Takeoff Estimating: Should Contractors Use a Software or a Service?

Should subcontractors use takeoff software?
Construction contractors often assume that takeoff software will solve their estimation problems, but it could end up costing their business time and money. In this post, we discuss the best alternative to estimating software.

Why the Wrong Takeoff Software May Cost Your Business Time and Money

With 25% of contractors saying that a few estimating mistakes can tank their business, and a third saying they’re seeing lower profits than anticipated on construction projects, there can be serious consequences for issues that arise in takeoff software. Many contractors turn to takeoff software, thinking it will solve their problems, only to find that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Making the change to takeoff software while ignoring other options can cost your business a lot of time, effort, and funding that could be leveraged elsewhere in your business.

Construction Projects: The Shortfalls of Takeoff Software

When you’re using construction takeoff software on your projects, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype. Estimating software does provide a lot of tools, but to paraphrase Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter series, never trust anything that can think for itself and you can’t see where it keeps its brain. Unless you have a degree or significant experience in computer programming, it’s easy to make assumptions based on how you think, not on how the takeoff software is actually working. This means you might assume the software has accounted for everything on the project plans, which can lead to additional work you hadn’t anticipated and profit shortfalls.

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As an example, say you’re dealing with a difficult grading project. You know that there’s going to be some landscaping damage you’ll need to repair because of the tight spacing of the existing landscaping, but the software can’t account for these special circumstances. It just looks at the materials that are needed, the amount of dirt that will need to be moved, and calculates based on those aspects, not on the entire project. Artificial intelligence capable of making custom calculations is still a few decades away, and won’t keep up with the pace of human ingenuity and creativity, which is why you should consider the best option for your business. If you assume the software will be able to account for every unique situation in your build and don’t oversee the process yourself, you’ll lose money on materials and labor.

Labor costs provide another great example of the pitfalls of takeoff software. Your software only knows your last drywall project had a hanging rate of 12 sheets per hour per person, as a random example. It doesn’t consider that you’re having to work around curves with double layers of 1/4″ drywall, that there are a lot of extra cuts to make in that call center will all the network and power boxes, or that you can only fit so many people in the room at a time due to the small size of the structure, limiting crew access and slowing down the project.

Beyond these issues, you’ll still have to take a lot of time to learn the software, deal with tech support, and spend a lot more time in the office fighting with the computer than getting your construction projects underway and operating efficiently. You didn’t get into the industry to sit behind your desk, but to keep your crew working. Though you can take a solid look at the estimate you’ve produced with your estimating software when it comes out, it can be difficult to determine how the calculations were made. By the time you’ve checked everything within the estimate to ensure it’s completely correct, you may as well have done the entire takeoff and estimating process by hand, because it isn’t saving any time.

By taking a step back from the rush for digital transformation, you can find more efficient options that allow you to spend more time on the job site while still bringing in more projects to keep your crew moving.

At 1build, we believe in supporting our contractor partners with all of their construction projects, including providing free resources for finishing up your bid package. By partnering with 1build, builders can avoid the pitfalls of typical takeoff software, such as inaccurate labor pricing, uncommon building requirements, and clunky software. You can consult with an expert estimator so you never miss another expensive detail and develop accurate cost estimates and takeoffs using intuitive software, designed from the ground up to save builders time and money. 1build is a fully-integrated estimating solution, providing everything a builder needs to develop detailed and accurate estimates and takeoffs in one place. Why not take a few minutes to sign up and send a project to one of our expert estimators?

  1. Thanks for pointing out that it is best to consult with an expert to avoid missing something that could be an expensive mistake. I guess that just shows how important estimating experts are for anyone planning to start their own business. Imagine having to create your own brand, you need to make sure that they are of good quality to really garner a lot of clients and succeed.

  2. I do agree with all the ideas you have presented in your post. They’re really convincing and will certainly work. Still, the posts are very short for starters. Could you please extend them a bit from next time? Thanks for the post.

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