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How to Perform an Accurate Material Takeoff

Material takeoff is a critical stage in estimating and project proposal preparation. It is a process that requires an experienced person or team to identify materials, quantify them and create a list of quantities for the project.

These lists are often based on surface area, length and/or volume. Some materials like concrete, sand, paint and drywall are measured in volume while others such as lumber, steel piping and molding are measured in length.

Scale Rules

Performing a material takeoff requires understanding the rules of scale. The takeoff process involves determining the scope of construction work, measuring each item on the blueprints and plans, and recording all of the work items and their quantities in a list. These measurements must be done accurately to ensure the cost estimator can properly prepare a complete estimate.

There are two broad methods through which a material takeoff can be created: manually and digitally. The manual method is a long-standing tradition in the construction industry, but it can be extremely time-consuming and is susceptible to human error and data inefficiency. Alternatively, the digital approach allows for much faster analysis and measurement with less room for error. However, it is important to understand that the digital takeoff must be prepared by a skilled and proficient takeoff technician.

The most common way to measure for a material takeoff is through counting. This is the simplest and most accurate way to determine how many units of an item are required for the project build. For example, it’s not uncommon for estimators to count lights, electrical wires, ducting and more during the takeoff process. However, other materials will require measurement in terms of volume. This includes materials like sand, gravel, concrete, asphalt and paint.

Finally, some materials will require measurement in terms of surface area. This is typically the case for items like flooring, cladding and painting. However, this type of takeoff can also be conducted for materials like doors and windows.

A key point to remember when performing a takeoff is that it’s critical to use the exact dimensions specified in the plans and blueprints. It’s vital not to rely on scaled drawings, as these sizes are often changed during the design phase and will result in inaccurate measurements. Instead, the takeoff professional should carefully read and mark off all dimensions on the blueprints to avoid any mistakes.

Another important note is that a material takeoff does not include any actual pricing information for the work items. While a good material takeoff will improve cost estimates, it is essential to consider other variables, including overhead costs and changes in market prices for raw materials. A construction data management professional will be able to reference takeoff figures into schedules based on valid pricing structures, ensuring that the final estimate is as accurate as possible.

Blueprint Digitizers

Many construction professionals have struggled with the time-consuming task of performing quantity takeoff by hand using printed blueprints, rulers, calculators and pencils. Manual processes are inaccurate, difficult to scale and often require tedious re-measuring and triple-checking of numbers.

Fortunately, a number of companies have created takeoff software tools designed to automate this process and save contractors significant amounts of time and money. Some products, like Buildxact, promise to perform takeoffs 80% faster than traditional processes.

Construction takeoff software works by digitizing drawings and combining measurements and estimating into one easy step. Some systems even connect to material pricing, so estimators can instantly see how much materials will cost in their estimate. While some products are fairly expensive, the right tool will allow users to quickly recoup costs and save money on every estimate they perform.

The most basic tools include features that calculate linear and area measurements from project plans. Others offer more advanced capabilities, such as calculating volume from measurements on the drawings. This is particularly important for custom home builders, whose takeoffs must accurately count the necessary square footage of drywall, tiling and windows. Other systems may also have features specifically geared towards HVAC, landscaping or earthwork contractors. For example, these systems might include a database that knows different brick sizes and costs, which can be helpful for masonry contractors when measuring concrete forms.

Some tools also support collaborative estimating, allowing multiple estimators to work together on the same digital plans. This is most common in cloud-based products, but can exist in locally installed software as well. This feature can make it easier for subcontractors to communicate with their general contractor about their needs on a job. It can also speed up the estimating process significantly by eliminating delays caused by having to physically send paper copies of plans back and forth.

Seasoned estimators understand that the right tool can help them win more work, deliver more accurate estimates and increase their profit margins. However, choosing the right product requires a careful consideration of the features that are most important for each business. The cost of the system should be weighed against the potential increase in deal capacity and overall business growth that the new technology can generate.

Paper Takeoffs

Performing a material takeoff manually requires skill, patience and powers of observation. Since accuracy is a top priority for this type of estimation activity, many managers retain specialized independent takeoff professionals to perform takeoffs on their behalf. Nevertheless, there are a number of tools that can make conducting a takeoff less painful for estimators.

Traditionally, a manual material takeoff is conducted with paper blueprints, a scale ruler and a pencil. During this process, the estimator reviews the project plans and carefully counts and lists all the required materials to complete the construction job. The estimator can also include notes and questions for later consideration. The final product is a list of materials that needs to be purchased and installed on the project site.

The digital revolution has brought about a new way of doing a material takeoff. Instead of a physical paper blueprint and a calculator or Excel spreadsheet with complex formulas, estimators now use a computer software program to perform the takeoff. These software programs are designed to scan 2D blueprints and then provide estimators with a variety of tools for counting and listing materials. They can even import pricing data from an online or locally stored database for a more efficient and accurate result.

While this type of software is a great advancement, it still requires that estimators understand and master the program and its various features. Some digital takeoff programs also require a fair amount of manual editing to fit the specific needs of each estimator. These types of products can be a bit cumbersome for users who are not familiar with computers and the software programs.

An upcoming trend in material takeoff technology is for the software to go beyond a basic digital blueprint and incorporate the data into a 3D model of the project. These models allow an estimator to visualize the project from multiple angles, quickly and accurately. This allows the estimator to identify any potential conflicts or issues that may arise during the construction process. This type of tool can also help reduce the time needed to do a manual material takeoff and create a more detailed estimate.

Digital Takeoffs

Digital takeoffs are the fastest and most accurate way to perform a material takeoff. Instead of using a pen and paper, estimators use electronic software to point, click, and drag information off of project blueprints. Different software providers have varying workflows, but they all provide estimators with the ability to automatically determine quantities and measurements by analyzing digital plans. Many of these software programs are also integrated with cost estimating software.

Choosing the right digital construction takeoff tool will save your company money on labor, materials, and time. It’s also an excellent investment in the future of your business, as a high-quality software solution will help you win more projects and improve your bottom line.

The most popular construction takeoff software products are PlanSwift, SmartBid, and STACK. These software solutions have a user-friendly, easy-to-learn interface and great features for all kinds of trades, including general contractors, concrete, electrical, framing and decking, HVAC, landscape, masonry, plumbing, painting, and flooring. These tools allow users to import project plans, calculate material and labor totals, and generate reports. They also provide customizable assembly lists and a number of other time-saving functions.

In addition to the above features, some software solutions may also offer other valuable functionality. For example, some can store the lengths of wires in a circuit, which is an important calculation for electrical contractors. Other takeoff tools also let users spot floored, tiled, or carpeted areas on a blueprint, which can be an enormous time-saver for flooring contractors. Moreover, these programs can automatically determine the weight of certain materials, which is useful for calculating shipping and transportation costs.

Some of these tools can also export data to Excel, making it easier for users to analyze and organize their takeoffs. They can also integrate with third-party cost estimating software, such as Procore and SmartBid. They can also sync with the cloud to allow users to collaborate on projects from anywhere.

However, not all takeoff software is suitable for every company’s needs. For instance, PlanSwift is only compatible with Windows operating systems. This means that it won’t work for Mac users unless they use an emulator to run the product on their computers.