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Two Methods Of Quantity Take-Off: Manual Vs Digital

May 20, 2021
6 mins read

Save time and money while improving accuracy with digital take-off and estimating.

There are two different quantity take-off methods – manual and digital.  Different contractors take different approaches. But no matter which approach you take; it is vital to get the quantity take-off as accurate and efficient as possible.

A quantity take-off is an essential part of the pre-construction phase. Any errors made here can significantly impact the rest of the project that follows. The quantity take-off can affect the cost estimation, overall, budget, timeline, and daily workflow. Doing it right is necessary for a smooth operation.

So, what are the different methods of quantity take-offs, and how do you achieve the most accuracy? We will explore this below.

What is a Quantity Take-off (QTO)?

Also known as a construction take-off, this process is essential for creating the framework around any cost estimation and construction budget for a project.

Quantity take-offs in construction can be fairly complex, with many different areas involved. In their most simple form, however, a QTO is created to figure out exactly how many materials are needed for a certain project.

Essentially, estimators will look at blueprints and plans of the project, make a list of all materials required to build the plans and then formulate exactly how much of each material they require. This allows contractors to better understand the scope of the project, build a timeframe, designate duties, and, of course, create an accurate cost estimate for the project.

No matter the scale of the project, an accurate QTO is critical for project success. Without accurate take-offs, multiple areas of budgeting and planning can fall short.

Quantity Take-off Methods

All contractors and subcontractors need to be able to perform a quantity take-off in order to move forward with their job. There are two different quantity take-off methods that they could follow: manual and digital.

1. Manual Quantity Take-off

This is the traditional, older way of doing a quantity take-off. Estimators will use the construction plans to make a list of all the physical materials required. Then, by looking at the plans, they will use various formulas and calculations to figure out the exact quantity of each item. This can then be assigned a value to create an accurate cost estimation.

While a manual QTO may seem like a straightforward task at face value, these operations can be incredibly complex. There are many different equations, as well as many materials and small details to consider. Any errors here can therefore result in either an overestimation or an underestimation. Both can have a significant impact on the project and budget.

Doing a manual quantity take-off opens the doors to human error. No matter how skilled or experienced the estimator may be, there is always the possibility of inputting a wrong figure or making an incorrect judgment. Even the smallest incorrect details can have big consequences later in the project.

2. Digital Quantity Take-off

Of the two quantity take-off methods, a digital take-off may be the preferred option. Built-for-purpose construction estimation software is available for achieving the most accurate and efficient results possible. Construction software with digital take-off features streamlines the process and enhances accuracy. With automated formulas and equations, you largely decrease the risk of human error.

Cloud-based systems store everything in one place, which allows all team members and stakeholders to access at any time. This keeps data safer, while also improving collaboration.

Using a digital platform like this also means that you can use and reference your past QTO’s for your current and future projects.

With a digital take-off, you simply scan the blueprint into the software. The blueprint is then analyzed to create a precise list of all materials required for the project. The estimator can always make manual changes wherever necessary. Then, they can assign automated, error-free formulas to the materials and run them through the software to get accurate construction take-offs.

Of the two quantity take-off methods, going digital reduces the risk of error, minimizes wastage, and increases efficiency. Ultimately, this leads to winning more tenders and running more streamlined projects.


There are two different quantity take-off methods that you can use to create estimates. However, these days, digital processes are quickly taking over, and are much more popular thanks to their added benefits. You can reduce errors and wastage, increase accuracy, and create more efficient take-offs.

This will save time, money, and keep clients happy. It’s time for contractors to embrace digital solutions and achieve greater success in their projects.

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