An essential part of producing a detailed cost estimate for a construction project involves determining total material costs. A construction material takeoff is used by the estimator or contractor to understand what materials they need for a project and how much those materials will cost. Producing a construction takeoff by hand is a time-consuming process that requires a high degree of skill and extensive experience. Although material takeoffs have been traditionally produced manually, today’s estimators and contractors can produce digital takeoffs. Digital takeoffs are produced with the assistance of construction takeoff software. There are many advantages that construction takeoff software offers during the production process for a material takeoff. In this article, we’ll explore what construction takeoff software is, how it functions, and what the advantages of using this type of software are. This information will prove helpful for those unfamiliar with the process of producing a takeoff with construction estimating software.
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What is a Construction Takeoff?
Before diving into construction takeoff software specifically, it is helpful to first understand what a construction takeoff is. Construction takeoffs may be referred to by a number of terms, including material takeoff, material “take-off”, or quantity takeoff. Each of these terms refers to the same process. Put simply, a construction takeoff is intended to detail all of the materials required to complete a construction project as well as their associated costs. From this, a total material cost estimate for a project is produced. The construction takeoff estimate is combined with other components of an estimate, including labor costs, operational costs, or storage costs, and used to produce a final detailed cost estimate for a project.
Construction takeoffs are complex and can be very time-consuming. A construction takeoff is most often produced as part of a detailed cost estimate. For very simple or small projects, a subcontractor may be able to quickly assess the required materials and costs and provide a material cost estimate with little time involved. As the size of a project increases, the complexity of producing a construction takeoff scales alongside it. Producing a takeoff by hand requires a specialized skill set, particularly if the project is large or complex. While many contractors or estimators that produce takeoffs manually have streamlined their workflow to increase efficiency, the process itself is time-consuming from beginning to end.
The importance of a construction material takeoff offsets the time investment. Material takeoffs help contractors accurately assess projected material costs for a project. Ofen, a material takeoff is produced and then adjusted many times depending on design changes or efforts to reduce costs. Material takeoffs also serve as a benchmark that can be used as criteria to evaluate bids by separate contractors. If one contractor’s material costs are significantly higher or lower than another, it can highlight an error in the material pricing or serve as a red flag for that contractor’s pricing strategy. Lastly, a construction material takeoff is used as an ordering template for a project. The intention behind a material takeoff is to provide comprehensive information about all of the materials required for a construction project to be completed. This information is then used to order materials once a bid is accepted.
What is Included in a Construction Takeoff?
A construction material takeoff should provide an exhaustive list of materials required to complete a construction project and their associated costs. Construction material takeoffs pull the materials required for a project from a blueprint or architectural drawing. Traditionally, an estimator would need to understand how to read and interpret engineering and architectural documents, but with digital takeoff software, this threshold is reduced. The materials listed in the construction takeoff must be detailed. If a specific type of treated lumber is necessary for a project, that information must be in the material takeoff.
In addition to detailed material requirements, a takeoff will also include the quantity of the material required. Quantity is provided in the unit of measurement appropriate for the material. So, lumber and steel would be provided in length, concrete and asphalt would be in volume, flooring or tile would be provided in area or square feet, and prefabricated materials would simply have a quantity assigned to them. Some construction projects will require additional details for some materials. For example, the weight of the required materials may be necessary to include. This is because the weight of materials may impact shipping and transportation costs, which would then need to be included in a full detailed estimate.
Once all of the materials have been itemized, described, and assigned a quantity, the estimator must then assign a price to each material. There are a couple of different ways that this can be accomplished. Sometimes a bid will be acquired directly from the material supplier. If the project is small and uses materials that the contractor or subcontractor uses regularly then they may already know the price. An outside database for construction material costs can also be used. The largest of these databases, RS Means, provides detailed material cost estimates based on national averages. Material price information based on specific locations is also available through external databases like RS Means.
Regardless of the source, once a price is assigned to each material, the estimator must prepare a total material cost estimate. In general, the estimator will want to consider any factors that may result in increased for material costs between when the estimate is taking place and when materials are actually ordered. Market forces may result in increases to material costs over the interim period that can impact the profitability of the project. Incorporating any anticipated cost increases is an important aspect of the construction material takeoff because it ensures ongoing profitability for the project. Determining whether to markup any material prices, which materials should be marked up, and how much to increase the price is a difficult aspect of producing a construction material takeoff
What Does Construction Takeoff Software Do?
Construction takeoff software helps facilitate the process of creating a construction material takeoff. Producing a material takeoff with construction takeoff software offers many advantages over producing one manually. At their core, producing a manual or digital takeoff involves the same steps. Essential information about required materials must be taken directly from the engineer’s specifications. The quantity of those required materials must be calculated and presented in the appropriate format. The correct materials must be selected, so a description of each material must be provided. This description is often simply the exact type of material. Material takeoffs must include prefabricated materials as well as raw materials. Once a list of materials and their associated quantities have been assembled, the estimator must assign a price to each material. Then a total material price is calculated. Along the way, any anticipated increases to material costs must be included in the material price breakdown.
Similarly, the extra material must be accounted for during the process to accommodate waste as a result of construction methods. At a basic level, both manual and digital takeoffs require these steps. How these steps are accomplished is where construction takeoff software comes in.
Construction takeoff software automates many of the processes that are involved in producing a construction material takeoff. Construction takeoff software is intended to streamline the production process for material takeoffs and is built from the ground up to help the user accomplish this goal. Let’s look at the ways that construction estimating software can help with the production of a material takeoff.
Automatically Generate Materials
First, construction takeoff software often includes the ability to read blueprints or design documents. Design schematics or blueprints are uploaded into the software, which then reads the blueprints and pulls from it a list of required materials. There are a number of advantages to automating the process of pulling materials directly from a blueprint. This process is inherently more accurate and saves a significant amount of time for the person preparing the estimate. At the same time, integrated takeoff functionality reduces the skill barrier for producing a detailed cost estimate. Whereas a manual takeoff would necessitate being able to read, understand, and interpret a blueprint, construction takeoff software can help you complete these steps quickly and effectively.
Not everyone is amazing at math. Creating a construction takeoff manually requires knowledge of relevant calculations and equations. Determining an accurate quantity for each material can take quite a bit of time as numbers are checked and rechecked. Construction takeoff software facilitates this by embedding the calculating function into the program itself. Once a material is pulled from the blueprint, the program automatically calculates the quantity for the required material in the appropriate format. With construction takeoff software quantities can be quickly changed or adjusted. This is helpful when accounting for wastage associated with some construction techniques.
Construction takeoff software usually has some form of integrated price database. Some construction takeoff software packages give the user the ability to populate their own database with accurate prices for their most commonly used materials. Other software packages give the user access to an external database such as RS Means, which provides access to up-to-date prices for a variety of locations in North America. Regardless of the source, pricing can be quickly applied to specific materials and appropriately scaled for quantity. With access to an accurate material cost database, whether external or self-generated, the process for determining specific material costs is significantly faster when using construction takeoff software.
Construction takeoff software gives the user the ability to make dynamic changes to required materials, quantities, and material pricing. This an important functionality due to the fact that many material takeoffs must be adjusted before a bid is accepted. Material takeoffs undergo frequent adjustments, particularly if the project is large or complex. Engineers may revise their specifications, the clients' wishes may have changed, or material costs may be adjusted to ensure the project remains under-budget. Each of these instances would result in changes to the material takeoff. With digital takeoff software, updating a quantity or price can be done with the click of a button. This allows the estimator to quickly update and produce a new material takeoff, streamlining the entire estimating process.
Construction takeoff software offers the advantage of integrating material takeoff production into the process for creating a detailed cost estimate. Often, construction takeoff software is one part of a construction cost estimating package. While this is not always the case, it does offer many advantages. Integrated takeoff functionality streamlines the entire estimating process. The estimator can stay in the same program they are already working in and quickly generate a material takeoff. Since this is one part of the estimation process, they can then continue working on the same estimate. This saves time and labor while allowing the estimator to avoid juggling between multiple programs. Having your digital takeoff software integrated into your construction estimating program is also helpful when adjustments need to be made. You can quickly adjust your material takeoff, and your total material costs will be reflected in your full detailed estimate.
Reduced Skill Requirements
Producing a material takeoff manually requires a high degree of skill. The estimator must understand how to read blueprints, perform complex calculations, and have a firm understanding of forces affecting material prices. In contrast to this, construction takeoff software automates many of the most difficult aspects of creating a material takeoff. Essentially, construction takeoff software makes producing top-quality takeoffs much easier and more accessible. Complex calculations are taken care of by the software program itself. Totals and quantities can be dynamically updated, with those updates reflecting in the total material cost for the project. Additionally, blueprints can be loaded directly into the program itself. From there, a variety of tools can assist the user in generating a comprehensive list of required materials. Perhaps most importantly, construction takeoff software significantly reduces instances when errors are made. This is partially accomplished through automating many of the more complex processes, but also because information only needs to be entered once. This eliminates the need to enter data correctly multiple times in different databases, which helps reduce time spent on the project as well as reducing the chances of an error or omission.