project owners typically investigate contractors’ reputations and past project successes to find the best fit for their needs.

Contractors interested in the project will obtain and review the bid documents, which typically include the invitation for bids, project plans and specifications, contract terms, and any other relevant information.

2. Site Inspection and Pre-Bid Meetings

For construction projects, understanding the site's conditions is crucial. If offered, contractors will inspect the site to assess potential challenges and requirements that might affect their bid.

Often, the client will host a pre-bid meeting, which provides an opportunity for potential bidders to ask questions, clarify any ambiguities in the bid documents, and sometimes visit the site of the proposed project.

3. Cost Estimation

Contractors will estimate the costs associated with completing the project. This includes direct costs like labor, materials, equipment, and indirect costs such as overhead, insurance, and profit margins.

4. Bid Submission and Review

Bids are submitted by the deadline specified in the bid documents. For public projects, the submission process is highly regulated to ensure fairness and transparency.

For public projects: Bids are usually opened in a public setting, and the amounts are announced.

For private projects: The process may not be public, but all bids are reviewed to ensure they meet the project's requirements.

5. Bid Selection

The client reviews the bids and awards the contract to the contractor who meets the project's criteria, which often includes being the lowest responsive and responsible bidder, though not always.

During this phase, the process differs slightly depending on whether the project is government-funded or privately owned. Government projects usually require accepting the lowest bid, ensuring a transparent and fair selection process.

In contrast, private project owners may weigh other factors such as insurance, costs, qualifications, and delivery methods more heavily, allowing for a more flexible selection process.

6. Contract Negotiation

Once a contractor is selected, there may be negotiations to finalize the contract terms. After agreement is reached, both parties sign the contract, and the project can proceed.

7. Project Delivery

Finally, the project delivery phase sees the contractor executing the work according to the agreed-upon delivery method, aiming to complete the project on time and within budget. This phase involves managing resources, adhering to timelines, and ensuring the project meets all specified requirements and quality standards.

Now that we’ve covered the groundwork of how the construction bidding process unfolds, let’s discuss the different types of construction bids.

Types of Construction Bids

When bidding on a construction project it's important to understand the different types of construction bids. There are typically four different types of construction bids you might encounter.

Open Tendering

Open tendering allows any qualified contractor to submit a bid for the project. This method is highly competitive, requiring your bid to be both sharp and strategic. Focus on demonstrating exceptional value, reliability, and a clear understanding of the project requirements.

Selective Tendering

This involves bids from a pre-selected list of contractors known for their good reputation and work quality. To stand out in selective tendering, emphasize your unique strengths, past successes, and specific expertise relevant to the project's scope.

Negotiated Tendering

Offers an opportunity to negotiate terms, prices, and project details directly with the project owner before the contract is awarded. Highlight your negotiation skills, flexibility, and collaborative approach to aligning your services with the project's goals.

E-Procurement

E-procurement uses digital platforms for submitting and evaluating bids, streamlining the tendering process. Ensure your bid is clear, concise, and fully optimized for digital evaluation, including all relevant details and compliance with the e-procurement system requirements.

Types of Contracts

There are many different ways to set up your contract. The contract defines the legal and financial framework for the project, including payment structures, risk allocation, and project scope. Understanding the implications of different contract models is key to crafting a competitive bid aligned with your business capabilities and risk management strategies.

Lump Sum Contract

In a lump sum contract, you agree to complete the project for a fixed price. This model requires precise cost estimation and risk management to ensure profitability. Your bid must demonstrate a thorough understanding of the project scope and a confident commitment to your cost estimates.

Cost Plus Contract

Cost plus contracts reimburse the contractor for actual costs plus a fee for overhead and profit. Bidding under this model means highlighting your transparency, accurate cost tracking, and efficient project management to minimize uncertainties and justify the costs incurred.

Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP)

A GMP contract sets a cap on the project cost, which the contractor cannot exceed. Your bid should focus on your ability to manage projects efficiently within a predefined budget, emphasizing cost control and value engineering to deliver the best possible outcome under the GMP.

Unit Price Contract

Unit price contracts are based on estimated quantities of items and paid per unit. They are common in projects where the scope is not well-defined. Illustrate your expertise in accurate quantity estimation and your flexibility in handling scope changes to mitigate risks associated with variable project scales.

Understanding the nuances of various contract types—lump sum, cost plus, guaranteed maximum price (GMP), and unit price—allows you to craft bids that are not only competitive but also aligned with your business strengths and risk management practices.

Each contract type demands a different approach to estimating costs, managing risks, and ensuring profitability.

By selecting the right contract model for your bid, you demonstrate a thorough grasp of the project's requirements and align your proposal with the project owner's expectations. This strategic alignment markedly increases your chances of success, making your bid more attractive and competitive in securing the contract.

How To Estimate Project Expenses Accurately?

Mastering the art of estimating project expenses is essential for submitting winning bids in the construction industry.

Key components for estimating project expenses:

  • Overheads
  • Labor costs
  • Material costs
  • Contingencies
  • Finalize the estimate
  • Equipment expenses
  • Subcontractor quotes
  • Detailed scope of work
  • Review and adjust estimates
  • Permit, licensing, and inspection fees

Start by breaking down the project into manageable tasks to understand the scope and requirements.

For each task, calculate the material costs, considering current market prices and potential future changes. Labor costs should include wages and additional expenses such as taxes and benefits.

Don't forget to factor in the cost of renting or purchasing necessary equipment. Obtain quotes from subcontractors if parts of the work will be outsourced.

Overhead costs, such as office expenses and administrative salaries, should also be included in your estimate. Make sure to research and add any costs associated with permits, licensing, and inspections required for the project.

To cover unforeseen issues, include a contingency budget. Review your estimates against past projects and industry standards, adjusting as necessary. Finally, summarize all costs to develop a comprehensive and accurate project estimate.

Where To Find the Best Bid Opportunities?

Finding the best bid opportunities requires a strategic approach, leveraging digital tools and traditional networking methods. Here’s how you can uncover promising projects to bid on:

Online Bid Platforms And Construction Databases

Sites like Dodge Data & Analytics, Construction Bid Source, BidClerk list projects and RFPs. Filter by location, type, and value.

Government Portals

SAM.gov and local government sites list federal and state projects. They ensure transparency and competitive bidding.

Industry Publications and Newsletters

Get updates on projects, market trends, and bid opportunities.

Networking Events & Trade Shows

Meet potential clients or partners and learn about upcoming projects.

Professional Associations

Associations like AGC of America or ASA offer access to exclusive opportunities and networks.

Social Media & Professional Networking Sites

Use LinkedIn for networking, joining groups, and discovering projects through connections.

The most important of these is networking. You’ll need to get outside and talk shop with the movers and shakers in your local market. Start by building relationships with local developers. Invite them out for coffee or drop by one of their sites.

Build Your Specialization

Specializing in certain project types or methods sets you apart from competitors.

  • Repeatedly working on similar projects increases your team's efficiency and the quality of work.
  • Deep knowledge in a niche area allows for anticipating challenges and effective risk mitigation.
  • Specialization can command higher prices due to recognized expertise and a proven track record.
  • Being known for specific specialties draws in employees and subcontractors with matching expertise.

Conclusion

Bidding on construction jobs is more than just throwing numbers at a wall and hoping they stick. It's about understanding the nuts and bolts of the construction bidding process, diving deep into project documents, and presenting a bid that stands out.

Whether you're eyeing residential projects or massive undertakings by the federal government, the key to crafting winning bids lies in your approach.