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Ask Your Contractor for Product Mock-Ups

By Scott Hamele, DBIA President and founder of Construction DesignWorks, LLC and Nationwide Commercial Inspections, LLC

As a customer, how do you know exactly what you are getting when you ask commercial construction contractors to build off a set of architectural construction documents? It doesn’t matter if you are working with design-build general contractors, commercial construction contractors or franchise construction companies, the devil is always in the details and you as a customer may not realize what you are getting until it is too late. That is why you should ask for mock-ups of specific finished products.

In design and construction a mock-up is a scale or full-size model of a product and/or design used to demonstrate the final look, quality of materials and installation practice. A mock-up is a prototype if it provides at least part of the functionality of a system and enables testing of a design. Mock-ups are used by general contractors, architects and designers mainly to acquire feedback from the client. Mock-ups address the idea captured in a popular engineering phrase: You can fix it now on the drafting board with an eraser or you can fix it later on the construction site with a sledge hammer (

Common construction mock-ups for commercial tenant finish and ground up commercial building projects include the following types:

Exterior Wall

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Exterior wall mock-ups are the most common in ground up new construction projects as they are the most visible to the public and are also vital to the moisture protection and overall integrity of the building envelope. Exterior wall mock-ups should demonstrate the framing members, insulation, exterior substrate and final product material. All flashing and joint sealants should also be completed to demonstrate what the final version will look like. Because a building façade can look differently in the sun depending on what side of the building you are looking at, the mock-up should be moved to different locations and direction to fully demonstrate the look in shade and sun at different times of the day.

Interior Wall Tile

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The look of wall tile is completely dependent not only on the type and style of the tile, but the installation of the product. The tile, color depth and width of the grout lines may look different if rotated in different directions. Particular attention should be paid to the substrate and expectation of the performance of the final product. Is it simply a back splash with little moisture exposure or a shower that has direct water contact?


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The details and elevations of casework (cabinets) are difficult to convey on paper and if you are purchasing hundreds of lineal feet, it would be prudent to request one set of casework to be fabricated that includes lower and upper bases along with the tops. The final product may be commercial or residential style, wood or laminate with tops varying from granite to laminate. The pulls and knobs should also be installed to convey to the client the entire final package and its look and ability to withstand the expected use.

The examples above of mock-ups provided by commercial construction contractors are just a few of the hundreds that may be required to properly convey the architectural intent and its fulfillment of the needs of the client. Make sure to let the general contractor, suppliers and sub-contractors know what mock-ups are required during the bidding process as these mock-ups can costs thousands of dollars in some instances.

About Construction DesignWorks

Construction DesignWorks uses its hands-on approach and design expertise to create and develop a winning design-build team that is specialized for each customer. Their complete turnkey solutions align with the unique business needs of various types of real estate. Construction DesignWorks, LLC. is located at 6657 Woodland Drive in Shawnee, Kansas. If you are looking for a commercial construction contractor or for more information about interior design-build, call (913) 745-4727 or visit their website

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