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Do you have good estimating habits? – Estimating 101, June 2022

June 24, 2022  By John F. Wiesel and Dan Beresford



June 24, 2022 – Do you follow a format, plan or method when doing an estimate or take-off? Estimating is a process—a methodology—and you get better at it by developing good habits.

Many new estimators make the mistake of jumping around from section to section when going through drawings, but the best approach is to work through the specs and drawings step by step.

Learn to do the same things in the same order every time, and take your time. Do the first things first. Read the specs, then review the drawings and read the notes before you start to count and measure. Then read the addendums.

Do you record your conduit take-off the same way every time? Have you ever been on a job where a branch circuit and all the corresponding materials and by-products were missed? What happened to the job schedule? How were the missing items and labour covered off?

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As you measure conduit and wire, and record them on the take-off sheet, mark them on the drawing, too. List all the conduit, connector bends, straps, etc. When you take off conduit the same way every time, you become more accurate. When there are multiple circuits, use as many drawings as you need so that you can see the different circuits.

When you skip around the drawings and specs, counting light fixtures can be agonizing! But, by working through one page at a time, you will miss far fewer fixtures. Take off one type of fixture at a time. Make sure you have the fixture list and symbols at hand. When you count a fixture, mark it. Do your lighting take-off the same way every time.

Counting switch, receptacle, or special outlet boxes or devices takes time but, when you miss one, you’ll miss time and material, and lose money. Be methodical when taking off boxes, and remember to take off boxes for the lighting circuits.

Break down every bid, every area, every room into its own take-off when counting and measuring. Paper is cheaper than time and, more importantly, paper is cheaper than mistakes. Use forms or spreadsheets designed specifically for the material you are taking off. Learn to estimate by hand, then move to software.

As you develop good habits and practices, you’ll get both faster and more accurate when estimating.


John F. Wiesel is the president of Suderman Estimating Systems Inc., and has been estimating and teaching estimating since the early 1980s. Dan Beresford served as an electrician in the Canadian Navy, then worked in various roles in the electrical sector before joining Suderman.

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