What is a Construction Takeoff?

If you’ve been in the construction business for any length of time, you probably know what a takeoff is or at the least have heard the term before.  But if you’re new to the industry, there’s a good chance you don’t know what a takeoff is!  No problem.  By the time you’re done reading this article you’ll learn all you need to know about takeoffs.

What is a takeoff?  In construction, a “takeoff” is the process of determining how much of each material is needed to complete a job.  It is also sometimes called a quantity takeoff or material takeoff and sometimes you’ll see it hyphenated as “take-off”. 

Now that you know what a takeoff is, let’s talk about what they are used for.  Construction takeoffs are done for many reasons including, to submit a bid for a job, to create an estimate for a job, or to simply determine how much of each material to buy.  Let’s take a quick look at each of these scenarios…

Submitting a bid – When you bid on a job, it’s important to know how much of each material you’ll need so you can determine the material costs in your bid.  Without this valuable info, you could under bid the job and lose money or overbid and miss out on the job.  Either one of these is a poor outcome.  Performing an accurate takeoff is an incredibly important factor in whether you win your bid.

Creating an estimate – Part of creating an estimate is knowing how much material you’ll need.  You could just give it your best guess or perform a takeoff and get a lot more accurate information.  Once you know how much material you need, you can price everything, add in your labor hours, tax, waste percentage, and other costs to complete your estimate.

Figuring out how much material to buy – Even if you aren’t submitting a bid or developing an in-depth estimate, you’ll still need to know how much material to buy.  Under-buying is no fun because it causes jobsite delays and extra trips to buy more materials.  Over-buying is even worse because it cuts into your profit (and that’s something no one likes)!

As you can see, there are many reasons why you might want to do a takeoff in construction.  In fact, if you’re working off of blueprints, there’s really no reason why you wouldn’t need to perform a takeoff.  Without one, you’re sure to either buy too much or too little material.

The difference between a takeoff and an estimate is something else that can be confusing to those new to the construction industry.  The concept is pretty simple once you know it but it can still trip some people up.  A takeoff is simply determining the amount of all the materials needed for a job.  That’s it!  Takeoffs don’t have any material costs associated with them and don’t include extra costs that an estimate does.

In contrast, an estimate takes the takeoff a few steps further.  Estimates apply costs to all the materials determined by the takeoff and adds in other costs the contractor will face.  These extra costs include things like travel costs, tax, applying a waste factor, labor costs, and any other extra costs you’ll face.

There are 2 ways that takeoffs can be performed: manually and digitally.  Let’s take a brief look at each option…

Manual takeoffs are those done using physical blueprints that are printed out.  To do your takeoff, you measure the blueprint using a scale ruler to get the dimensions you need.  For example, if you’re painting a room, you’ll measure all 4 walls of the room, calculate the square footage of the walls, calculate the negative space you won’t need to paint (doors, windows, entryways, etc) and subtract that from the total square footage.  Once you have that, you’ll figure out how much paint you need to paint that square footage by dividing the square footage by how much coverage a gallon of paint will provide.

Although, this is probably the simplest example possible, there are still a lot of measurements and calculations that need to be made to come to the correct amount of paint you’ll need.  It’s easy to measure something wrong or make a mistake calculating which can be costly especially when you’re doing a big job.

Digital takeoffs are those done using takeoff software and digital blueprints.  The first step is to load your plans into the takeoff software.  Once this is complete, you can get started measuring your plans using the takeoff tools in the software.  This is a simple process that involves using your computer’s mouse to click around the blueprint to measure the walls, floors, pipe lengths or whatever else you need to measure.

The great thing about digital takeoffs is that the software does all the calculations for you.  This means no more mistakes!  You’ll also know the exact amount of materials you’ll need every time!

We’ve already touched on several of the benefits of using takeoff software over performing takeoffs by hand but lets examine some more reasons to use takeoff software.

Speed – Using takeoff software is so much faster than manual takeoffs. In fact, some contractors say it is anywhere from three to ten times faster.  This time savings pays off on small jobs but can make a huge difference if you’re working on a large project.

Accuracy – There is lots of room for error when measuring by hand and using a calculator for calculations.  To say the least, these errors can be costly!  Let takeoff software do all your calculations for you so you don’t have to worry about errors anymore.

Access – If you’re using cloud-based takeoff software (software that you login into from your web browser), your plans will be available to you whenever you have an internet connection. This means you can access them from work, home, while travelling, or even on the jobsite!  It’s a great convenience when you need to review something, check out the material quantities you need, or something else.

Organization – If you’ve been dealing with printed blueprints, you know how difficult it is to stay organized when you have piles of them laying around.  Even finding the right one can be a challenge!  When using digital takeoff software, you’ll simply search for the project name and the blueprint will come right up in the software. No more stacks of blueprints cluttering up the office!

Easy!  Many takeoff software vendors offer free 7-day or 10-day trials of their software.  It’s a great way to test them out and see if you like using them.  Unfortunately, after that, the trial ends, often before you’ve had enough time to really try out the software.

At STACK, we offer a completely free version of our takeoff software.  It’s not a trial so you are welcome to use it for as long as you’d like.  Take your time and give it a spin!  Of course, we also offer paid versions of our takeoff software which offers additional features than many contractors find useful.  What have you got to lose?  Sign up for a free STACK account today!

Contractors use STACK everyday to power a better preconstruction process. Speed up your takeoff process, get accurate measurements, and bid & win more profitable work. Get started today for free!

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