Construction Takeoff: 
The Complete Guide

10 minute read
Construction Takeoff
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There are a number of factors that determine the success of a construction project. One of these is the construction takeoff.

This is because a construction takeoff gives both the client and contractors a clear picture of the costs that are going to be involved in the project.

What’s more, these takeoffs can be fairly simple, or they can be very sophisticated, but either way, the construction project relies on this being done correctly.

As such, we thought it would be a good idea to put together a complete guide on construction takeoffs. To do this, we’re going to answer the following nine questions:

1.     What is a construction takeoff?

2.     Who creates a construction takeoff, and how is it done?

3.     What does a construction takeoff entail, and are they all the same?

4.     What is included in a construction takeoff?

5.     What isn’t included in a construction takeoff?

6.     How does the estimator work out quantities and costs of different materials?

7.     What are the different types of construction takeoff?

8.     What are these construction takeoff softwares we’ve heard about?

9.     Why are construction takeoffs so important?

So let’s dive in.

What is a Construction Takeoff?

If you’re new to the construction industry, or perhaps you will soon be working on a bigger project, it’s important that you know what a construction takeoff is.

In a nutshell, a construction takeoff sometimes referred to as a takeoff, a material takeoff or a bill of quantities, is created to give an estimator a detailed breakdown of all the components that will be necessary to complete a construction project.

And it doesn’t matter if this is a completely new project, an extension, or a renovation, all projects will require a construction takeoff before they can begin.

The takeoff must cover all the materials, down to the very last nail. It must also include every single aspect of the tools that will be required to complete the project.

This is why accuracy is one of the core pillars behind a construction takeoff. Otherwise, the project could encounter some challenges.

Essentially, a construction takeoff is a list of the total materials required for a project. This will include quantities and costs.  

This is why a good construction takeoff is crucial in the estimating process.

Who Creates a Construction Takeoff And How is it Done?

Often, an estimator will create the construction takeoff, however, in smaller businesses without an estimating team, the business owner will wear multiple hats and become double up to be the estimator too. The person responsible for the construction takeoff must make sure that every single component is included. In order to do this properly, they must:

•      Study the blueprints or schematics to work out what is needed

•      Pull together a list of the raw materials (this is usually called the material takeoff)

•      Quantify all of these materials

•      List the prices of the materials involved to come up with an estimated cost 

Once they have done these four steps, the estimator can then prepare the full and final construction takeoff document. 

What Does a Construction Takeoff Entail And Are They All The Same?

For the most part, construction takeoffs are fairly straightforward. It requires the estimator to itemize every material, quantity, and price for a project, as we mentioned above. And for a simple project, this stage doesn’t have to take too long.  

However, the complexity of the construction takeoff will also depend on the size and scope of the project.  

As such, larger and more complex projects can take a little longer. This is often because the estimator must be a lot more thorough.  

In fact, in the case of some projects, it can actually require a whole team of estimators to work together to avoid overwhelming one person. And thankfully, this has been made much easier as a result of the implementation of construction takeoff software. But we’ll look at this in more detail later in the guide.  

What is Included in a Construction Takeoff?

One of the biggest challenges of getting the construction takeoff right is knowing exactly what to include. We’ve briefly mentioned that it must include materials right down to the last nail, but to give more context, we’re going to look at this in more detail in this next section.

Firstly, it needs to list the raw materials that will be needed during construction.

Of course, the types of materials will be determined by the type of project, but typically the materials in a construction takeoff could include:

•      Lumber

•      Steel

•      Concrete

•      Sand

•      Stone

•      Clay

As well as listing out the raw materials, a construction takeoff must also include a comprehensive list of any prefabricated components that are required to finish the project. This might include things like:

•      Electrical cabling

•      Light fixtures

•      Pipes

•      Tile

•      Windows

Not only this but if there are any particular materials that have been requested by the architect or engineers that might not be typical to a construction project, these should also be included in the construction takeoff.

What Isn’t Included in a Construction Takeoff?

As well as knowing what to include in your takeoff, it’s also helpful to know what doesn’t need to be included.

Though labor costs are an essential part of any construction project, these shouldn’t be included in your takeoff. This is because calculating labor costs involves its own more complex set of considerations.  

As well as labor costs, some of the other expenses required for completing a project that you don’t need to add to your list are: 

•      Equipment rental fees

•      Associated operational costs

•      Shipping and transportation

•      Storage fees

•      Office overheads 

Of course, all of these are important to quantify accurately, but again this is a different part of the construction cost estimating process.

How Does The Estimator Work Out Quantities And Costs ofDifferent Materials?

As we’ve mentioned several times at this point in the guide, the estimator will have to assign a quantity to each of the materials they have listed in the construction takeoff. 

But how do they go about determining these quantities?

Well, initially, it can be quite a daunting task. Especially because if these quantities are not accurate, then the cost won’t be either. This means the project runs a higher risk of going over budget. This could ultimately delay the project.

But with so many different items to quantify, is there a universal way to do this? Essentially, how an item is quantified will depend on what that item is.

Raw materials:

•      For components, such as concrete or asphalt, the quantity should be provided in volume

•      Items like lumber will need to specify an accurate length

•      And if the architect specifics a type of lumber or grade of steel, this information must also be noted

Prefabricated materials:  

•      For most prefabricated materials, a simple count is usually sufficient. For example, how many tiles you need

•      However, for items like piping, the estimator will need to provide an accurate length

•      Other components such as roofing, flooring, or cladding will be quantified using areas

However, certain items cannot be itemized right down to the last number. So though you cannot count the number of screws exactly, the number of boxes could still be specified.

Manual construction takeoffs can be very time-consuming since the estimator must manually calculate these different complex equations. Thankfully, digital takeoff software removes the need to do this. We’ll discuss this more below.

What Are The Different Types of Construction Takeoff?  

There are two different types of construction takeoffs that we’ve mentioned in passing above. The type of takeoff you use will depend on the type of construction project you’re doing.

 While these takeoffs might be different, they do follow a very similar process to create. The two types of construction takeoff are digital and manual. These go as follows:

A Manual Construction Takeoff 

Manual construction takeoffs are the longest existing form and require the estimator to read blueprints, manually list each material, and then work out the other important considerations such as quantity and price.

 Unfortunately, this can be a long and tedious process depending on the size of the project. It can also increase the risk of human error. That said, this can be the ideal solution for smaller businesses or projects with lower budgets.

A Digital Construction Takeoff

On the other hand, you have the digital takeoff, which has many benefits.

To start with, it is completed using a construction takeoff software platform. This makes it far less time-consuming and also ensures more accurate results.

With this type of takeoff, the data is automated and makes it easy to track and complete calculations.

That being said, different platforms offer different features, so some will allow the estimator to upload a blueprint, and the platform can then extract a list of materials from this. However, others might require this to be entered manually before doing the complicated sums.

Another huge benefit of digital takeoffs is that they make it easy to adjust material prices depending on current market trends. This is crucial for getting an accurate overall cost and makes life much easier for the estimator.  

So What Are These Construction Takeoff Softwares We’ve Heard About?

A lot of construction professionals will use takeoff software when creating a digital takeoff. Again, this is because it’s quicker than the manual approach. But more than this, these softwares allow them to create a professional-looking proposal that can contribute towards building their reputation as a contractor.

Not only this, as we said, it is more accurate, so these softwares ensure better results for both the estimator and the customer.

Takeoff software eliminates the need for paper plans, and it can also help to cut costs - other than the initial cost of getting the software in place, of course. We've outlined the 7 Best Construction Takeoff Softwares for Contractors in 2021 to help you make a decision

Why Are Construction Takeoffs so Important?

 Just in case we haven’t already expressed why construction takeoffs are so beneficial to projects, we thought we’d finish off the guide by outlining the reasons that takeoffs are so important. Some of the key reasons are:

For Effective CostTracking And Budgeting

Imagine going forward with a huge project of any kind without thinking about the cost. You just wouldn’t do it, would you? 

This is why construction takeoffs are so important. It gives all parties a clearer picture of what the project is going to cost and can actually be a good way to make better decisions to prevent going over budget.

It also allows you to leave room for unexpected expenses in that budget.

For Better CommunicationAnd Customer Relationships

 Because cost is so important in the construction industry, especially when dealing with huge projects and sums of money, clients will always appreciate it if you go above and beyond to optimize their money and help manage costs.  

So through accurate takeoffs, you’re able to build strong relationships and communicate costs more effectively with your customers. It also gives you and your client a point of reference when looking at figures throughout the project.

Winning Bids And Building Your Reputation

 Construction estimates and takeoffs can be an important way of winning work, especially when bidding for huge projects.

What’s more, accurate takeoffs that offer a structured breakdown of costs and include lots of details can be a great way to boost your reputation. This, in turn, can lead to securing more work in the future.

Digital Takeoffs Can be Important For Better Time Management

 Finally, not so much the case with manual takeoffs, but digital takeoffs can be a great way to manage the timeline of a project more effectively. This is because these can be put together much quicker.

Therefore, you can begin pulling in work and getting started on new projects in a much shorter timeframe. This is great news for both construction contractors and their clients.

In Summary

Well, there’s been a lot to take in throughout this guide, but one thing’s for sure, it’s clear that construction takeoffs are so important to the success of any project.

These need to be accurate and clearly laid out to allow construction workers and their clients to get a good understanding of the overall cost of the project and the materials required. This is vital for sticking to the budget and ensuring there are no issues with materials further down the line.  

Manual construction takeoffs are an option, though today, digital takeoff software makes putting these together much quicker and more accurate. So if in doubt, it might be worth investing in a takeoff software or using a service provider who does.

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