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Solving the Estimating Puzzle: A Guide for Roofing Contractors

Estimator Roofing


Estimating roofing projects is akin to solving a complex puzzle. Accurate estimates are essential to maintaining profitability and ensuring project success for roofing contractors. This blog post will guide you through the critical steps of construction estimating, providing practical tips and insights tailored to the roofing industry.

Before Starting the Estimate: Puzzle Prep

Study the Scope of Work (SOW)

Before you begin, thoroughly review the Scope of Work. This document outlines the project's purpose, contractor responsibilities, and execution requirements. Understanding these details ensures you know all the materials, equipment, and milestones necessary for a successful roofing project.

Review Plans and Specs

Examine the project's plans and specifications to identify all items needing estimation. Pay special attention to the General Conditions, Supplemental Conditions, and Special Conditions sections, as these contain critical information that may not be part of the actual construction but are essential for the project's completion.

Visit the Job Site

A site visit can reveal conditions not apparent in the plans, such as site access, proximity to utilities, and storage space. These factors can significantly impact your estimate.

Check the Weather

Consider the local climate and its impact on your project. For example, if the project spans the winter season in a snowy area, you may need to account for snow removal expenses.

Quantity Takeoff: Setting Out the Pieces

Follow a Systematic Approach

Start your quantity takeoff from the ground up, beginning with the footings and progressing to the roof. This method provides a clear mental picture of the project and ensures no details are overlooked.

Keep Quantities Simple and Consistent

Use a consistent system for entering quantities, and keep your measurements simple. For example, always express dimensions in the same order: length x width x height. This consistency helps prevent errors and makes your estimates more reliable.

Consider Waste

Account for material waste in your takeoff to ensure your estimate reflects the true cost of materials needed for the project.

Costing the Estimate: Assembling the Pieces

Types of Costs

Identify and categorize all costs into direct and indirect costs. Direct costs include materials, labor, and equipment, while indirect costs encompass overhead expenses such as supervision, insurance, and temporary facilities.

Gathering Cost Data

Utilize multiple sources to gather cost data, including previous projects, subcontractor quotes, supplier quotes, and published cost databases. Reliable sources like RSMeans Data Online can provide localized and up-to-date cost information, ensuring your estimates are accurate.

Organizing the Data

Organize your data meticulously to ensure nothing is overlooked. Code each document with a division number, use templates for uniformity, and document the source of every quantity and price.

Estimating Tips: Puzzle Mastery

Tips for Manual Estimates

If estimating by hand, keep each document type separate and write on only one side of the page. This practice helps maintain clarity and organization.

Tips for Estimating on Electronic Spreadsheets

Save commonly used templates, spot-check formulas, and use consistent naming conventions for digital estimates. These practices help streamline your process and minimize errors.

Using Estimating Software

Leverage construction estimating software like RSMeans Data Online to save time and increase accuracy. These platforms offer tools for managing estimates, accessing reliable cost data, and staying updated with price trends.


Estimating roofing projects is challenging but essential. A systematic approach and the utilization of reliable resources can help you develop thorough and accurate estimates, ensuring project success and enhancing your reputation as a reliable and efficient contractor.

Ready to master the art of roofing estimating? Contact Cotney Consulting for expert advice and support tailored to the roofing industry.

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