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How To Do Construction Estimates (Like A Pro)

How To Do Construction Estimates (Like A Pro)

Last Updated on March 16, 2023 by Construction Digest

Ah, construction estimating.

The process that can make or break a construction project. As a construction manager, you know just how crucial it is to have accurate estimates. 

One missed detail or miscalculation can send your project timeline and budget straight into the danger zone. 

But fear not, In this guide, we’ll discuss some helpful tips and techniques that will help you master the art of construction estimating.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a newbie to the construction industry, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the construction estimating process, including the various types of estimates, the tools and techniques used, and the impact of key factors such as design changes and regional factors.

By the end of this, you’ll be armed with the knowledge and skills you need to create accurate construction estimates that will keep your projects on track and on budget. 

Let’s get started!

The Construction Estimating Process

Alright, let’s start with the basics, what exactly is construction estimating? 

Essentially, it’s the process of predicting the costs and resources required for a construction project. Whether you’re building a skyscraper or a backyard shed, estimating is a vital part of the planning process.

Now, there are a few different types of estimates you might encounter, such as conceptual estimates, preliminary estimates, and detailed estimates. 

Each type serves a specific purpose and requires different levels of detail, depending on the stage of the project.

When it comes to the tools and techniques used in construction estimating, there are a few key players. 

You’ve got your trusty calculator, of course, but there are also specialized software and apps that can make the process much easier. And let’s not forget the power of spreadsheets, who knew Excel could be so exciting?

But perhaps most importantly, accurate estimating is essential to the success of your project. 

Overestimating can lead to unnecessary expenses, while underestimating can lead to delays and project failure. 

So, it’s vital to take the time to understand the construction estimating process, the different types of estimates, and the tools and techniques used to create accurate estimates.

Now that we’ve got the basics down, let’s move on to some tips for making sure your construction estimates are as accurate as possible.

How do you calculate construction estimates?

Let’s put our estimating skills to the test! 

Imagine you’ve been tasked with putting together an estimate for a new office building. 

Here’s how you might approach the process:

Step 1: Develop a Scope of Work

First things first, you’ll need to develop a detailed scope of work. In this case, that might include everything from site preparation and foundation work to framing, roofing, and finishing touches like painting and carpeting. 

You’ll also need to factor in any specialized equipment or subcontractors that will be needed, such as electricians or HVAC professionals.

Step 2: Crunch the numbers

Next up, it’s time to start crunching some numbers. 

Let’s say that the building will be 20,000 square feet and will have three stories. You’ll need to figure out how much material will be required for the framing and finishing work, as well as how much it will cost to hire subcontractors for specialized work like electrical and plumbing.

Based on current market rates, you estimate that the material and labor costs will come to around $3 million.

Step 3: Refine the Estimate

Now it’s time to take a closer look at the estimate and see if there are any areas where you can refine it. 

Perhaps you can find cheaper materials that still meet the project’s quality standards, or maybe you can negotiate better rates with subcontractors.

After some further research and adjustments, you manage to bring the total estimate down to $2.8 million, a savings of $200,000!

Step 4: Factor in Contingencies

Finally, it’s important to factor in contingencies. In this case, you might estimate that unexpected issues will add an extra 10% to the total project cost. This brings the final estimate to $3.08 million.

And there you have it, by following these basic steps and using your estimating skills, you can create accurate and reliable estimates for construction projects of all sizes.

Tips for Accurate Construction Estimating

Creating accurate estimates isn’t just about punching numbers into a calculator and hoping for the best. 

It takes careful planning, attention to detail, and a willingness to be flexible when things don’t go according to plan. 

Here are a few tips to help you create the most accurate construction estimates possible:

First and foremost, you need to have a detailed scope of work and project plans. This includes a clear understanding of the project goals, timelines, and resources required. Without a solid plan in place, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Next, take the time to review the project site and identify any potential risks or challenges. 

This could include anything from difficult terrain to pesky wildlife that might interfere with your work. 

By identifying these risks early on, you can factor them into your estimates and avoid surprises down the road.

Another key component of accurate estimating is having a good understanding of material and labor costs. 

This includes taking into account any price fluctuations that may occur during the course of the project, as well as factoring in the cost of specialized equipment or subcontractors if needed.

And finally, it’s always a good idea to have a contingency plan in place. 

Even with the best-laid plans, things can still go wrong. By having a backup plan in place, you can minimize the impact of any unexpected issues that arise.

With these tips in your back pocket, you’ll be well on your way to creating accurate estimates that will keep your project on track and within budget. 

Using Software in Construction Estimating

These days, technology is everywhere and the world of construction estimating is no exception. 

From specialized software to apps and other digital tools, there are plenty of ways to use technology to improve the accuracy and efficiency of your estimating process.

One of the most significant benefits of using technology for construction estimating is the ability to create detailed, accurate 3D models of your project. 

With the help of advanced software, you can create a virtual representation of your project, complete with accurate measurements and detailed renderings. 

This can help you identify potential issues before they become problems, and ensure that your estimates are as accurate as possible.

But it’s not just about fancy software and 3D models. 

There are also plenty of apps and tools out there that can help you streamline your estimating process and improve accuracy. 

For example, there are apps that can help you calculate material costs, track labor expenses, and even generate detailed reports and estimates with just a few clicks.

Of course, technology is not a magic bullet, and it’s important to use it wisely. 

It’s crucial to ensure that any software or tools you use are accurate and reliable, and to take the time to learn how to use them properly. But when used correctly, technology can be a game-changer in the world of construction estimating.

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