Want to ensure that your bid covers every conceivable problem that could arise during a complicated job? Arrange a pre-bid walkthrough. Mike Weiss, owner of Weiss & Co., Carmel, Ind., regularly assembles trade contractors for an on-site conference prior to bidding on -- or designing, if it's a design/build job -- complex projects. Weiss gathers all important trade contractors to inspect the premises with him. Their expertise clarifies design problems and identifies potential "job stoppers."

"The electrician can look at the existing panel and say whether we can use it to service the new load," Weiss says. "My plumbing contractor is apt to see at a glance something I might not even be aware of. They're used to looking at the condition of these things."

Weiss says a pre-bid walkthrough is "fairly impressive, if you have competition and you're not doing the design and you're one of the bidders. It's impressive not only to the people doing the bidding with you but to the client, as well."

In addition to the walkthrough, Weiss & Co. prepares a site information sheet for large jobs. The form goes to trade contractors as well as into the job file. It consists of a list with check boxes indicating the type and location of utilities, permitting requirements, physical site properties, existing exterior components for possible matching, and a space on the bottom for special conditions.

"It's an organizer for the information you need preliminary to preparing for any kind of quote," Weiss says. "These are questions that are always going to appear when the estimate is being prepared. So you're either using experience as a reminder, or going back."