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Top 5 Electrical and Construction Estimating Books

by Chris Lee | September 20th, 2016

Top 5 Electrical and Construction Estimating Books

When you need to stay on top of your electrical business, accurate estimating is key to winning jobs and keeping your jobs coming in and the doors open on your business. The difference between a good estimate and a bad estimate can mean the difference between making a profit and losing money on a job. How do you get the information you need to provide good-quality estimates to your clients? You can use estimating books, which can provide you with a great resource for your costing and methodology being used around the country. But which books are the best for your electrical company's estimating process? Which ones are the most up to date in terms of labor and material costs? Here's a good look at the type of books available, which ones are the best and whether estimating books are your best option for costing and estimating jobs.

Should you look at construction estimating books?

Though it can be much easier to find more generalized construction estimating books, the simple fact is that you'll be paying a great deal of money for a reference that isn't specific to your part of the industry. If your business is a mix of different aspects of the construction industry, such as plumbing, electrical, HVAC and other related services, a general construction estimation book may work to cover multiple parts of your business. If electrical is the bulk of your business, a general book will provide a lot of information you can't use and lack the information you really need to put together a quality estimate for your potential clients.

What are the best estimating books for electrical work?

Though you can get a lot of general information from construction estimation books, when you're focusing on specific parts of construction, electrical estimating books can be a huge help in getting down to the exact nuts and bolts of your labor and materials on the job. Whether they provide relatively up-to-date job cost information or information that gives you great insights into the estimating process, electrical estimating books can provide some of the information you need. Here's a short list of the best estimating books available for the electrical industry:
  • BNI Electrical Costbook Series: The BNI series addresses a number of different types of costs, allowing you to customize your approach based on the exact job situation. For fast quotes, it has a general Electrical Costbook that provides national averages of labor and material costs, including allowances for transportation and specific labor rates broken down by the type of job. There is also a Mechanical Electrical Costbook that focuses on systems and a National Electrical Code Costbook that looks at the additional requirements codes bring into play on a job.
  • Craftsman National Electrical Estimator: The Craftsman estimating system is one of the old standards that is trying to convert to digital systems. Despite this attempt at an upgrade, it tends to form a somewhat clunky attempt to bridge the technology with an ebook, but can't keep up with modern construction estimating software's available features.
  • RS Means Electrical Estimating Methods: RS Means provides a great option for electrical estimating books, but isn't updated annually. Though it's regularly updated, it can be further behind than other estimating books. Fortunately, RS Means acknowledges this and instead provides excellent insights into aspects of the job that you may not have taken into account.
  • DeWalt Electrical Estimating Professional Reference: Though the other books listed tend to provide costs and methodology information, this offering from the construction experts at DeWalt takes a different approach. It's an excellent reference when you're learning to create estimates for your prospective customers.
  • Electrical Estimating Pal: The Professional's Choice: The Pal is another option that doesn't necessarily provide current costs, but does cover a variety of estimating methodologies that you can keep close at hand in your vehicle or estimating kit. Though it doesn't cover all the materials and techniques you can use, it does give you an at-hand resource when you're on the go.
  • Procore Construction Technology eBookLearn how you can save time and money by leveraging technology platforms you may already have. Improve margins, decrease delivery time, give yourself a solid dose of job security

Are there other tools available for estimating electrical work?

But once a book is published, the numbers are permanent. Though they can be very handy for being a one-stop source for estimating information and methodology, they don't change. Many of these books are updated every year or every few years to try to stay on top of the changes, but metals markets change on a daily basis and can take your materials cost with that change. This means you have an annual expense of replacing the books with updated versions while estimating using out of date information. Many companies are turning to a more reliable source of electrical estimating that doesn't require the time drain of constant updates or the risk of making an estimate that doesn't reflect your actual job costs. For those reasons, they're turning to construction estimation software. Unlike out of date electrical reference costs that can cost you money or clunky Excel spreadsheets that require significant updating and serious work to produce an estimate, modern electrical estimating software automatically updates the costs for you. This means you don't spend as much time paging through books or tracking down updated costs, but can use that time to bid more jobs and work on the job site. Though electrical estimating books do a great job of keeping you current on average costs and methodologies, they require regular updates and may not be up to date enough for changing market conditions and code standards. This can cost you serious money on the job. Using construction estimating software that automatically updates your costs means you don't need to worry about regularly updating your sources. If you need to use a single resource for your estimating process, we can help you learn more about Esticom's services and how it can improve your construction business' profitability and the amount of time you spend on the job instead of in the office.
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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