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Review and Validate Your Estimating Process

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

The estimating process begins with a comprehensive understanding of your project's scope of work. Whether it is scope prepared by an owner's designer or your own company's scope recommendation, your estimating team must be able to visualize and mentally build the project, starting with the site mobilization through project completion. This estimating skill is best developed by having hands-on experience in the field, which gives you a better insight of means and methods, materials, labor durations, and the challenges faced during installation.

A knowledgeable and well-trained estimating team is only one key component to your success. You must have solid processes and procedures in place.

Stage 1 – Pre-Estimate Stage

Reviewing Plans and Specifications:

In the initial review, you want to identify and note all items to be estimated. Pay special attention to the General Conditions and any Supplemental or Special Conditions of the specifications thoroughly. These sections contain information that may not be part of the actual construction, but they will include items that will be relevant in assembling your estimate.

Job Site Visit:

An estimator should always visit the project site to address any details that may not be evident from reviewing the plans. Look for site access, staging areas, and equipment needed, and always verify existing conditions. Take photos, measurements, and samples as required.

Stage 2 – Building Your Estimate

Build Your Estimate from the Ground Up:

The best approach to completing a quantity take-off is to follow the order of the actual construction, from the deck to finished cap flashing. This will provide you with a clear mental snapshot of the project. If a project consists of multiple buildings, perform a separate quantity take-off for each building, for a more accurate project estimate.

Quantities, Keep Uniform and Consistent:

A quantity take-off is a continuous list of items and measurements. Keep your quantity as consistent and straightforward as possible. If estimating in spreadsheets, this is especially important.

Getting the Scale Right:

Check the plans carefully for changes in scale and plans reduced from their original scale. Check for notes such as "NTS" (Not to Scale) or discrepancies between plans and specs. As you proceed through your take-off, it doesn't hurt to do some mental arithmetic if a quantity or measurement seems off. Designers can make mistakes too. You should verify your plan scale and measurements with the detailed floor plan that has the dimensions on it. This is an excellent way to confirm that the roof plan scale is accurate.

Understand Your Products and Material Pricing:

  • Factors that can affect pricing to be considered.

  • Availability and demand for a product.

  • Delivery Challenges for materials.

  • Is the product or material standard or custom order.

  • Your project has lead times that fall outside the manufactures standard lead time guidelines.

  • Your project has seasonal limitations that dictate logistics and adjustments to the price.

Sometimes there are products specified on projects you are not familiar with. Understanding how these products are installed will assist you with your preparation for labor unit costs.

Accurate Labor Units:

When you calculate how long it should take a worker or crew to complete a section or assembly of your project in hours, it is not advisable to calculate them on peak productivity rates.

In real-world construction, many factors impact the daily output of productivity, such as working long hours, which causes a decrease in productivity efficiency, as well as increasing costs of overtime rates.

Though you cannot account for abnormal weather events, weather can have a significant impact on your project and should be factored into your estimates.

Other Costs to Include:

Subcontractor Quotes

A good practice is to get more than one subcontractor for each specific scope of work on a labor and material basis so that you can compare quotes equally to uncover any missing items. Scrutinize your subcontractor quotes with the same evaluation steps you use for your estimates.

Determine Your Equipment Needs

Determine what equipment your project will need and whether you own them or be required to purchase or rent what is needed. Always evaluate the most cost-effective solutions and include them in cost preparation.

Other Costs to Include

Include additional project costs such as:


· Jobsite storage containers, required utilities, Portalets

· On-site supervision (if not included in your overhead)

· Safety costs

· Dumpster

· Clean-up

· Other miscellaneous items, etc

Part II will cover what should be included and how to correctly markup your estimate to capture all your costs, and Part III will cover how to calculate gross profit and develop a selling strategy.

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