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How to Perform a Concrete Takeoff

by Chris Lee | June 1st, 2017
Part of keeping your concrete business moving is regularly securing new projects. Part of this process involves estimating the project, which in turn requires a concrete takeoff. Involving looking over the plans to determine what materials and labor will be involved in the project, the takeoff is an essential part of the bidding process and one you need to master to keep your business profitable. Here's a quick overview of how a concrete takeoff is performed and what you can do to keep the process as simple and short as possible.

How to Perform a Concrete Takeoff

  • Will this project work well for your company's current skillset? If your main tasks are paving, a pump and fill project may not be the best use of your available knowledge, experience and skill. Unless you're trying to break into new areas of the market and are willing to deal with the learning curve and potential losses, you may want to pass on jobs that aren't a good fit. By staying with what you know and can get done efficiently, you're ensuring that the project remains profitable.
  • Take a good, hard look at the plans, noting anything that is unusual or unique to that project. If it's something that will take special resources, labor or materials, you may want to take a good look at whether that part of the project can be completed profitably. If you miss something, you could add a change order, but it can appear unprofessional if you weren't aware of the prospective issue on the plans in the first place.
  • Begin the takeoff process by counting how many anchors, how much rebar, how many rolls of reinforcing mesh you'll need to get the job done to get an idea of how much material you'll need. This can be accomplished with colored pencils, pens or markers to mark paper plans, then record those counts to a worksheet or list. You can approach this from a few different directions, but make sure you're doing the same thing consistently and take a second glance at the work to ensure it's correct before continuing.
  • Estimate how much of what type of concrete will be needed. This includes slabs, forms, block fill, shotcrete applications or piers that need to be filled. Once you've figured out the area and calculated the cubic yardage, determine what type of concrete is needed and get a quote from your local ready-mix companies for the project.
  • What about unusual materials, such as reinforcing fibers, colored concrete or similar rare materials? If there are any on the specifications, you'll want to look the material up and determine whether it requires any special handling or additional labor to perform its best.
  • How much labor will be involved in installation and are there any difficult areas to complete? You'll need to consider several factors here, including union wages, insurance, crew lunches for fast-track projects and similar expenses. Remember to add a buffer to take care of any unexpected on-the-job expenses.
  • Take a break, then come back to review your figures or get another person to review them to check for accuracy. Are your supplier costs up to date? Are the material and labor estimates reasonable? Mentally walk through the plans to and see if anything's been missed, like excavation equipment, water tanks for a remote peagravel drive or similar areas of concern.

Concrete Takeoff Software Saves Time

Of course, at this point in the process, you've just figured out your material and labor costs. You still need to calculate your overhead, add some profit and prepare the proposal forms. If that sounds like a lot of work, it is. Fortunately, there's a better way to make your takeoff, estimate and backoffice tasks easier, freeing up more time to get the job done and turn a profit. That way is estimating software. But not all estimating software is created equal! You need particular features to help you digitize your business and keep it rolling for the next several years without having to constantly update and retrain to different programs. A quality estimating software package will give you an automatically updated cost database, reducing the time you spend tracking down material costs. You should be able to export it into a common document format such as Word or Excel. You should be able to link it to your online accounting software, such as QuickBooks, to allow you to automate your accounting process and send quotes and invoices from the field. And don't forget marketing! The best estimating software is able to send automated follow-up emails to your clients to keep you in their mind for their next project. It should also contain analytics software to help you determine which jobs are the most profitable, so that you can look for those in the future. Once you've finished doing a takeoff on the concrete project you're bidding, it's much easier to determine your costs, the potential profitability of the project and how much you'll need to charge to keep your business in operation. Though this list is pretty thorough, you'll want to keep an eye out for other aspects of the task that haven't been listed. If your project has details that may increase your cost that you didn't note in the takeoff, make sure you include them in your final bid to ensure you don't lose money on the project. Overhead, including the time you spend in the office preparing quotes instead of working on a job site, can quickly turn a profitable job into a losing proposition. If you want to find the right software to minimize that office time and improve your business' profitability, Esticom is here to help. Our program gives you a regularly updated material cost database, completely customizable proposal forms, marketing analytics and Quickbooks compatibility. If you're ready to try Esticom's comprehensive program for free with no credit card required, you can get it here.
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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