A Guide to Understanding RFIs in Construction
Pro Tips

A Guide to Understanding RFIs in Construction

BuildBook Team
December 8, 2022
December 8, 2022

If you’re in the residential construction industry, you’ve likely heard of a Request for Information (RFI). But what exactly is a construction RFI and how does it impact your work and projects? Understanding how an RFI works and how to effectively use one can help ensure a successful project.

This guide will provide an overview of everything you need to know about RFIs in construction. 

What is an RFI in construction? 

An RFI is a document that allows contractors or subcontractors to request additional information from another party associated in a project, such as a designer, or client. It’s typically used when there are questions, concerns, or gaps in the plans or specifications that need clarification before any work on the project can begin. An RFI provides a formal process for asking these questions, which helps prevent misunderstandings that could result in costly delays down the road. 

How does an RFI work? 

When submitting an RFI, it’s important to provide as much detail as possible. Include all relevant documents such as drawings, specs, and any other pertinent materials that may be necessary for understanding the question or issue at hand. Additionally, list out your questions clearly and concisely so they don't get lost in long-winded explanations. Once you submit your RFI, it's up to the recipient to review the information and respond with answers or solutions within a reasonable timeframe. 

What are the different types of RFIs?

There are three types of RFIs in construction: 

  1. RFI for clarification 
  2. RFI for a change
  3. RFI for a problem or defect 

A clarification RFI is a request for more information about the work that is to be done. A change RFI is a request to make a change to the work that is specified in the contract documents. A defect RFI is a notification of a problem with the work that has been completed.

RFI Examples

RFI for clarification - This type of RFI can be used to ask a question about something that's not clear in the drawings or specs. For example, you might send an RFI for clarification to a project designer if you're not sure what material is supposed to be used for a particular part of the project.

RFI for a change - If there's something in the drawings or specs that needs to be changed, you would send an RFI for a change. For example, if you want to use a different type of material than what's specified in the drawings, you would send an RFI for change to the designer, or client, to get approval.

Best practices for using RFIs 

When submitting an RFI, make sure it’s done quickly and accurately — don't wait until the last minute! The sooner you ask for help with clarifying any issues, the less likely something will fall through the cracks later on down the line. Additionally, make sure you keep track of all responses — this helps ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes time for implementation. Finally, be proactive about following up on unresolved RFIs — if there are still unanswered questions at some point during construction, don’t be afraid to politely remind the other party about them so they don't get forgotten! 

Challenges with RFIs in construction

The main challenges with RFIs in construction are that they can be time consuming and can lead to disruptions in the workflow.

RFIs can be time consuming because they can require a lot of effort to document for the contractor and to address for the recipient. This time and any back-and-forth communication can lead to disruptions in the workflow, as the parties may have to stop working on other tasks in order to respond to an RFI.

Some ways to reduce these challenges include having a clear process for issuing and responding to RFIs, and making sure that everyone involved is aware of this process. It's also important to ensure that RFIs are relevant and necessary, so that they don't disrupt the workflow unnecessarily.

How to respond to construction RFIs

If you are on the receiving end of a construction RFI, the first step is to carefully read and understand the request. Next, determine what information you will need to provide a response. Often, the request for information will be specific, so be sure to gather all of the relevant details before writing your reply. 

Keep in mind that an RFI can often be time sensitive and potentially impact the progress of a project if gone unanswered, so if you’re unable to provide a response in a timely manner, be sure to let the requestor know as quickly as possiblea 

In your response, be sure to include all of the requested information, as well as any supporting documentation. Always be professional and polite when responding to an RFI, and again, remember that timely communication is key. 

Why RFIs are an important part of construction

RFIs are a necessary part of any construction project — but understanding them doesn't have to be difficult! By taking some time to understand how they work and familiarizing yourself with best practices for using them effectively, you can ensure smoother sailing throughout every step of your job site's progress. 

Whether you're a general contractor, subcontractor, residential builder or remodeler - having a clear understanding of RFIs can mean smoother projects & fewer delays down the line! So take some time today to brush up on these essential documents & start exploring ways that they can streamline your next project!


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