Take-off or takeoff with construction is a term used to refer to the process of detailing units and costs with a job estimate. Take-off is in essence the work papers supporting the final values for both numerical count and dollar amounts of the respective elements of an estimate. Take-offs are not restricted to just materials; take-off includes a separate set of documents to support labor hours and costs; equipment usage, and other types of costs (debris removal, permits, compliance, jobsite facilities, utilities and safety gear). Each industry within the construction sector of the economy uses their own process to create take-offs. At the individual contractor level, take-offs can be performed with pencil and paper or at the other end of the contractor spectrum, reach the sophisticated level of customized industry software. Every estimator must decide for themselves what they are comfortable with as the tool to create take-offs.
Estimating in Construction
Estimating in construction follows three distinct tenets. They are: 1) estimates must be accurate with determining hard costs of construction; 2) estimates must be calculated timely; and 3) every estimate is unique and therefore, estimators must follow a process to capture every element of required costs.
Well developed, accurate and timely estimates are the best tool ensuring profitability in the construction industry. No other internal control mechanism is as valuable to the contractor as the estimate. Good estimating systems in construction provide the management team with the necessary confidence to make long-term decisions benefiting all parties involved with the company. Customers receive a higher quality structure with less warranty requirements, employees get a sense of security with their tenure, and vendors/subcontractors acquire desirable relationships with their contractor assuring delivery of best practices for their respective trades. Simple put, good estimates deliver profits to the contractor.
The best internal control tool to maximize profit in construction is an estimate. Estimates act similar to a dashboard of critical information necessary to evaluate overall performance. In insolation, they serve the purpose of determining the minimum core price to charge the customer in order to deliver enough contribution margin to offset that project’s share of indirect and overhead costs. Any value in excess of this core price adds to the company’s bottom line. If properly set up, administered, monitored and evaluated upon completion; estimates are a critical element of the accounting feedback loop. This one internal control tool delivers more value to owners and management in construction than any other control device.