Construction Estimate Ultimate Guide

Construction Estimate

There are a lot of factors that go into a decision to bid or not to bid on a project. You want the job, but you also want to be able to execute the job successfully and profitably.

Now there are construction jobs that you may come to know through websites, news, or personal connections.

How you decide which ones to bid or not.

There are many factors to consider.

  • Match your capability with the project requirements; will you be able to deliver.
  • Size of the project; do you possess the bonding capacity to match the project value
  • The current amount of work you are handling and what more can you take
  • Complexity of the project; do you have a qualified team at your disposal
  • Equipment requirement and availability; and what costs would be if you need to rent

When you find the right bid, you also need the right estimation team.

Bidding Enterprise has the best estimation team for your project.

Now you have decided to bid on a project. There are now arrangements to be in order so that you can create a very accurate proposal, that covers everything in the construction estimation. All the major items in the bid must be estimated to at least 99% accuracy.

Following is the list of all the steps that you must go through when developing estimates. These will be useful in working up a detailed estimate, so read them carefully.

1. Check Drawings and Project Manual

In the construction estimate process when the project documents are received, carefully go through all the project documents. You need to check all the drawings and items in the package is as per the addenda.

The numbering and labeling patterns for different govt. bodies and architects can be different. However, generally following prefixes may apply to most.

  • A = Architectural Drawings
  • S = Structural Drawings
  • M, P or HVAC = Mechanical Drawings
  • E = Electrical Drawings

If in case prefixes are not used, there may be defined coding for the project drawings that you need to refer to. This is most likely mentioned in the project manual.

Usually, the front page of the project manual or drawings have the list of all the drawings that are included in the set of construction estimate. Check all sources and match them with the drawings available with you to ensure nothing is missing.

2. Make a Mental Map of The Project

Now estimator has to work out the whole project. They need to understand what the project is what it requires. The estimator should review the drawings to create a mental view of the project. What is the size, shape, and exterior details?

An experienced estimator can roughly assess the project in this way of construction estimate. And create a mental note of things that are unusual and which need to be worked in more detail than others. Check for elevations and material requirements for construction estimate.

3. Reviewing the Drawings in Details

Now the next step is getting into detailed drawings and start working out the details.

Begin to examine the cross sections to assess the material and assemblies’ requirements. If there are any unfamiliar assemblies and details highlight them so that they can be referred readily.

In construction estimate the structural drawings are reviewed to determine what kind of structural system is required. The estimators work out details of the concrete, reinforcement, and other related requirements. In case it is a high-rise structure, with columns, beams, and lintels at high elevation, considerations for the right construction estimate equipment need to be made.

Mechanical drawings will have details on the steel structure, embeddings, underground work, piping, and outlet requirements. Even if the mechanical works are not in your scope. Understanding of its requirements is must; as openings and provisions in the civil works need to be kept.

You are responsible for anything related to the details mentioned in the project manual. So, it is important to cross-reference your drawing review with project specifications document or any other supporting documents.

Construction Estimate

4. Visit the Project Site 

To further establish the accuracy of the estimation and quantity takeoffs. It is sometimes important to visit the project site personally. Estimators along with members of the project execution team should do it.

Or at least make a close liaison with the project team who have visited the site.

If an estimator is from a third party or an outsourced bidding company, you need to support their queries about the site. So that they can create the best possible estimate.

collaborative effort creates much better quality in the bid and hence enhances the estimator’s ownership of the project.

5. Have Meetings with All the Relevant Stakeholders

Estimators are experts in their field. And they are more reliant on their experience in the field and in the estimation process to work out good quality bids.

it is a good idea to create a liaison with the project team with means of meetings.

After the drawings have been thoroughly reviewed and project information is complete. The project team and estimators should go over the philosophy of construction.

This will help the estimators to create the most accurate assumptions regarding overhead costs, norms, and contingencies.

6. Thoroughly Review General Conditions and Supplementary General Conditions

To create accurate costings all the conditions mentioned in general conditions and supplementary general conditions must be listed down.

This will lead to relatively accurate costing.

The next step is to factor in insurance costs. Also, be sure to send the relevant documentation to the insurer as well as the bonding agency.

7. Prepare Quantity Takeoffs 

The next step is the preparation of the takeoffs. The items are listed and quantities are placed accordingly. It is recommended that to follow the pattern of project specifications in the preparation of the takeoffs where possible.

The items should follow the pattern of the construction estimate process. It is recommended the calculations are made in the same units in which construction work will be conducted. It’s a good practice to list the equipment that will be used for the work listed with each item. It is very important to take considerations of your equipment and rental equipment. As well as the time required for deployment of the rental equipment.

It is of utmost importance that material rates, assembly’s installation rates, and subcontractor rates are accurate in the construction estimate. Call on each party to gather the latest rates for each item. mention them in the terms and conditions of the proposal when submitting.

Be sure to include all the overheads. List all the overhead cost items, such as temporary site facility (TSF), utilities, project supervision, food, boarding & lodging etc.

8. Quality Assurance of Construction Estimates

It is important to check all the items that are in the workup for correctness. Any mistake can lead to fatal ends.

It is to recommended that someone other than the main estimator should review the work. Usually in the construction estmate, in estimation teams, estimators can review each other’s work.

The most common mistake is usually the misplacement of the decimal points. However, the following are somethings that you must check vigorously before submission. This is not an exhaustive list.

  • Calculation errors, addition, subtraction, multiplications, divisions, and formula correctness
  • Omission of any item in materials, labor, overheads, equipment etc.
  • Estimation of wastes in material and general construction wastes
  • Errors in transferring data from one sheet to another
  • Settings of estimation software
  • Adjusting parameters of productivity as per the project specifications
  • Error in material quantity calculations
  • Mistakes in the usage of estimation software

After all the checks have been made and everything are priced; You should also check from the owner or architect/engineer that if you have received all the addendums for the project.

Finally check the time, date, and submission location for the bid. It can happen that in all the hassle of construction estimate preparation you might miss any of one and even lose the chance participation.


Construction estimating or and quantity takeoff calculation process is a very carefully choreographed exercise. It has to be in place in a way that it can produce a quality bid in a very strict timeline.

All the steps mentioned above have to be performed and they must be done meticulously .

So, the estimation team’s communication and coordination must be very synergized. Only then a winning proposal can be made.

It is recommended to have an expert estimation partner company on board with you.

Bidding Enterprise is an award-winning, quantity takeoff, and cost estimating company. Last year alone we estimated 1900+ projects. If you are looking for quality services that will enhance your chances of winning, share your project plans at


and we will get back to you with a proposal for our services.

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