Flooring Takeoffs

How To Produce More Accurate Takeoffs

In almost any field, you will find people preaching the mastery of the basics:

“The rule is: the basics are the basics, and you can’t beat the basics.”
Charles Poliquin
“Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.”
Michael Jordan
“Fool me once, strike one. Fool me twice, strike three.”
Michael Scott

The same advice applies to Estimating. Ok, maybe not that last one. This list may seem obvious, but they’re steps that are easy to skip over after you’ve been doing this job long enough. They’re simple, but they’re also the foundation for any accurate takeoff. 

1. Check Your Scale

This should be the very first thing you do on any job. If your scale is off, nothing else that you do on your takeoff matters. There are few worse feelings as an Estimator than being told by the GC that your number is considerably lower than everyone else’s, only to discover that it’s because your takeoff was scaled incorrectly. Ask me how I know …

  • Depending on the plans, you can sometimes pull a measurement on the plan scale itself. 
  • If that isn’t available, then use other plans in your set to pull the longest dimension possible. You may have to venture outside of the Architectural set to find something usable, but it’s better to be dead on with a 100’ dimension than a 3’ foot door. 
Checking scale against a dimension.
  • If no dimensions are available, as a last resort, you may be forced to use the aforementioned door. Even then, lengths can vary. A standard door is 3’, so a typical double door is 6’. If you’re working on a medical facility, though, those doors can be 4’ to accommodate hospital beds. In this scenario, make sure to note that you’re using the door for scale, which leads us into Tip #2.
Using a door to set your scale.

2. Document your assumptions and exclusions

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. You’re doing a tile takeoff, and there is a bullnose piece on the Finish Schedule that is specified to go on the top of the restroom wainscot. Easy enough, right? The elevations aren’t drawn to reflect this, though, so you head over to the cut section of that wainscot…which shows Schluter trim going on top of the wainscot.

Great – now what?

If you have time, you can submit this as an RFI to the GC: ‘Finish Schedule calls for a  bullnose wainscot cap and detail X / A.0 shows a Schluter trim piece. Please advise on which of these is correct.’ In a perfect world, this is the best way to handle contradictions you find in the plans. However, as we all know from experience, construction does not operate in a perfect world. Let’s say this job got left off the bid list, and it’s now well past the cutoff date for RFIs.

TIP: If you do get the chance to submit an RFI, be as detailed as possible by giving specific examples. Even better if you can include screenshots from the plans to illustrate.

Most likely, your best option at this point is to pick a detail and clarify this decision in your takeoff and proposal. Since the elevation isn’t drawn as if a bullnose piece is going there, you could figure the Schluter trim and add a note similar to this: ‘Schluter trim figured at exposed wainscot edge per detail X / A.0. Also, elevations do not show a bullnose piece to match the size given in the Finish Legend.’

As a rule of thumb, we suggest documenting the following:

  • Inconsistencies in the plans.
  • Missing or incorrect finish info.
  • Scaling issues
  • Potential install issues.
  • Any exclusions you want to be on record.
    • A GC may come back to you after a bid and ask for coverage on a certain item, but that’s much better than being expected to cover it in your initial proposal.

If, but more likely when, you run into situations where you have to make change orders, documentation may be the difference between getting them approved and eating the extra cost. As more jobs are being bid at the design build stages, this feedback is also helpful to the architects, designers, and owners so that they can incorporate the changes into the next set of plans.

3. Double Check the Material Specs

Do enough jobs, and it’s easy to get complacent with looking up materials. It’s a good practice to maintain, though, because you will run into materials that are no longer available, or have incorrect color and style designations. Sometimes a material size will be specified that doesn’t even appear on the manufacturer’s website. Depending on your setup, there are services like Spec Intel and Material Bank that can help you with staying up to date on materials. 

Figuring all of this out before sending off for pricing will save extra work on the backend. Even if you aren’t doing the bidding yourself, that work is going to be done by somebody in your office.

4. CTRL + F is your friend

After sitting in front of a computer screen all day, it’s easy to miss details and notes on large plan sets, so run a search on the file before painstakingly going back through the plans. 

Bluebeam is the industry standard for PDF viewers, and it has some powerful search options for both text and visual. The main thing we use this for is to find any material that we didn’t use on the takeoff, or to find any options for alternates. Alternates are usually found on the cover or index page, and if there’s a spec book issued with the project, you can typically find them in section 01 23 00. 

TIP: We have also seen a lot of jobs, usually schools, where the finish materials are also found in section 01 of the spec book.

5. Check Your Scale

Yes, do it again! It’s really that important. Print this out and hang it by your computer.

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