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How to process and respond to a construction RFI

Construction RFIs can be a useful way to clarify expectations and reduce errors in the construction process. They can also take up precious time, add costs, and delay your project timeline. The way you process and respond to RFIs makes the difference. 

This guide provides an overview of construction RFIs, including how to create one, how to process efficiently and how to respond. 

What is a request for information (RFI) in construction? 

In construction, requests for information (RFIs) ask for missing details or clarification about plans, drawings, specifications, materials or any other elements of a project. A contractor or subcontractor may submit an RFI to the general or head contractor, who may forward it to the design or engineering team to ask for more information or to clarify details. It can be submitted before a project is signed off if proposal details are lacking or, more commonly, when issues arise during the construction process. 

Why are construction RFIs important?

Construction RFIs are important because they help your business identify and resolve issues with a project, including missing information, unclear design elements, unavailable or unsuitable materials and mistakes in contract terms. The RFI process is about laying out the issue clearly, documenting the initial request for clarification, and then responding, changing the contract if required and ensuring that all stakeholders are on the same page. 

Key differences between an RFI, RFP, RFQ and RFT

While they're very similar acronyms, RFIs, RFPs, RFQs and RFTs are different documents used in the construction process. Here are the key differences: 

RFI (Request for information)

  • Purpose - Request for extra information to help the contractor, sub-contractor or supplier solve a problem

  • Stage - Before or during project

  • Advantages - Resolve issues promptly. Formalise the information request process

  • Disadvantages - Can cause added costs and delays.

RFP (Request for proposal)

  • Purpose - Request for detailed information about how service providers or contractors would carry out an upcoming project.

  • Stage - Before project starts

  • Advantages - Develop understanding of the construction process before making project decisions

  • Disadvantages - Proposal process can be lengthy. Timeline and budget estimates may be inaccurate.

RFQ (Request for quote)

  • Purpose - Request for project cost estimate from one or more suppliers or contractors

  • Stage - Before project

  • Advantages - Get an idea of the likely cost of an upcoming project.

  • Disadvantages - Must get a number of quotes to get a full understanding of costs. Quoting can be time-consuming.

RFT (Request for tender)

  • Purpose - Combined elements of RFP and RFQ, including costing, project details and projected timelines. An RFT invites suppliers or contractors to submit a bid to supply goods or services.

  • Stage - Before project

  • Advantages - Offers deeper insight and more detail than an RFP or RFQ. It enables project owners to compare bids on price as well as capability, methodology, experience and more.

  • Disadvantages - Time-consuming for all stakeholders. RFT process can exclude smaller operators that can't spend time creating the documents.

What is the construction RFI process?

The construction RFI process varies from business to business, depending on factors like size, company structure and the complexity of the work being done. 

Generally, the process involves these key steps: 

1. Identify the issue 

A subcontractor or general contractor identifies an issue with the project design, contract, specifications, materials or any other element. 

2. Create an RFI

They write up an RFI document to request more information about the issue, keep a copy or record, and submit it to the general contractor or project owner. 

3. Respond or pass on 

The general contractor gives an immediate answer if possible – if not, the RFI is sent on to the appropriate party, such as the architect, engineering team, drafter or client. 

4. Write response

The stakeholder receives the RFI, comes up with a solution, and writes a response either in the RFI template or as a separate document. 

5. Return RFI 

The document is returned to the issuer – if they feel the response doesn't answer their question, they may resubmit with additional details. 

6. Amend relevant documents 

If the project timeline, costing or schedule will be affected by a change, the project management team will amend the contract and have all stakeholders sign off on the change. 

Construction request for information best practices 

Best practices for construction RFIs include developing a clear RFI procedure, setting expectations around response times, ensuring your documentation gets the message across, and using purpose-built software to manage the process. 

Develop an RFI procedure 

Develop an RFI procedure that lays out the key steps involved in your RFI process, as well as the timelines and stakeholders. 

Define expected response times

Define response times so RFI delays don't have a major impact on your project deadlines. If you’re responding to an RFI, encourage your design and engineering teams to do that as quickly as possible and set up a follow-up message if there's no response within the timeframe. 

Keep it simple and specific 

Keep RFIs simple and specific – they don't need to be as complex as other construction documents. Create an RFI template and encourage your team to use it. 

A standard RFI should include: 

  • Project name and address 

  • RFI number 

  • RFI title that briefly describes the issue 

  • Name and contact details for the sender and receiver 

  • Date of submission and deadline for response 

  • Written query, including as much detail as possible

  • A section for the response and additional comments

  • Attachments to clarify the request – these can include photos, screenshots, copies of plans and invoices

  • A section or checkbox to indicate whether a change order is required

Provide visual guidance where possible 

Provide visual guidance where possible – design issues can be difficult to describe in words, which is why visual documentation is a good idea. Make it clear by including design or planning documents with notes or highlighting as needed. 

Use digital tools or software to manage RFIs

An RFI process can be managed manually, but it's usually simpler to use digital tools or purpose-built software. Many construction ERP systems  have in-built RFI tools, and there are also RFI management apps and add-ons that you can integrate. Using software ensures that everything is recorded and tracked consistently and that relevant stakeholders are informed throughout the process. It can also help automate follow-ups and reduce response times. 

How to respond to a construction RFI

The key elements of an effective construction RFI response are detail, speed and expertise. 

While responses vary depending on the specific issue being addressed, the response process generally looks like this: 

1. Log

Log the details of incoming RFIs, including number, title and company sending the request, in your RFI spreadsheet or construction ERP system.  

2. Read 

Read through the request carefully, and think about the potential response. While speed is important, RFIs are often sent back with an inaccurate or incomplete response because the  recipient hasn't read the details properly. This can lead to project errors or multiple RFIs, which can delay the project even more. 

3. Seek support if needed 

If you can't respond to an RFI on your own, seek help from an architect, engineer, or other expert. 

4. Respond 

Write a response that answers the query as thoroughly as possible, and include supporting documentation – like amended plans, design drawings or specifications if needed. A detailed response reduces the risk of an RFI coming back for further clarification.  

Construction RFI challenges 

Common challenges of construction RFIs include added costs, project delays and miscommunication. 

Significant cost implications 

Every RFI represents potential cost implications, which can significantly increase the overall price of the project. If an RFI requires amendments to your contracts, plans and other project details, making those changes can add cost and time as well. 

Project delays 

RFIs can cause project delays, particularly if they relate to a major design element. If your project has to be put on hold until the RFI comes back, or if you manage multiple RFIs through the course of the project, it could lead to major delays and issues with subcontractor schedules. As every construction business knows, even a small delay can add up to serious cost overruns. 


If you don't have a clear, succinct process, it's easy for miscommunications to arise, leading to yet more delays and cost overruns. That's why it's important to include a detailed description, photos or design documents, and other supporting information. 

Construction RFI FAQs

Is a construction RFI a formal document? 

While every RFI should be logged, it doesn't have to be a long, formal document. Unlike a contract or tender document, which may have legal implications, an RFI is primarily designed to gather practical information and move the building process forward. 

What is the difference between a construction submittal and RFI? 

A construction submittal is a document that helps the general contractor communicate their plans to subcontractors. It generally includes a high level of detail across all elements of the project to ensure that everyone involved is on the same page. On the other hand, an RFI is written to clarify the design of a certain part of the project, for example, a design element or specification. 

Who is responsible for the RFI process? 

There are several stakeholders involved in the RFI process, including subcontractors, the general contractor for the project and designers or architects. A subcontractor is usually responsible for writing an RFI, the general contractor manages the RFI logging process, and they may send the RFI to other stakeholders such as engineers, the architect or the client who can assist in providing the correct response.  

What is the typical turnaround time for an RFI? 

Because RFIs can include drastically different levels of detail, it's difficult to define a typical turnaround time. If you ask a very simple question, you could get a response in an hour or two, while more complex queries could take a week or more. 

How long should an RFI response be? 

An RFI response should be as succinct as possible – most include less than a page of text, along with diagrams, amended plans and other documentation. 

MYOB: designed for construction 

RFIs, job costings, project management, payments and tax, accounting and subcontractor scheduling – managing a construction business involves a huge number of moving parts and complexities. MYOB Advanced Construction is construction software built for companies in Australia and New Zealand that includes a suite of costing, compliance and project management tools on one cloud platform.  Find out more today.  

Disclaimer: Information provided in this article is of a general nature and does not consider your personal situation. It does not constitute legal, financial, or other professional advice and should not be relied upon as a statement of law, policy or advice. You should consider whether this information is appropriate to your needs and, if necessary, seek independent advice. This information is only accurate at the time of publication. Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of the information contained on this webpage, MYOB disclaims, to the extent permitted by law, all liability for the information contained on this webpage or any loss or damage suffered by any person directly or indirectly through relying on this information.

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