Esticom is now part of the Procore platform.  Learn more >
BLOG / General Construction

How Can You Optimize Your Finish Carpentry Estimating Process? 

by Chris Lee | September 12th, 2017
Finish carpentry has a much different process than rough carpentry, which can cause a big difference in how it is bid. It requires a higher degree of precision and care with the materials and quite often has a higher cost in labor than rough carpentry. This means that you need to take a different approach to the entire process, including estimating job costs. Here's some information on how to get started on getting the most out of your estimating process.

How Can You Optimize Your Finish Carpentry Estimating Process?

To a certain extent, finish carpentry requires a bit more work per job to estimate. Different materials, angles and layouts require you to do a bit more work in customizing the estimate. But that doesn't mean you need to spend all your time in the office. Here's a few tips to help you speed the process along.

Go Digital

Finish carpentry used to involve spending a lot of time pouring over blueprints to get a good grip on what angles and materials would be required for a project. The computer age provided the average carpenter with tools to help them calculate their materials and labor, but often required switching between a number of different screens and being stuck in the office. With the advent of the digital age, you now have the opportunity to work on your takeoff from virtually any location that has an internet connection. You can also work with estimating software that allows you to quickly and easily do your takeoff and count on the same page, without having to switch through a countless number of windows. This process also makes it easier to make adjustments to the estimate, especially if the customer suddenly decides to go in a different direction with the crown molding or add a chair rail.

Develop Assemblies

One way you can cut the amount of work you need to do on an estimate is by creating custom assemblies. Though you can do this to a certain extent on paper, the potential of this time-saving approach is very easily seen when used in digital environments. In some estimating software, you can create custom assemblies for commonly used combinations. But what kind of assembly can you create and how will it work? As an example, if most of the mid-level homes in your area use a 7.5” crown molding with a 5.5” baseboard, you know that anywhere you use one, you'll use the other. A particular size door will always require a particular combination of trim and thresholds. When you do your takeoff, you count the assembly rather than the individual components. By combining the separate components into an assembly, you cut your estimating work in half.

Complicated Circumstances

When you're bidding a job, the size of the project will have some factor in the estimating process, but not as much as you may think. The size of the structure will help you determine a general baseline of about where your estimate should be, but the complexity of the work is often a more accurate way to estimate cost. A small, off-grid cabin that has a lot of odd angles, extensive amounts of trim and no power system to speak of available to run tools will often run just as much as an average home with little trim, simple angles and readily available power. With digital estimating, some portion of the work can be determined by doing a simple on-screen layout. This allows you to more quickly determine how the angles will come together and how much labor will be involved in completing the project.

Customize It

Beyond the complexity of the work, are there any special details that will require a bit more thought? Pocket doors, railings, complex cabinetry, wainscoting and similar specialty items will need to be taken into consideration in your bid. Will these details be part of your overall work for the project or are you only being brought in for these particular aspects of the job? Being able to compare your estimate of the time it will take to attend to these details against other companies across the country can help ensure you're getting it right the first time. Is the client demanding only a particular brand, unusual wood species or specialty style of trim for the project? You'll need to account for that in your project. If you're only taking care of a small portion of the finish work, you'll want to make sure you're compensated for your travel and setup time. Fortunately, when you use digitized estimating software, it's much easier to find and price these materials than may otherwise be possible, saving you significant time in the process.

Account for Waste

Finish carpentry involves a strong level of precision, so it requires additional consideration for wasted material. Because it's visible and is considered part of the structure's aesthetic beauty, many customers demand the highest quality of work, with limited opportunity to use waste material. Where a rough carpenter is able to use short cuts of dimensional lumber in windows and doorways, the opportunity to do so with short cuts of trim is significantly more limited. Though we typically think of construction waste in terms of materials, you'll also want to consider wasted time. If the site is remote, if you're expected to shop for and provide the materials, if other contractors on the project are known for slowing down everyone's work, you'll want to budget for those situations. Estimating software that lets you lay out the work digitally allows you to quickly estimate your waste, whether in terms of time or materials. By using estimating software to estimate your finish carpentry work, you'll be able to cut your time in the office down. But software like Esticom, which allows you to automate much of  your back office work, shaves that time down to an absolute minimum. Learn how well it can work for you with our free trial.
Chris Lee
Chris Lee has an extensive background in preconstruction management as a former specialty contractor and business owner. As the Chief Estimator at Esticom, he’s helped thousands of specialty contractors digitize their preconstruction process to increase revenue and profitability while decreasing unnecessary overhead.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.