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Mastering the Submittal Process: Key Insights from Construction Professionals

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5 min

“In construction, a submittal refers to the detailed plans, documents, and data a contractor must present for evaluation and approval during the pre-construction phase.”


When it comes to building safe, dependable structures, a few steps are as vital to the success of a construction project as the submittal process. This important paperwork covers a wide range of elements, including diagrams, shop drawings, material samples, and product data, each meticulously prepared to align with the project’s contract requirements.

Infographic for NatCap about the elements of a submittal

What You Need to Know About Submittals

Submittals are an integral part of construction processes because they ensure all the involved parties are aligned and that every product or process conforms to the contract documents. From the tiniest screw to the largest piece of construction equipment, every item ultimately used on a construction project must go through this rigorous review process.

The submittal process in construction is a key pathway for exchanging information between the project stakeholders – from the contractor to the design team, and from the project manager to the construction manager. This exchange ensures everyone involved has all the necessary information to make informed decisions, effectively facilitating the smooth execution of the construction project.

The Role of Certifications for Submittal Requirements

A vital element in this process is the ‘certification,’ which verifies that the proposed materials, practices, and items comply with strict industry standards. While it might seem like just another document to submit, obtaining the right certifications can often be the make-or-break factor in whether a project successfully meets contract requirements and ultimately, whether it gets the green light to progress to the next phase.

Different types of certifications may be necessary depending on the nature of the construction project. They might include:

  • Safety ratings
  • Product test results
  • Compliance documents with industry standards such as ASTM (American Society for Testing Materials), ISO (International Organization for Standardization), and NCHRP (National Cooperative Highway Research Program)

These certifications are not just a ‘nice to have’; they are obligatory components of the submittal process that validate that the proposed materials and techniques fit their intended purpose, ensuring overall project safety.

Certifications grant materials, practices, and techniques access to a construction project. Without these essential documents affirming product compliance, project stakeholders might find themselves dealing with rejected submittals, delaying the project’s timelines and potentially inflating costs.

Gaining a comprehensive understanding of the next stages can provide project managers, contractors, and all team members involved with a clear roadmap to navigate this essential part of construction projects successfully.

Infographic for NatCap outlining the exact steps to complete a submittal in construction

The Submittal Process: Breaking Down Each Step

1. Submittal Preparation

The general contractor is typically responsible for the initial submittal, but it must be a collaborative effort involving other construction professionals. It includes acquiring product data, shop drawings, and physical samples of materials to be used, which are then compiled into a submittal package.

2. Submittal Review

Once the package has been prepared, it goes to the design team for review. Detailed plans are checked against contract requirements, and material samples are assessed for quality and suitability. Any discrepancies between construction drawings, detailed plans, and the actual state of the site are brought to light at this stage, and additional information may be required.

3. Response and Resubmittal

If any portion of the submittal is deemed unsatisfactory, the package is returned to the contractor for corrections. The contractor must then revise the incorrect materials, incorporate the necessary changes, and resubmit the package for another round of reviews.

4. Approval

After all the corrections have been made, and all components of the submittal meet the contract requirements, the design team gives their nod of approval. This signal implies that the proposed materials, techniques, and methods are following the project’s goals and can be implemented.

5. Record-keeping

Once the approval process is complete, all documents, including approvals, submittal documents, and review notes, should be archived. This step allows for better project management, and accurate audits, assuring compliance with industry standards up until the closeout submittal.

Modern project management software offers substantial help in streamlining this process by serving as a comprehensive repository for all relevant information and ensuring all project stakeholders are kept in the loop.

Architect's helmet and compass on architectural blueprints and construction technology and future industry

Overcoming Challenges in the Submittal Process

Even with meticulous planning and communication, the submittal process can present several challenges that may stunt the progress of a construction project. However, being aware of these issues and knowing how to address them efficiently can ensure the construction process remains on track.

  • Drawings and Site Conditions Discrepancies: On occasion, physical conditions at the construction site may not align entirely with the detailed plans or construction drawings. In such cases, the contractor must promptly communicate these discrepancies to the design team. A thorough review process should then be carried out by all involved parties, and structural modifications, if needed, should be made before resubmission.
  • Delayed Approval Process: Delays in the approval process can significantly set back project timelines. While some factors may be out of the contractor’s control, ensuring all documents are correctly prepared and all material samples comply with contract requirements can expedite the process.
  • Incorrect Materials: Submittals may sometimes be rejected if the materials proposed do not meet the project’s specific performance criteria or safety standards. To avoid this, contractors should use the correct materials from the start, ensuring that they are in line with the contract documents and design specifications.

Overcoming these challenges requires clear communication, thorough documentation, and strict adherence to the submittal schedule. It is equally important to make sure all team members are well-versed in their roles in the process and understand the importance of each step.

There is no denying that the submittal process can be overwhelming. However, with the right expertise and reliable partners like National Capital Industries, you can navigate through these challenges with ease.

engineer holding pen pointing equipment architects On the desk with a blueprint in the office, Vintage, Sunset light.

How National Capital Industries Aids in the Cert & Submittal Process

At National Capital Industries, we understand the intricacies of the construction submittal process. With over 60 years of experience in the construction industry, we’re adept at helping teams make their way through the complexities of submittal items. From selecting the correct materials to ensuring all certifications are current and compliant, NatCap’s support can be the catalyst for a successful project.

Product Data

We assist contractors with comprehensive product data, thereby ensuring that all required submittal documents are readily available and sufficiently detailed. Whether it’s technical data or product specifications, our experienced team of professionals can provide you with the necessary information in an easily accessible and understandable manner.

Industry Knowledge

At NatCap, we emphasize keeping all certifications up-to-date, thereby aligning with the latest industry standards. This proactive approach not only aids in the approval process but also builds trust and confidence with the project stakeholders. We are easily able to look up local DOT or other agencies to ensure your product aligns with the requirements. If you don’t know where to start in this process, we have you completely covered.

Expert Advice

In addition to these, we offer expert advice on how our products can meet project-specific requirements. Guiding you through potential compatibility issues, installation procedures, or even assisting with customized solutions, we aim to ensure that every step of your construction process is as seamless as possible.

Unmatched Customer Service

Our responsive customer service also plays a crucial role in streamlining the submittal process. We understand that quick responses to your questions about product specifications and submittal documents can significantly accelerate the approval process, ensuring that your project stays on track. Even years down the line, if you need a certification for a NatCap product, simply contact us and we’ll get you what you need.

With National Capital Industries as your partner, you gain much more than just a vendor. We position ourselves as your guide, helping to navigate you through the demanding landscape of the construction submittal process. Our customer-centric approach empowers us to build a mutually rewarding partnership — one where we’re always ready to go the extra mile to support you.

By proactively assisting in the efficient handling of the construction submittal process, NatCap not only ensures smoother progression of your construction projects but also strengthens its reputation as a reliable partner in the construction industry. Partnering with us means getting on your way to a flawlessly executed construction project.

National Capital Industries — Making the complex simple, one construction project at a time.


ASTM International – Standards Worldwide, Accessed 18 Apr. 2024. 

“International Organization for Standardization.” ISO, 31 Jan. 2024, 

“Home: NCHRP.” Transportation Research Board, Accessed 6 Apr. 2024.