Insights and Advice for Enabling More Efficient and Sustainable Construction

A Guide On How To Do A Construction Takeoff Accurately

21 May, 2021
17 mins read
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man doing construction takeoff on desktop pc

The competitive nature of today’s construction industry makes thoughtful planning more important than it ever was. Any mistakes that happen during preconstruction planning can affect the entire project later on, making it more expensive and less time-efficient.

One of the tasks required at the initial stages of the planning process is to define the components required to complete the project. The process for measuring these, known as a takeoff, gives estimators and other stakeholders the knowledge they need to generate accurate cost estimates.

Construction takeoffs help projects stick to the budget by estimating the exact quantities of materials they need. Knowing how to do it properly will, therefore, enable better management of the overall workflow of the project.

If you are new to the topic or are just looking for a quick refresher, this guide will explore exactly how to do a construction takeoff and how you can use software for more accurate results.

Let’s dive in!

What Is A Takeoff In Construction?

A construction takeoff is the process of measuring and listing the components required to complete a project. Takeoffs are a fundamental part of the construction cost estimation process as they provide the initial information needed to calculate project costs.

Also known as quantity takeoff, the “takeoff” part of the name refers to estimators taking off items from the plans or blueprints and figuring out exactly how much of each they will need to complete the project. How many bricks, how much concrete, how many meters of wood, etc. This is done to create a total list of all the components needed so that they can then estimate how much it will all cost.

In theory, a takeoff in construction is about listing materials required to complete the project. In practice, it is a complex task that requires plenty of skill and precision. For large-scale and complex projects, accurately estimating the construction takeoff is no easy feat. If any quantities are estimated incorrectly, it can result in a delayed timeline as well as unwanted changes to the budget.

To achieve the most accuracy in the process, it’s best to use specialized construction estimating software like RIB Candy. This will vastly improve the outcome of the takeoff, resulting in a much smoother and better project going forward.

Construction Takeoffs Use Cases

Takeoffs are valuable for different use cases in a construction project. These are:

For estimating: As mentioned above, the most valuable use case for takeoffs is to estimate costs. Takeoffs are a step in the estimation process and once it is completed, the estimator can price the materials and add labor hours, equipment, taxes, and other costs to get a complete breakdown of project expenses.

For bidding: Takeoffs are also necessary for the construction bidding process. Contractors must do an accurate estimation of resources to price their bids; otherwise, they can end up charging less and losing money later on or charging more and losing the bid. Therefore, doing an accurate takeoff can make a difference in whether they win or not win a project bid. 

For procuring materials: Efficient construction procurement management requires a detailed breakdown of the materials to be purchased. Having all materials listed in a well-structured document can prevent procurement managers from purchasing more or less of what is needed and avoid any budget overruns, time delays or other issues.

Who Is Responsible For Doing A Takeoff In Construction?

Now that you know what a takeoff in construction is and what it is used for, let’s explore who is responsible for doing it.

In most cases, project takeoffs are done by an estimator or quantity surveyor. These professionals often have years of experience in the field that can complement with software to do the most accurate takeoffs. Depending on the project’s size, there might be more than one estimator working simultaneously. Mega-building projects require specialized estimators to work on specific areas or scopes of work.

Contractors and subcontractors can also be responsible for doing a takeoff on smaller projects or for their own bidding purposes.

Difference Between Construction Takeoff And Estimating

While the two processes are highly connected, it is important to understand the differences, which are quite straightforward. Construction takeoffs are mainly about quantifying components, and construction estimates are about adding prices to those components as well as calculating other related project costs.

Cost estimation forms the basis for any project. Before a project can begin, the client needs to know how much it will cost to plan the budget effectively. Professional estimators rely on takeoffs to accurately estimate how much it will cost to complete the project.

Accuracy is critical here. Without accurate construction takeoffs and estimations, all kinds of issues can arise. The project can easily run over budget and over time. Or you can end up with too many materials and have excess waste.

Thus, accurate estimates are vital for the proper planning of a construction project. It enables contractors to submit better bids, thereby gaining a competitive edge over other contractors. In addition, it helps them maintain a good bottom line for each project.

How To Do A Construction Takeoff Accurately: Tips & Best Practices

By now, you should have a basic understanding of what project takeoffs are and their importance. But how do you actually do it accurately? Below, we discuss some key tips and best practices to succeed in the process!

overview of 9 essential steps to do a construction takeoff
How To Do A Construction Takeoff – 9 Steps

1) Determine your needs

The first step in the process is to gather and carefully review all project documents to ensure you understand the scope and needs. If you don’t understand what the project is all about, you might encounter issues that will require more work later on. At this stage, you might realize that the project has some specific requirements that need to be considered when selecting materials; therefore, paying close attention to everything is paramount.

2) Define a method

Once you have determined your needs and goals, you should pick a takeoff method to start the process. There are two main methods: manual and digital.

The manual method is the most traditional way of doing it, and it involves printing the blueprints and documents and using a scale ruler to get the information you need. This process is quite time-consuming and highly subjected to manual error. It is also considered less expensive than investing in technology, which is why it can be the preferred method for really small projects. It is also used as a way to double-check what was done using the digital method.

On the other side, digital takeoff methods are done digitally with the help of the latest technology available, making the process way faster, more accurate, and more efficient. 2D takeoff can still be undertaken digitally from drawings, however, one of the most innovative ways to do a digital takeoff is by using professional 3D takeoff software. This kind of solution offers a digital 3D model of the entire design, allowing you to automatically extract quantities and costs.

3) Work with a checklist

A takeoff can be an extensive process, with a massive list of components required. This can result in mistakes and missed items if there is no clear checklist to follow. Make sure to have a kind of roadmap created that the estimator can work from. This can serve as a template for future projects, saving you time and money.

4) Use updated plans

This may seem like an obvious point to make, but construction plans and blueprints tend to go through many revisions and changes, and accurate takeoffs can only be achieved if everyone involved in the project works off the same set of plans. Using an old set of plans will result in total revision, as well as wasted time and resources. Using cloud-based construction software can make your life a lot easier, as all plans and project documents are stored online and always updated for everyone who needs to access them.

5) List the components

Up to this point, you understand the project, have picked a takeoff method, have your checklist ready, and have your plans up to date, so you are ready to start listing and quantifying the components. For example, how many doors and windows, the area of walls and flooring, the volume of foundations, etc.

If you are doing your takeoffs digitally, then your software will quantify components automatically. You’ll just need to double-check that everything is correct. If you are doing it manually, then you’ll need to quantify everything on your own, being very careful not to make any mistakes.

Rember takeoffs are quite detailed, so everything needs to be listed in as much detail as possible. For example, you want to avoid taking off just for “flooring.” Instead, list all types of flooring materials that will be used, such as carpets, tiles, or lumber.

6) Take measurements

Now it is time to take measurements. Here, you look at the blueprints, verify the scale, and measure the different elements. These measures are later used to quantify the materials. For example, you need to measure the surface area of the walls to figure out how much paint or drywall you’ll require.

When learning how to do a construction takeoff, accuracy and precision are the key features. Estimators should include a specific percentage of the measurements to account for any waste. This will help to create a more consistent and accurate cost scale.

7) Determine quantities

With your list of components ready, you are set to start calculating quantities. Quantities are usually measured in four ways: unit counts, length, area, and volume. The measurement type depends on the type of component. For example, it is better to measure electrical cables in length rather than units; likewise, it is better to measure foundations by their volume rather than their area.

Recording your quantities in the correct measurement type is of utmost importance, as most materials are sold like that. For example, flooring is usually sold by area. So, you need to write down the area that you need to purchase later.   

8) Calculate costs

With your quantities determined, you have all the information you need to start estimating the costs of the components. Here, you should calculate the unit costs as well as the total cost for each section of the takeoff. To figure out the potential costs, estimators can either rely on their experience or, in some cases, use quotes already provided by suppliers. Some takeoff tools also include updated pricing databases that can help make the process faster and easier.

9) Utilize the right software

No matter how experienced or skilled your estimator may be, there is always the risk of human error. Even the smallest mistake made somewhere in a construction takeoff can result in a major difference later on down the line. For more accurate and efficient takeoffs, using fit-for-purpose software is the first step. Professional construction estimating software has been designed to avoid human error and automate different processes. Not only will this allow you to achieve estimates and bids faster and easier, but it will also result in far greater accuracy.

What Are The Benefits Of Using Construction Takeoff Software?

Up to this point, we have already mentioned many of the benefits of doing accurate takeoffs on construction projects. Now, we are going to finalize this insightful guide by putting the value of professional construction takeoff software into perspective. The software you decide to invest in can significantly enhance your takeoff process by offering advanced features that eliminate manual tasks and the risk of human error. 

An accurate construction takeoff, supported by professional software, helps to understand the components needed from the early stages of the project. This allows for better planning and prevents any issues later on, saving the project tons of time and money by not having to fix issues caused by poor calculations during planning.

Here are a few ways that this technology enhances the process:

overview of the benefits of construction takeoff software
Construction Takeoff Software Benefits

Automation and Accuracy

If estimators work manually, they have to determine the exact quantities of a project based on the blueprints or design documents. Not only is this incredibly time-consuming, but it also leaves a lot of room for error. No matter how experienced an estimator is, there is always the risk of a simple human error. And when it comes to construction takeoffs, even the smallest mistake can have a dramatic effect.

By using construction takeoff software, estimators can automate this process. The software can automatically generate a list of materials and quantities based on digital blueprints, saving vast amounts of time, and ensuring complete accuracy.

Quantity takeoffs can also eliminate errors by using measurements that are extracted directly from the computer-aided design (CAD) quantity properties. The measurements can be superimposed onto various CAD revisions, highlighting under- and over-measurements.

A simplified process

Manual takeoffs are complex. There are various formulas and methods to do it, and estimators need to carefully recheck all their work to ensure it is free from errors. Thus, they need to be highly skilled and experienced.

Construction takeoff software completely simplifies this process with automated quantity calculations and built-in formulas to use. As a result, you can create accurate estimations faster and with more ease.

Greater flexibility

Construction takeoffs often go through a couple of changes before the client accepts the bid and the project can begin. Manually changing estimates is an incredibly time-consuming process.

With specialized software, you can easily adjust them as needed. All it takes is a few clicks and your data will be updated.

Advanced takeoff technologies

Combining takeoffs with other functions helps to enhance and streamline various project processes. Here are two key technologies that should be integrated with your takeoff solution.

a) Data Integration

Takeoff technology combines estimating, planning, and on-site control into one central platform. It links the bill of quantities with your construction schedule for better project management. This saves you from having to re-enter this type of data on different platforms or systems. As a result, it saves time and vastly improves accuracy.

b) Reporting

Construction reporting tools are necessary during a project to help contractors make informed decisions. These tools use data from the takeoffs to create accurate and insightful reports. Construction managers can use these reports to make smart, data-backed decisions.

Final Thoughts

Knowing how to do a takeoff accurately can really make or break a project. The early preconstruction planning phases are often the most critical for a successful project ahead. As such, plenty of focus needs to be placed on these processes.

An accurate takeoff will result in stronger cost estimation, improved bids, and smoother construction operation. Any contractor should be sure to utilize the best construction software solutions and practices available to achieve accuracy and efficiency when doing takeoffs.

Our state-of-the-art BIM takeoff software, RIB CostX, is an all-in-one solution for professional takeoff, estimating, and reporting. Its flexibility in deployment and capabilities enable its users to perform 2D takeoffs from supported drawing types like PDFs or CAD files and 3D BIM takeoffs directly from BIM files.

RIB CostX platform for BIM takeoff and estimating
– RIB CostX Platform for BIM Takeoff and Estimating –

If you are ready to increase efficiency and collaboration to achieve accurate takeoffs, get a demo for RIB CostX today!