Tenant Improvement Project Process - Seattle Contractor BUILT-RIGHT®
Successfully Completed Over 500 Fast-Track Tenant Improvement Projects and Counting

Tenant Improvement Project Process
To Help You Avoid Delays
and Cost Overruns


Choosing the right tenant improvement specialist can be the difference between an on-time occupation of your space or a nightmare project filled with delays, cost overruns and unanticipated issues.


Select a Tenant Improvement Specialist


  There are many factors to consider when selecting a tenant improvement specialist.



Below are a few questions to consider when you are ready to select a contractor.


  Does the contractor have extensive experience with tenant improvement projects?



How many projects has the contractor successfully completed of your size and



  Is the contractor willing to provide contact names and numbers for recently completed projects?



If not, that would be a red flag. If so, then ask the referrals if the project was completed on time and for the agreed sum. If there were problems how were they handled?


  Is the contractor licensed, bonded and Insured in Washington State? You can check to see if the contractor is licensed and how long the contractor has been in business at the following Labor and Industries website:


  At this site you can also check to see if any claims have been made against the contractor.


  What is the contractor’s Labor and Industries experience factor rating? Does the contractor qualify for a claim free discount? If the contractor has a safe workplace he should have a minimum experience factor rating of .80. A Smaller number is better.


  Does the contractor’s general liability insurance meet your limit requirements and is the insurance still in force? Does the contractor’s insurance cover completed operations? If not then a Builder Risk Insurance policy should be considered to cover work in progress.


  Is the contractor willing to provide a fixed sum quote for the project? If not then that may mean he is not experienced enough to accurately estimate your project much less complete the project on time and in budget.


  Will the contractor still be in business to handle warranty call backs?


Stipulated Sum Contract Terms



Take the time to review the plans and contractor’s scope of work to make sure you are contracting for the work that you expect to be performed.



Is the quote based on the most current set of plans, addendums and specifications?



Is there a defined start and end date or a fixed duration from a variable start date included for your project?



Are payment terms and schedules clearly defined?



Conditional lien releases should be provided by the contractor for progress payments. At the end of the project an Unconditional lien release should be provide on final payment.



Is there a single point of contact for each party regarding the project scope of work and additional work requests?


  Is a unit pricing schedule included for change order pricing if there are changes to the scope of work?


  Have the building work rules and insurance requirements been reviewed?



Is the contractor committed to following the work rules and daily construction hours of operation schedule?


  Does the contractor’s insurance meet the building owner’s requirements?


  Consider other specific language that should be included for your project type.


Tenant Improvement Project Schedule Key Dates


  The construction schedule is dependent on many factors. The construction start date cannot be determined until a building permit has been issued. The length of time to receive a building permit varies by municipality and by size of project.



It is important to create a project schedule for opening your new location. Allow several months for finding the optimum location. Once the location or locations have been identified then allow time to negotiate the lease terms and to complete your due diligence for the location.



The tenant improvement project is just one line item on your project relocation schedule; however it has a fixed duration and cannot start until permits have been issued. Delays in lease negotiations and receiving permits cannot be taken from the fixed duration construction schedule. These delays will move your opening date forward so it is very important to stay on top of the project relocation schedule and the key decision makers.


  Architectural drawings and specifications will take a minimum of several weeks to prepare for submittal to the building department for permits. It is common for tenant improvement projects to take four to six weeks to get through the building department. In rare cases for small projects permits may be issued over the counter.


  A demolition permit may be obtained over the counter so the contractor can start work before the building permit is issued.



While the building department has the permit drawings final pricing can be obtained from the contractor selected. If the building department makes code required changes to the plans than a revision to the pricing may be required at permit issuance.


  Many long lead time items need to be ordered once the project documents and contract are mutually acceptable.


  Carpet, tile, custom cabinetry, counters, wall coverings, custom order fixtures, lighting and prefinished doors with trim are just a few items that may require long lead times.


  During construction some key dates to monitor include wall framing cover, ceiling cover, fire inspection and testing, final inspection and issuance of occupancy certificate.


  Remember to open all necessary utilities accounts as soon as possible.


  Coordinating Internet and Telephone connections to the space can take more than a month if the service providers are larger companies with centralized account management. In most cases a representative from your company will need to be on site to meet the installer and answer any questions.


Weekly Site Walks and Updates


  Construction progress can also be monitored by weekly site walks. When visiting the site observe construction progress and compare that with progress payments requested.



Check the tenant improvement contractor’s project schedule to see if progress matches the schedule.


  If you do not have time for a site visit progress can be documented by current site photographs and an email detailing progress and problems if any.


  Schedule your site visit with the project supervisor and mutually document any concerns or errors for remedy. The project supervisor should address any issues and resolve the problem before the next site visit. Unannounced site visits should be avoided for your safety. The contractor’s insurance requires that non construction related site visitors are accompanied by an authorized company representative.


  To avoid any confusion speak directly to the authorized contractor’s representative only. Avoid talking to the contractor’s employees and subcontractors. The tenant improvement contractor may be working for the landlord and tenant simultaneously. The contractor will need to coordinate with the landlord regarding the landlord’s scope of work.


  Requested changes should be brought up as soon as they are confirmed as necessary. A delay in requesting the change could add cost to the change through necessary reworking completed items.


Punch List and Final Walk Through


  Before you occupy your new space meet with the contractor to complete a preliminary walk through. At this time review the plans and scope of work to make sure that all of the contract items have been completed or will be completed before you occupy the space. Note any defects and discuss remedies with the contractor’s representative.



Check the building permit to see if the inspector has signed, dated and checked off the final approval.


  Check off all of the items on your final punch list before making a final payment on your project.


  After you move in and the contractor has completed his work have the locks changed. Access can be arranged by appointment if needed.


Project Manual


  A project manual is a very useful tool for continuing maintenance and repair as a tenant improvement ages. It is much easier to find replacement fixtures, flooring, finishes and accessories if the existing manufacturers, model numbers and colors are all recorded in one place.



An experienced tenant improvement specialist will retain equipment manuals, product installation guides, finish samples, flooring samples and product specification sheets for incorporation into the project file and project manual. Copies of the permits and as-built drawings will also be included with all plan sheets and a project specification manual.




This document is provided to as a helpful resource. It is a starting point but it is not intended to cover every conceivable situation. Using experienced advisors should always be considered before you sign any lease or commit to any outlay for tenant improvements.

Guide provided by BUILT-RIGHT®.  - © 2012

Click here to download a PDF version of this guide.

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Seattle, Bellevue, Renton, Issaquah, Kirkland,
Everett, Redmond, Woodinville, Bothell,
Shoreline, Edmonds and Lynnwood.