Construction Takeoff: Remember These 7 Tips Before You Start Your Next Project


A construction takeoff (also known as a material takeoff) is just one step of the commercial preconstruction process, but it is the essential step that needs to be completed before construction can even begin. That means determining the project’s cost, submitting a bid to work on the project, and the construction of the structure all depend on the results of this step. Because of that, it must be done right. An inaccurate takeoff can cost you time, money, and—ultimately—bids and jobs.

Many articles on the internet go over the basics of the process and how to do a construction takeoff. While it is great to be familiar with the basics, there is more that goes into executing solid takeoffs in construction.

So, whether you’re about to perform your first construction takeoff or your 100th, we have seven essential tips for you to consider and put into practice.

First Things First: What Is a Takeoff in Construction?

You seasoned pros can skip ahead, but if you are new to the process, here is a quick overview of a construction takeoff. It is a specific calculation of all the items and materials needed for a construction project. That includes calculating the exact amounts of raw materials, such as drywall, concrete, wood, and prefabricated materials, like windows, doors, and bathroom fixtures. You will even need to approximate how many boxes of nails, screws, and other fasteners would be required.

After the takeoff is finished, the next step is estimating. That is where dollar amounts are tied to all these needed materials, the necessary tools and permits, the costs of labor and hiring of subcontractors, and anything else that needs to be bought, rented, or deposited.

Simply put: An accurate takeoff paves the way for a precise estimate, which, in turn, opens you up to a successful project bid. If you get this first step wrong, you risk not having enough materials or help on the jobsite or jeopardizing the project entirely.

In the long run, a failed project affects your bottom line, either through delays, overspending, or lost profits. It also threatens your business’ reputation with clients and future relationships.

With all that is at risk when the process doesn’t go right, here are the strategies to remember before your next takeoff.

1. Study Those Plans: Do They Make Sense?

The first action item in performing a takeoff is getting ahold of the building plans from the architect. Plans, or blueprints or drawings as they have been called in the past, spell out the design and floor arrangements for the structure being built. They are always presented at scale (otherwise, that would be a pretty large document, right?).

Like many things in the construction world, building plans have increasingly gone digital, with PDFs, images, and interactive formats replacing the once commonplace blue-colored papers.

It is essential to know how to read digital plans, decipher the scale used by the architect, and be able to transfer what you see into a takeoff. A takeoff is no time to “take a guess” if you’re having trouble decoding the plans. Don’t hesitate to contact the architect if anything seems “off” or if you need any additional clarity. There is no shame in asking, and it is always better to be safe than sorry.

2. Keep Up to Date on Changes in the Project’s Scope

Here’s another time when you will want to stay in close contact with the architects, designers, and project leaders. Best-laid plans can go astray, and construction is no different. Before starting your takeoff, double-check that all plans and designs are current. You do not want to submit your takeoff around a building outfitted with vinyl windows when the developer decides to go with fiberglass windows at the last minute, potentially throwing off the eventual estimate.

3. Itemize the Materials You Will Need

Before diving into the takeoff, building a list of all the raw and prefabricated materials you may need can be helpful. While this may sound like the dictionary definition of a construction takeoff, remember that some materials require additional items and steps. For example, adding a concrete foundation is not just pouring cement. You will also need to add rebar or wire mesh, anchor bolts, and other pieces to set the concrete fully. It can be easy to overlook these extra things, so consider listing them out beforehand.

4. Go Digital With ConstructConnect

It was not that long ago that takeoffs were solely performed with pencil and paper, blueprints, a calculator, and A LOT of time. Not only do physical blueprint takeoffs mean you are doing all the math on your own, but you are also saddled with the costs of printing those blueprints, having to wait for them to get printed, and then finding space to store all that paper. All that manual work is enough to make your heads spin and, even worse, leaves much room for errors … and we already told you what is at stake when your takeoff has errors.

Sometime later, many contractors ditched the pencils and legal pads to type their numbers in computerized spreadsheets. Entering construction material lists in Excel and similar programs saves time, but it still is not error-proof.

If you are seeking a solution to these woes, you can turn to ConstructConnect. Our range of digital takeoff tools gives you a leg up in coordinating your materials and delivering better bids:

  • On-Screen Takeoff®is the Swiss Army Knife of takeoff software, harnessing the integration power of other ConstructConnect products to drive collaboration and efficiency on medium- to large-scale projects. Some of its supplemental features include:
    • A seamless connection to ConstructConnect Project Intelligence, so you can send project leads direct from Project Intelligence and Bid Center to On-Screen Takeoff and immediately get to work on an estimate and bid.
    • Takeoff Boost is a new add-on to On-Screen Takeoff that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to measure areas, walls, and even fixture counts automatically. There is no need to worry about AI replacing your role in construction, as Takeoff Boost is built to deliver measurements up to 15 times faster than with On-Screen Takeoff alone, giving you more time to focus on securing your estimates and bids!
  • PlanSwift® is trusted by general contractors and tradespeople around the world. Its drag-and-drop interface, complete with fully customizable templates that can be trade-specific, is purpose-built for accuracy and saving you time. You can also send plans from ConstructConnect Project Intelligence and Bid Center directly to PlanSwift for faster project setup.
  • QuoteSoft is the product for all you HVAC and ductwork or plumbing professionals. It is tailored exclusively to solve tasks like piping takeoffs, mechanical estimates, and more.

5. Review Those Measurements, Quantities, and Findings While You’re at It

Before you call us Captain Obvious, remember one of the first lessons in carpentry: Measure twice and cut once. The same can be said for takeoffs. Give your findings and measurements a second look (and maybe even a third) to verify you got things correct. It is good to double-check your results against any existing project reference documents.

Asking for another set of eyes from your project team to check your work is also helpful to ensure accuracy along the way.

6. Hold On to Your Work—All of It

While you are double-checking your measurements against reference documents, be sure to hold onto all your notes, records, and files related to the project. Retaining all this information has two major benefits. First, if any disputes occur during the project or plans appear to be changing in the moment (remember tip #3!), you can refer to your documentation as a source of truth.

These documents can also provide valuable insight well after the takeoff is done. You can use them to review how well you profited off a project.

If you happened to lose a bid, saved documentation can serve as references to show what may have gone wrong and what you can improve for the future.

Another other significant benefit is that you can repurpose some prior work as templates to guide you through future projects … and cut down on working time!

7. Don’t Get Overwhelmed

Yes, much information needs to be processed and recorded in a construction takeoff. It may come as a relief to know that there are a few big things that you will not have to cover in such a report. These include:

  • Figuring out where to get the materials.
  • The coordination of acquiring or renting equipment. 
  • The logistics of shipping all materials and equipment. 
  • How the materials and equipment need to be secured and stored.

Thankfully, all of this is covered during the separate estimation process. That would be someone else’s job in larger projects.

However, if you are also the estimator—do not worry! These steps will also be on your plate, but not right now. The best advice is to take a deep breath, prioritize your action plans, and do one thing at a time.

Captain, Prepare for Takeoff!

With these seven tips in mind, you should be ready to “take off” and confidently tackle your takeoff! Remember, an accurate takeoff is the foundation of a buttoned-up estimate, which is the key to winning more bids, and the gateway to profitability.

By not studying plans, keeping apprised of late changes, not fully scoping out all needed materials, or double-checking measurements, you are setting yourself up for failure. And that not only affects your bottom line but your reputation in the field, too. So be sure to take care and follow these suggestions the next time you are preparing a takeoff or putting a bid package together.

And if you are ready to plunge into digital takeoff solutions, look no further than ConstructConnect. We are prepared to get you connected with the right product for your trade and business and support you every step of the way, from training to implementation.

Customer or not, however, you can also join us for The Academy, regular live events where our trainers provide in-depth industry and software knowledge, networking opportunities with peers, and topical conversations on matters that may affect your business. Check us out today!

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