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Mechanical Estimating Basics

Mechanical estimating is an art that requires time and practice to master. There are several different estimating methods, but the Square Foot and Cubic Foot Method is one of the most commonly used.

Mechanical estimating is the process of evaluating construction plans and specs to obtain reliable quantities for pricing. This includes a takeoff, material listing and filling out the project summary sheets.

Quantity Takeoffs

There are a number of different methods for doing quantity takeoffs, from traditional manual techniques that involve hand measurements and calculations to cutting-edge digital solutions such as BIM. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but all of them focus on boosting accuracy and efficiency.

Regardless of the method chosen, a quantity surveyor should always double-check the results. After all, even a tiny measurement error can trigger a cascade of mistakes in the estimate. This can lead to underestimating project expenses, which may cost the firm money in the long run or it may force them to pass on a profitable job opportunity.

While accurate quantity takeoffs can eliminate the guesswork that plagues many construction projects, it’s important to remember that they don’t address every element of a job. For example, a takeoff wouldn’t count nails or screws because they’re not part of the actual building or structure. It also wouldn’t account for ancillary costs such as labor, overheads, permits, insurance and equipment.

To avoid such errors, a takeoff should be conducted in the order of the contract drawings and specs. This will help estimators stay on track and ensure that the scope of work is covered. In addition, estimators should avoid adjusting dimensions for waste or other factors because this can significantly reduce takeoff accuracy. Also, estimators should measure each item without scaling the drawings unless necessary, and they should record each drawing number, detail number and grid reference in a list.

Equipment Schedules

In addition to evaluating construction plans and specs, mechanical estimators also need to understand the equipment required. For this, they must create an equipment schedule that includes all the components needed to make a machine work correctly. The schedule should include the cost of moving equipment from an equipment yard to the project site and back again. It should also list the costs of any maintenance or repair services that will be necessary to extend the life of the machinery.

MCAA’s Labor Estimating book provides an extensive collection of worksheets and sample estimates for estimating labor and equipment in the field. It is a valuable resource for mechanical contractors looking to improve their productivity and accuracy. It is available as a free download for MCAA members from the association’s online resource center.

There are many legitimate resources for construction estimating, including estimating software. However, it is important to note that a construction estimating software program and a construction estimating cost book are two different things. While estimating software can make the process of producing estimates and bids much faster, it does not replace the need for an accurate cost book. Cost books can be purchased in a variety of forms, from physical books to digital ebooks and CDs. They can also be plugged into a range of estimating software, from simple Excel spreadsheets to more robust, collaborative tools like Trimble Accubid.


A request for quotation (RFQ) is an essential tool used in the procurement process to minimize risks and manage expenditures. The RFQ is a document that invites potential vendors to supply products or services needed for project completion. It includes key project details such as a list of products, their features and functionality, and the estimated costs.

The RFQ document helps the project team gather and compare bid responses from various vendors. It also enables the project to choose the best vendor based on pricing and other important considerations. To make the selection process easier, a detailed RFQ should contain all components that influence prices. For example, a good RFQ should note the specific materials that are required, their quantity, delivery times, and standard payment terms.

If the project is using an open bidding process, the RFQ will be publicly announced and all companies that meet the project’s requirements are invited to submit a sales proposal. This type of RFQ encourages competition and increases transparency and accountability. However, it can also prompt vendors to fix higher prices in order to compete with the lowest bids.

If possible, the RFQ should be sent to suppliers and subcontractors located closer to the job site. This will reduce transportation expenses and help the project team determine the most competitive material quotes. It’s also helpful to communicate with all bidders, regardless of whether or not they were selected. This courtesy will help build rapport with the vendors and prevent misunderstandings in future projects.


Mechanical estimating is the process of preparing a bid for a construction project. It requires careful attention to detail in order to avoid erroneous calculations or miscalculations. The final product is a list of materials and quantities to be used in the construction of the project, and it is known as a takeoff sheet. The more accurate the takeoff sheet, the more likely you are to win a bid for the job.

The most accurate way to prepare a mechanical estimate is by using a software application, which allows you to quickly and easily calculate quantities from a digital file or drawing. It also saves you time and money by eliminating the need to manually count or measure your drawings and takingoff sheets.

If you are looking to purchase a mechanical estimating book, be sure to check the latest edition to ensure that the information is up-to-date and reliable. It should contain all the necessary tools for establishing budgets for financial planning, evaluating the viability of a project and getting construction contracts.

The 2024 version of this book is packed with a wealth of labor and price data, useful formulas and checklists. The book includes three fully worked out sample estimates – square foot, systems (assemblies) and detailed unit price estimate. It starts with an introduction devoted to labor, productivity measurement and collecting historical data, then covers equipment through hands-on estimation tables and man-hour charts. It also has a section on factors affecting construction labor productivity and impacts of overtime.