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What is a scope of work and do I need one?

What is a scope of work and do I need one?

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In construction, the term 'scope of work' (also known as a 'scope of works' or 'statement of work') is a very general term referring to a general description of the work that is expected to be performed under a particular contract.

Without this written statement there will be ambiguity, confusion and potential for disagreement in the future between you and your chosen contractor or tradesperson so it is well worth taking the time to make sure your scope of work is comprehensive and easy to understand. You’ll need it if you are asking a builder for a quote rather than an estimate and also to prepare your written contract.

The scope of work will vary from project to project, from a very simple broad description of the works required, to a full and comprehensive complete description of the project, materials, finishes, significant milestones, work programme, pricing, roles and responsibilities of the various people involved and the end product.

Your architect or plan drawer will be able to advise you about what should be included and prepare this for you.

Changes to the scope of work often become necessary after the contract has been awarded and work has started. These are usually due to unforeseen circumstances, for example:

  • the discovery of a well or drain run beneath your foundation line
  • realising that some roof timbers need to be replaced before your loft can be converted
  • finding that your electrics are sub-standard and need replacing as part of your renovation.

Most contracts make provisions for reasonable variations or alterations, which may result in changes to the final cost. If these variations change the nature of the works themselves, a new contract will be needed.

Sometimes works may be tendered, and the price agreed before the full scope of work is known in detail, because issues are only discovered or exposed once work starts. Due to this, provisional sums may be included in the contract.

For larger projects you would adopt flexible procurement routes, like measurement contracts or prime cost contracts.

Further information

What do I do before I start building work?

When do I need to speak to a professional?