large island in kitchen with built-in storage and pendant lighting

From the Desk of...

Custom Home Know-How:
Why Shop Drawings are Critical



This week, we’re starting a series of posts that answer frequent questions we receive from clients before or during their project. Just like any industry, design has its own parlance. We try hard not to overuse design lingo, but sometimes it happens so I’m taking the opportunity to clarify. In posts like this one, we’ll decode the acronyms and our industry-specific language, and answer commonly asked questions that will help take the stress away from your project.

So, let’s talk about shop drawings (aka construction drawings for custom cabinetry) and why they are critical in crafting your custom home.

I often have clients ask me questions like…. “Ok, I’ve invested in schematic drawings, design development drawings and construction drawings from several members of the design team including my architect, my interiors group and my landscape architect. So many drawings (!). And now I need shop drawings, too?  Why?  Isn’t there enough detail in all that’s been drawn to date?”

Not really and here’s why…

Prior to the start of construction, drawings such as Schematic and Design Development drawings are prepared to guide the estimating for all aspects of your project. These are drawings that 1) convey how you will use the space and 2) how the spaces will be finished. Equally important, they enable a general contractor and tradespeople to estimate the project and obtain permitting.

Towards the end of the design phase, the next level of detail is applied to project drawings and they become Construction Drawings (aka CD’s).  CD’s illustrate what to build, how to build – including dimensions, notations, special materials, finishes and all selections. This may be the part of the project you’re least interested in, yet it’s perhaps the most critical to ensure the design intent you’re invested in is clearly conveyed to those responsible for making it a reality.

Shop drawings enter the scene when millwork (aka carpentry) shops join the team to build cabinetry, fireplace surrounds, coffered ceilings, chair rail and panels, and staircases. They use our Design Development drawings to understand the intent of  the design (which the client has agreed upon) to create ‘shops’ – detailed drawings that direct the carpenters, craftspeople and artisans in their shop to build and install the cabinetry/millwork elements.

To get specific, let’s look at taste’s Design Development drawings from a recent project, Quintessential Cottage and the shop drawings from Jutras Woodworking (our go-to millwork source based in Rhode Island) and Hardwood Design Inc. (custom stair designers and builders) that were drawn to direct the fabrication of the cabinetry, stairs and fireplace mantels in their shop. Our friends at Behan Bros. were the general contractors on this project.

Check out the path of highlighted spaces in the Quintessential Cottage – from our drawings, to shop drawings, to the finished product…

Only the best,

| Photography by Kyle J. Caldwell


Kitchen Cabinetry

“Our shop drawings are used through every stage the build process. Not only do the drawings include all the dimensional and instructional information necessary for the shop floor build, they contain information crucial to finish, logistics and installation. In addition, the models we create to develop our shop drawings are the same models we use to generate all the machining programming for our CNC routers – the backbone of our manufacturing process.  This direct link between what is shown on the drawings and what is cut out on the CNC helps ensure we build what the designer, and ultimately the homeowner, have envisioned.” 

Dave Payette | President, Jutras Woodworking Inc.


Stairs and Paneled Walls

“Engineering for us, describes the structural part of the project and also describes how the pieces will fit together as an assembly also known as ‘detailing’. Shop drawings are essential to help describe the working envelope we have to fit the structural component (timber or steel).  Since AutoCAD represents full scale, you can count on all your dimensions in the drawing as actual.

The stairbuilder lives by detailing. The detailer in the design department has everything completely figured out including all angle cuts, lengths, and joinery. Without that information every aspect of the actual construction would have to be laid out by an expert on the shop floor.”

Bill Bivona | President, Hardwood Designs Inc.


Living Room Fireplace Mantel and Paneled Walls

“A taste-designed space is not only creative, but always well thought out.  Because they take the time to develop their ideas upfront, we can concentrate on what we do best – bringing those ideas to life.  When we work with taste we begin the shop drawings with the design intent already ironed out, enabling the entire process to flow much more smoothly on our end.”

Dave Payette | President, Jutras Woodworking Inc.



To hear more from Dave Payette & Bill Binova, click the links below for more information from each shop drawing expert.

Bill Binova, Hardwood Designs

Dave Payette , Jutras Woodworking