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What is a Takeoff in Construction?

What is a Takeoff in Construction?

When it comes to construction, there’s definitely a lot of jargon that is thrown around, depending on your particular specialty. Set time, slump test, gang box, Romex: all these terms are somewhat confusing to the beginner in the field or to those who work outside of it all together. But one common term across virtually every trade is the takeoff. Sometimes divided into two words as take off, this type of estimating process helps ensure you’re getting what you need to keep your business operating effectively and at a solid profit. But what is it, what’s the process involved and how can you spend more time on the job and less time chasing paperwork around? We thought you’d never ask:

What is a takeoff?

In its most essential form, a takeoff is a count of how much material will need to go into a project. It can include how many studs, wye joints, light fixtures or feet of cable is needed to complete the job to the specifications provided. Why is this important? It helps you figure out what your material costs will be and gives you a ballpark of what it will take in terms of labor to get the material installed and functioning properly.

onscreen takeoff example

Though it’s important to the bidding process, takeoffs provide only basic material costs but can’t account for complexities in design that may cost you labor. You’ll need to take into account material prices and shifts in the market which can affect your bottom line. It won’t include the overhead your office staff brings into the picture and other expenses that you may be able to lower to help keep your business profitable and flexible in a changing world.

What’s the process of creating a takeoff?

Takeoffs can be made in a number of different ways. Many contractors are still pouring over paper blueprints, counting each outlet box, run of wire and switch as it comes along. Unfortunately, this often leads to mistakes as an item is missed or doubled. Though that doesn’t seem like too big of a deal, missed items equal lower profitability while doubled items make your final estimate too high, making you lose the job.

Manual takeoffs are also somewhat complicated. Because blueprints can be expensive to produce, there may be issues with being allowed to mark one up to create your takeoff. You may be able to place a plastic film over the top or get a copy of your own, but that will lower your profitability and increase your overhead costs before you’ve even won the project.

You need a variety of colored pencils, pens, markers or similar tools for marking each item and material you come across. There are a number of different forms or worksheets that are used to determine the exact material costs. Each of these worksheets are designed for a different type of construction. It can be difficult to determine which form or worksheet to use in a particular project.

Can I use digital tools instead?

Other contractors will use a digital copy of the blueprints, which allows them to zoom in on areas of interest and quickly scan other areas that may not have as much detail. Though you may not have the same expenses of acquiring a paper copy, you’ll still need tools to work your takeoff. You may be limited based on whether the projects your client is considering are using digital blueprints or if there is a cost for accessing the information and systems that are needed.

Beyond that, you’ll need to learn another system, and then take that information into a bidding or quotation program. As a whole, it’s more efficient  and accurate than completing a takeoff using a manual method, but it will still require a great deal of time and work that you’ll have to enter into a separate system, costing you time you could be putting to better use.

How can I spend less time completing a takeoff?

A third option that many contractors are finding more efficient is an integrated estimating programs. Instead of simply looking at existing digital or paper blueprints, these systems help automate many of the processes that go into the estimating process. Though these systems are slightly more complex, the advantages of automation will help you win more jobs and spend more time in the field instead of in the office.

But what should you look for in these systems? Some allow you to directly transfer your takeoff into a bidding system. In better systems, they can feature large databases that allow you to simply pull the prices of those components into the bidding system, making the process of pricing the takeoff virtually effortless and minimizing the amount of time spent in the process. These systems sometimes feature a built-in catalog of common assemblies as well as the option to create customized assemblies that you use, whether it’s one time or a common assembly unique to your business.

But there’s even more to consider in this type of software. You can compare your bid against national averages, giving you a way to check if your bid is in line with other companies across the country. Marketing and sales tools are also available in some of the better systems, allowing automated follow-up reminders for prospects to whom you’ve provided bids. Once a bid is accepted, better systems will integrate with accounting systems such as Quickbooks, giving you the advantage of automating the system and reducing your office time and overhead expenses.

Construction takeoffs can be confusing and time consuming, but it doesn’t have to be that way. By using takeoff software to complete your takeoffs, you can avoid the pitfalls of missing your count in a manual takeoff while gaining significant amounts of billable time in the process. If you’re ready to start improving your business’ profitability, we can help you learn more about Esticom and what a difference it can make in your construction business right now.