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Commonly Used Plumbing Takeoff Methods

by Chris Lee | April 25th, 2017

When you're working on a plumbing estimate, there are a world of items to take into consideration. Do you have a large enough crew? Do they have the training needed for this particular project? Are there specific supplies or materials that will need to be ordered in? But one of the main concerns is what materials will you need and in what quantities. Though you could refer back to the building plans every time, most plumbers take a little time to perform a takeoff, which counts up the quantities needed for every item in the project. Here's a quick look at commonly used pluming takeoff methods.

Different Methods Commonly Used for Plumbing Takeoffs

Takeoff Worksheet

One option that has been used for decades is the use of a takeoff worksheet. This worksheet is often available in a book or notepad format and allows you to keep a tally of each item as it's counted on the plans. The process often includes using a paper copy of the building plans which is then marked up using different colored markers, colored pencils or similar marking tools as the materials are tallied onto the worksheet. However, this has several disadvantages. When you're working with paper copies of the building plans and takeoff worksheet, you're marking them up. This can make it difficult to see what is underneath your marks, requiring additional copies or careful work to ensure you can double check your takeoff for accuracy. If you have multiple people working on takeoff tasks, you'll need multiple copies of building plans or may need someone to coordinate the worksheets completed by your team members. Because it's a paper copy, unless you digitize it, you'll have to keep it handy to refer back to when working in the field. You could scan it, but that often just creates more time in the office instead of keeping you working in the field. A paper copy also requires much more work to revise if there is a change order or a substitution in the project. In general, paper copies create more work and are harder to work from in the field.

Specialized Spreadsheet

Another option that many contractors use is a spreadsheet. This works better than a takeoff worksheet as you can edit the spreadsheet and simply print out a new copy when there has been a change to the project. You can update changes to the job more easily than with a hard copy and then turn this information into a basic quote. You can also access it and make changes from the field if you use a cloud service to store the document. However, that doesn't mean that spreadsheets don't have their own unique issues. If you're still working on paper building plans, you'll still run into the same problems of legibility when marking up your original set of plans. Working with digitized plans? You'll need to know how to use another program to mark up the building plans, such as a graphics program or similar image manipulation software. If the spreadsheet isn't laid out exactly as you need it to be, you may need to alter the spreadsheet to meet your needs, requiring significant knowledge of how spreadsheet formulas and macros are coded. Sharing the document between multiple users may cause issues if someone accidentally changes data from another team member's input. You have the option of automatically pulling in prices from another page of the spreadsheet to automate calculations, but you'll need to manually update all the prices as they change, leading to significant investment of time and effort.

Estimating Software

Although takeoff worksheets and specialized spreadsheets have a long history of being used for plumbing takeoffs, a new option that is making strong headway in modern plumbing companies is estimating software. When performing takeoffs on an estimating software system, the takeoff is only one part of a much bigger system, allowing you to automate your workflow, assign tasks to different team members and access files on the fly. With today's changing world, estimating software is becoming a much more popular option. The right software allows you to handle your entire workflow digitally within a single program. You can access and markup the building plans digitally while recording the materials needed for the project. If you're using a cloud based software system, you may be able to assign tasks to different team members, with each team member having the ability to record their own comments and questions. Better estimating software includes a diverse material database that is updated automatically by the software company, saving you a lot of extra time and effort. This helps cut down on the time you spend in the office, freeing you up to stay in the field and get the job done. In today's digital world, sometimes you need to update your methods to keep your business agile and flexible to market changes. Getting the right estimating software can make all the difference when you need to be in the field or in front of your customers. You need better connectivity, more mobile options and compatibility with the other software packages you use on a daily basis for your business. As you can see, estimating software can offer your business significant advantages over traditional worksheet and spreadsheet based takeoff methods. But which estimating software is the best one for your business? You'll want software that works in coordination with other common software programs, giving you the benefit of automating more of your back office tasks, giving you more time in the field. That's why we designed Esticom to be compatible with Microsoft Office, Quickbooks and Adobe Acrobat. But beyond simple compatibility, Esticom also provides sales, marketing and project analytics to help you determine the best direction for your company. With a no credit card required free trial, what's stopping you from trying it out? Sign up for a free trial and see how easy running your plumbing business should be.
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.

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