What is SpecWriter?
SpecWriter is a fully automated Excel program that writes the Scope-of-Work, Specifications, Estimates and Schedule-of-Values for residential and light commercial projects.
How does SpecWriter work?
It's a simple process of selecting the specifications you want to use to describe the project from a checklist of over 4,000 pre-written specifications. These specifications are logically grouped in categories (demolition, concrete, drywall, flooring, etc.) and the selection process includes the ability to exclude or include a specific category, and to further describe the materials to be used within that category. You can also specify Unit Cost allowances, Fixed Cost allowances, Options, Exclusions, and Owner's Responsibilities. After you have made your selections, one click of the mouse button creates perfect specifications for you to view, edit, print and save. Other menu commands will create the estimate or the Schedule-of-Values.
SpecWriter is Unique
It is the only specification writing program on the market written exclusively for Residential Builders and Contractors, and includes specific provisions that address the unique conditions of custom homebuilding and remodeling such as the ability to create a list of items not included in the job (like wallpaper or window treatments, for example), and a list of things to be done by the Owner (selecting fixtures or matching the existing tile). SpecWriter's most valuable feature is the complete and precise way in which the specifications are written. It provides you with the ability to describe every detail of the work you are going to perform in plain English.
Scope-of-Work vs Specifications
SpecWriter's unique outline with the Scope-of-Work as the section heading, followed by the Specifications, superbly addresses one of the biggest problems with most architectural specifications. Many of these so-called "specifications" fail to clearly distinguish between the Scope-of-Work, which is "who does what" and the Specifications, which are the descriptions of "what materials are to be used". This distinction is particularly important in custom homebuilding and remodeling because invariably the Owner is going to be performing some tasks (like selecting flooring or matching existing finish materials) or providing some of the items (ceiling fans, for example). SpecWriter's specification outline addresses these potential misunderstandings head-on.
SpecWriter is Easy to Use
Just work your way down the checklist, category by category, and make your selections. Everything is in logical order and easy to find. When you are done, select "Create Specifications" from the pull down menu. Your specification outline will be created and displayed for you to view, edit if needed, and print. With this process, the "checklist", the specification outline and the budget are on separate "pages" in the program. Change the checklist, and the outline is changed accordingly.
SpecWriter is FAST!
Because the specifications are already pre-written, a typical six to ten page specification outline takes less than an hour to create.
SpecWriter looks Great!
When you create the specifications, each category and it's specifications are properly numbered and lettered, with no "gaps", missing sections, or descriptions that don't apply to the project. Every page is titled with the project name and page number and provides a space at the bottom for each party's initials. It looks sharp!
SpecWriter is flexible
Want to change the wording of a specification? Go right ahead. Need a new section to address a unique requirement of a particular project? Just select "Add new section". Need to revise the specification outline? This is the best part, just select or un-select the specifications you want, generate a new specification outline, and print.
SpecWriter gives you Full Control
Writing your own specifications with SpecWriter will virtually eliminate "arguments" with clients because everything is so clearly spelled out. It's like this: You specify "Window Trim: Drywall corners, no wood moldings", and the customer calls you up the day the trim carpenter finishes to tell you she thought there was going to be wood moldings around the windows. You can calmly sympathize with her disappointment and simultaneously let her know that it wasn't in the original proposal but you would be happy to work up a change order for her consideration.
SpecWriter is Better
Have you ever noticed what's missing with other "estimating" and "proposal writing" programs?
First, the specifications produced by other estimating programs aren't written in plain English, and they are usually tied to a specific quantity of work. The problem here is that your customer doesn't care that you are going to provide "1322 sf of ½ in TE gyp bd, nailed or screwed". What they want to read is that you are going to:
PURCHASE, DELIVER and INSTALL DRYWALL, as follows:
- Drywall: ½" standard gypsum wallboard.
- Where Installed: All new areas as necessary to complete project.
- Drywall Texture on Ceilings: Knockdown.
- Drywall Texture on Walls: Orange Peel
- Drywall Texture in Bathroom Ceilings: Knockdown
- Drywall Texture in Bathroom Walls: Smooth, for wallpaper
- Special Note: All new and old areas will be "feathered" together.
Second, I haven't see a program yet that allows you to create a list of things that aren't included in the project, or a list of things the Owner is going to do. A list limited only to what you intend to do is only half the story.
Third, most "estimating" programs require you to select your specifications and cost descriptions at random, which has the potential of allowing the biggest pitfall in estimating: Forgetting an entire category of work! By using SpecWriter's Checklist, you work your way down through every category of a very comprehensive list, and you will soon appreciate the importance of this discipline. You can skip any category if you wish, but you will probably develop the habit of addressing each section, even if it's just to include it in the list of items "Not Included".
SpecWriter is Thorough!
SpecWriter's Eight Sections are designed to address every facet of the project from it's General Description to what's Excluded. Nothing is left to chance with this format.
The Eight Sections of the specifications are:
|General Description of the Project
|Description of Work in Specific Areas
|Work Performed by Builder
|Unit Cost Allowances
|Fixed Cost Allowances
Estimating is Organized
The first step to performing any estimate is to define what you're are going to build. Using the checklist to create specifications and a budget outline means that you have already excluded everything not in the job and created a list (with descriptions) of only what is included. At this point, the estimate is already half finished. Just use the budget outline to calculate your cost in each category, extend the cost into the left column, and the subtotals, overhead and profit margin are calculated for you. Of course, you can change and "massage" the numbers and percentages until you are satisfied with the estimate. It's so professional looking, many Builders use it as a sales tool.
SpecWriter is Easy to Learn
Because it's written to do only one task very well, it's not cluttered with extraneous functions and complicated command menus. A few minutes exploring the menu structure is all it takes to figure it out. Just read the checklist to familiarize yourself with the available specifications. You'll have your first Specification written in less than an hour, and you'll soon develop the ability to create specifications and budgets in a matter of minutes.
SpecWriter was written for BUSY people
It has the menu commands to automate the tasks you will need to do all the time, like "Save to Drive C", "Preview Specifications" and "Print Specifications Twice".
SpecWriter is valuable!
Not only will you be able to produce more proposals and win more bids, you will experience fewer headaches building the project because of your well written specifications. You will also come to appreciate the benefits of using your specifications to coordinate your subcontractors and suppliers. Imagine everyone playing by the same sheet music! SpecWriter will pay for itself with the first project.
Other Important Features
SpecWriter is packed with numerous features designed to make the program as efficient to use as possible. Many of these features were the result of suggestions from our current users.
- SpecWriter is fully automated and completely menu controlled, with all the commands you need to perform every task like Insert New Specification, Add Allowance Section, and Save to Hard Disc.
- SpecWriter is completely customizable and allows you to edit our existing specifications, or add your own unique specifications, including adding entire new categories of specifications as easily as typing them in or using your mouse.
- More than 4,000 specifications already written, ready for you to select for inclusion in your project's specifications. Of course, you can add or edit these specifications, but there's a lot you'll be able to use from the 1st day.
- A Comprehensive Checklist that reduces accidental omissions by making sure you remember everything. One pass through the Checklist writes the Specifications, the Estimate, and the Schedule of Values. Some estimating programs brag that they don't have a checklist, but their "random hit" strategy is sure to lead to mistakes.
- An Intelligent Estimating strategy where your project's Specifications also become the Estimate Worksheet. If it's not in the estimate, it's also not in the specifications.
- A GoTo feature that allows you to jump to any section of the Checklist by selecting it from a pull-down window. Great for editing!
- The Customer Type feature allows you to change the reference to your customer throughout the entire specifications. Your choices are Owner, Buyer, Customer, Lease Holder, Property Manager or Client. This allows you to tailor your specifications to suit the nature of your relationship with the customer.
- A Memorize Template feature allows you to name and save Checklist configurations. This allows you to specify a standard model or project, save it and then recall it at any time. This is a great time saver when specifying the same or similar projects.
- The Red Lettering feature on the Checklist allows you to color code your most-used specifications for speeder recognition when selecting specifications.
- A Text Highlite feature allows you to "highlite" in yellow any line of any of the documents. This can be helpful, for example, when reviewing revised specifications with your customer.
- The Takeoff feature provides a separate worksheet that automatically calculates a number of linear and square footages as you enter the basic building dimensions.
- A Lookup function that allows you to find measurements on the Takeoff sheet from the Estimate and copy them into your estimate.
- A Cost Carryover feature will copy the unit cost prices you maintain in the Checklist into the Estimate whenever that specification is selected. Of course, you can override the cost at any time.
- The Dual Estimate feature allows you to calculate the project's price both vertically (total the costs and add markups) and horizontally (mark up each line item, then add together). In fact, you can see the raw numbers done both ways and pick the one you like.
- The Presentation Options allows you to hide all the estimate columns and display or print only the totals in each category, thus keeping the unit costs and markup hidden.
SpecWriter a great program, but it's not a perfect "one-size-fits-all", and there are a couple things it doesn't do:
SpecWriter is not a construction cost database in that it does not include any cost numbers except for a few demonstration prices. It does provide you with a place to enter your own unit or fixed prices, and it does provide you with a great Estimate Worksheet that organizes your budget, extends and totals your costs, and calculates your markup and margins. Most users find this to be the preferred method of preparing construction budgets.
SpecWriter does not do material takeoff's. It does do quantitative takeoff's which means it calculates things like the linear footage of footer or the square footage of framed walls, but it doesn't calculate the rebar or the number of studs.
SpecWriter is a thinking man's tool. The program is designed to reduce a difficult task of several hours down to one focused hour, and provide better results in the process. However, to use it properly, you have to focus when making the selections on the Checklist. As an old carpenter once told me: "The tool will work well, but it won't work by itself."