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Signing & Sealing Preliminary Drawings

Signing & Sealing Preliminary Drawings

Signing & Sealing Preliminary Drawings

I have a client who wants me to send him signed and sealed drawings even though the design of all the members has not been completed.  Is it Ok to send out drawings with only some of the information shown?  The missing information would have to remain blank and use notes such as "reinforcing to be determined" or "dimensions to follow".  If so would these drawings need to be labeled "PRELIMINARY" or would the "NOT FOR CONSTRUCTION" note be adequate?  I have seen in some professional newsletters of individuals who were subject to disciplinary action for sending out incomplete drawings.  Is this the same thing?

I need to know very soon so please respond!


RE: Signing & Sealing Preliminary Drawings

I would absolutely have them marked in either a "PRELIMINARY", "UNRELEASED", "NOT FOR CONSTRUCTION" or other designator to clearly show that they are intended for information and comment only.  Even so, I would be very leery about signing and especially stamping (and I am not a PE).  Does the client contract contain any clauses on drawing release and control?  There should be a requirement to return or destroy those drawings (if done) once released ones are made available along with a non-disclosure agreement if applicable.  Think what potential implications could arise from the distribution of those incomplete drawings.  If there are not any controls on them once released, I wouldn't do it.


RE: Signing & Sealing Preliminary Drawings

If I do send them out, the drawings will definetly be stamped "Preliminary - Not for Construction".  They will also be sent electronically as a scanned pdf which will then be locked.  Do you think this would be sufficient?

Thanks for your input and quick response!

RE: Signing & Sealing Preliminary Drawings

There is no reason for you to sign and seal preliminary drawings. In my 35 years I've NEVER seen it done and would advise you to say no.  There is no reason for the Owner ask for it either.  The whole idea behind signing and sealing the drawings is to say that you approve the design, that it is complete and meets the code requirements.  DON'T LET THEM TALK YOU INTO THIS!!  

RE: Signing & Sealing Preliminary Drawings

jheidt2543 is on track.  The problem is that the owner can and will ask for anything they feel is important to their project.  You goal will be to educate them on the engineering requirements around your seal.  Preliminary drawings should not be sealed or partially sealed.  I have seen a lot of people just put their seal on drawings without signature and date.  I always believed this was a problem because many rules want engineers to provide a full seal including signature and date.

I have sealed "Permit" drawings where the permit requirements demanded a seal, but did not demand contract or final drawings in support of the application.  Noting them not for construction or for permit use only is valid, but the overall purpose of the drawings was for a pre determined purpose beyond the owners control.

Educate your client rather than just telling them no and I would think this would all go away and your relationship with the client will be improved through the communication process.

Let us know how you make out....


RE: Signing & Sealing Preliminary Drawings

I would not do this. there is no reason to seal the preliminary drawings unless it for a permit. In that case I would add anote that final structural design is not complete and you do not endorse these drawings for construction, and that the SOLE purpose of the drawings is to provide sufficent information to obtain a permit.
By stamping the drawings, you are certifing the strucutre is sufficently designed in accordance with standard practice and is safe and code compliant. If the owner decides to save some money and have a fabricator's unlicensed detailer finsh the design as part of a shop drawing. If there is a problem you will dragged in quick. Also if he specifies smaller members than what you would, and then goes after the owner for a change when you requset larger members, you will be pressured to relax your design. It is one of those situations where nothing good will come of it, and something bad might.
You might put a statement on the drawings that these drawings have been prepared by you . a licensed engineer. that the drawins are incomplete and have been prepared to present the current design concept. Construction and fabrication should only proceed from complete stamped drawings. Everything is true and you have clearly not endorsed the drawings. Consult your attorney for exact language.

RE: Signing & Sealing Preliminary Drawings

waytsh - Outstanding advice from all of the above. I will just add one thing, their concerns not just hypothetical, in 1977, I was a (potential) bidder on a project that was about 50% designed (lots of missing member sizes, etc.). The Owner had sent the preliminary plans out for bid, without the knowledge or consent of the Engineer.

RE: Signing & Sealing Preliminary Drawings

I contacted the PA Board of Professional Engineers and they directed me in the same direction as all of you have.  The drawings should not be signed and sealed unless they are complete.  We have informed the client that we can not provide sealed drawings at this time.  I don't know how well it went over since he claims that it is going to delay the project by a month.  Small price to pay in my opinion.  In any case as BobPE mentioned it was a good educational opportunity.

Thanks again to all!  I appreciate the time you spent to respond.


RE: Signing & Sealing Preliminary Drawings

Sounds like the owner wants to give the preliminary drawings over to a contractor in order to get an early bid on the project. The owner thinks that this will save time but it will probably cost him $$$ if the design changes significantly from preliminary to final stage. I think that contractors should also be legally held responsible when they accept drawings that are not final & complete and issue bids based upon them.

RE: Signing & Sealing Preliminary Drawings

EddyC - For the example I referenced, wish that had been the case. Contractors aren't dummies. We prepared a bid based on the 50% drawings - made "generous" estimates on the missing material details, added a very liberal profit margin. Then took this total number, DOUBLED it & submitted it as our bid.

Our firm was the only bidder, the Owner (with the Engineer present this time) called for a meeting, apologized, explained what had happened, said that they could not afford our price. No hard feeling by anyone. Bid was rejected and rebid (at a much lower price) several months later.

RE: Signing & Sealing Preliminary Drawings

The only thing you could perhaps do here is go to your owner and suggest ways in which you can help him/her achieve a more timely schedule.  

One way is to produce plans of PORTIONS of the project that are 100% complete and follow up with the remaining later.

For example, we many times issue foundation plans for bidding, permitting and construction prior to the rest of the building being complete....this fast-track design still has the cost implications stated above but most jurisdictions in the US will accept this.

Work with your owner and provide consulting.  This is really where engineers can shine - in thinking outside the box and helping them to realize their goals - beyond the purely technical aspects of engineering.

RE: Signing & Sealing Preliminary Drawings

You can stamp preliminary drawings.  I've done it.  I checked with the board of a couple of states.  
Drawings have to be stamped for permit and construction.
In most states you would be supprized to learn witch types of projects are required to have an engineers stamp, less than you might think.
Stamping preliminary drawings is sometimes requested by the general contractor or architech to let the owner know who and what level of engineering expertise he's getting.
I have seen stamped preliminary drawings go to owners who in turn took them to planning committes, banks and insurance companies.  It makes the owner look better and gives connfidence to  the folks with money.

RE: Signing & Sealing Preliminary Drawings


I respectfully disagree.  You may have seen it done, you may have actually done it, but it is absolutely not the professional thing to do.  There are many better ways of impressing an Owner or Contractor and they carry a lot less liability.  

I've been in the situation that SlideRulerEra describes, trying to fill in the design blanks left by the "EOR" (so called) to finish a construction bid.  I don't like it!  I've worked too hard for my degree, my license and my reputation to short cut the process.  There is a BIG difference between design/build drawings, preliminary drawings, design developement drawings and the final permit or bid set.

I have also worked on projects that were bid in phases as JAE suggests.  Usually, the structural steel package was bid first, because of the longer delivery time.  Then, the foundation was completed, because by that time the steel design was complete and final foundation loads were known.  Then each phase was sealed as if it where a separate project and usually separate permits too.

RE: Signing & Sealing Preliminary Drawings

It's  professional.
Thd drawings are not issued for construction.  Preliminary issues are marked as letter revs "A", "B" etc,  They are marked with notations such "Preliminary - Issued for Client Review"  or "Conceptual- issued for Planning"  etc.  They tell people what the plan is and that is was done by a professional.
The owner and/or the general contractor and the project financiers are paying for a professional product. Insurance carriers may require a stamp even though state law may not require one for the project.  They are entitled to see evidence of it.   
Stamping preliminary drawings violates no leagle or ethical laws or rules. The project schedule will usually say if and when various stages of drawings will be issued.  If someone uses them for construction then I would be all over them. I  can pull the drawing and call the board. It's ther ethical problem not mine.  I'll turn them in and see my attorney.  I don't work with people who do that ( so far).
Check the laws of your state.  An electrican with a masters license can sign plans for fairly  significant buildings, Industrial projects may not require a PE.  In one state I am registered in only schools, hospitals and "public" buildings need PEs.  
Some owners want to know from the start, there gettin a PE not a cad operator the architech hired.

RE: Signing & Sealing Preliminary Drawings

Just a smattering of various laws around the US.. Note that most states use the "default" word FINAL to indicate when a seal is required.  However, they don't specifically deny the practice of sealing partially complete plans except in a few states where it is specifically directed NOT to seal preliminary documents.  

So BJC, I would suggest you are generally correct in that you CAN seal preliminaries if you desire as long as you are not in a state that specifically excludes this practice.  But I personnally wouldn't and don't seal plans that aren't 100%.  I follow what jheidt2543's practice and opinion is.  In most cases, its just not required by jurisdictions or clients.  And a client is best TOLD that they are getting a PE via the proper communication and response from the PE's - via marketing info and resumes, etc....not by a seal...Seals are not really intended to be used to market engineers, only to show a condition of responsibility for a particular design.

From the Texas PE Law:
(e) Preliminary documents released from a license holder’s control shall identify the purpose of the document, the engineer(s) of record and the engineer license number(s), and the release date by placing the following text or similar wording instead of a seal: “This document is released for the purpose of (Examples: interim review, mark-up, drafting) under the authority of (Example: Leslie H. Doe, P.E. 0112) on (date). It is not to be used for (Examples: construction, bidding, permit) purposes.”

From Alabama PE Law:
(5) The seal, signature, and date shall be placed on all final specifications, land surveys, reports, plats, drawings, plans, design information, and calculations whenever presented to a client or any public or governmental agency. All work products presented which are not final shall be so identified. Working drawings or documents are unfinished, in-progress drawings or documents that may or may not have a seal and signature. A working drawing or document must, however, contain a statement to the effect “PRELIMINARY, NOT FOR CONSTRUCTION, RECORDING PURPOSES OR IMPLEMENTATION.”

From Arkansas PE Law:
(2)  All final drawings, specifications, plans, reports, calculations, or other engineering papers or documents involving the practice of engineering, as defined in this chapter, when issued or filed for public record, shall be dated and bear the signature and seal of the professional engineer qualified in the appropriate branch of engineering who prepared them or under whose immediate direction they were prepared.

From the Georgia PE Law:
(1) The seal and signature of the registrant shall be placed on all plans, specifications,
plats and reports whenever presented to a client or any public agency to certify that the
work thereon was done by the registrant or under the direct supervisory control of the
registrant on a daily basis.
(2) The seal, signature and date shall be placed on all original copy, tracings or other
reproducible documents so that the seal, signature, date will be reproduced when copies
are made.
(3) Each drawing shall be sealed and signed by the registrant responsible for each sheet.
When a firm, corporation, professional corporation, partnership, association, or other
entity performs the work, each drawing shall be sealed and signed by the registrant in
responsible charge.

From the Mississippi PE Law:
14.03 Seal on Documents
1. The seal, signature and date on a document constitute a certification that the document was prepared by the licensee or under his direct supervision.
2. a. Each sheet of plans, drawings, documents, specifications and reports for engineering practice and of maps, plats, charts shall be signed, sealed and dated by the licensee preparing them, prepared under his direct supervisory control, or reviewed by him in sufficient depth to fully coordinate and assume responsibility for documents prepared by another professional engineer.
b. Each sheet of maps, plats, charts, documents, and reports for land surveying practice shall be signed,
sealed, and dated by the licensee preparing them or prepared under his direct supervisory control.
3. Where more than one sheet is bound together in one volume, the licensee who prepared such volume, or under whose direction and control such volume was prepared, may sign, seal and date only the title or index sheet, providing that the signed sheet clearly identifies all of the other sheets comprising the bound volume, and provided that any of the other sheets which were prepared by, or under the direction and control of, another licensee, be signed, and/or sealed and dated by said other licensee.
Additions, deletions or other revisions affecting public health and safety or state and local codes may be made only if they are subsequently signed, sealed and dated by the licensee who made the revisions or under whose direction and control said revisions were made.
14.04 Prototypical Projects - Documents prepared for projects that are designed by other engineers to be built in various locations with few changes, except site adaptation, may be sealed by a Mississippi licensee under the following conditions:

1. Written permission of the original engineer(s) to adapt the documents.
2. Each sheet of plans, drawings, documents, specifications and reports shall be signed, sealed and dated by the engineer who performed the original design and shall also be signed, sealed and dated by the Mississippi licensee who has reviewed the documents in sufficient depth to fully coordinate and assume responsibility.
3. Documentation of all changes made to the original documents.
4. The following written certification shall accompany the seal and signature on each sheet: "I have reviewed this document in sufficient depth to accept full responsibility for its contents and to assure code compliance and coordination."

From the Ohio PE Law:
Plans, specifications, plats, reports, and all other engineering or
surveying work products issued by a registrant shall be stamped with the seal or bear a
computer-generated seal in accordance with this section, and be signed and dated by the
registrant, but no person shall stamp, seal, or sign any documents after the registration of
the registrant named thereon has expired or the registration has been revoked or
suspended, unless the registration has been renewed or reissued.

From the South Dakota PE Law:
All originals, copies, tracings, or other reproducibles of all final drawings, specifications, reports, plats, plans, land surveys, design information, and calculations prepared by the licensee or under the licensee’s responsible charge when presented to a client or any public or governmental agency. A licensee may not review or check technical submissions of another professional or unlicensed person and seal the documents as the licensee’s own work;
Preliminary work shall contain a note that the submittal is "Not for Construction" or other such explanation that it is not final;

RE: Signing & Sealing Preliminary Drawings

I think signing drawings you don't want to sign is a bad idea. Signing incomplete drawings is like carrying around a book of signed blank checks. You may never get into trouble, but if you do, man will you be in trouble.
If you think taht if you didn't do anything wrong and all you have to do is see your attorney to get out of it, Let me tell you justice will probably prevail, several years and a couple $100k later. You can do it, but why?

RE: Signing & Sealing Preliminary Drawings

nice research JAE, thanks....


RE: Signing & Sealing Preliminary Drawings

Yes, for USA boards, check NCEES or simply google on the state name and words like ENGINEERING BOARD PROFESSIONAL and you can usually get a quick hit on the state board website.

Not sure how this post relates to other countries laws and regulations.

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