Flooring Takeoffs

The Need For Speed: Producing Quality Takeoffs Against A Deadline

Who would be a better estimator: Iceman or Maverick?

Iceman is probably the better overall estimator. He’s detail-oriented, methodical, and accurate. When you’re on a crazy deadline, though, Maverick is your man. He’s unorthodox, reckless, and you’ll probably want to fire him a million different times before bid day, but there’s something to be said for delivering under pressure.

We all know that quality takes time, but the construction world doesn’t subscribe to this maxim, so sometimes you have to embrace your inner Maverick and produce accurate work quickly.

Did I write this article just to use this clip? Maybe. Maybe not.

Below are 3 tips that can help you speed up your takeoffs without sacrificing quality. NOTE: Some of this is specific to Measure Square, but you can apply it to whatever takeoff software you use.

Keyboard Shortcuts

If you do nothing else on this list, just adding keyboard shortcuts to your workflow will change your world. Instead of going to the menu bar, or right-clicking and searching, you can do it all with one or two keystrokes. That may not sound like a lot, but if you’re doing takeoffs then there are more than a few actions you perform on every job. 

For Measure Square, this is how you set it up:
File – System Setting – Hotkey

Now, let’s take it one step further. If you’ve never used hotkeys before, it’s going to take a bit before you have everything memorized, and, yes, having to look it up constantly will slow you down in the beginning. I suggest going old school during these first few days and printing out the list of your hotkeys to put either on your desk or by your monitor. After a while, you’ll be hitting the right keys without even thinking about it.

Aside from Measure Square, you can set up hotkeys in just about any software that you use on a regular basis: Bluebeam, Excel, etc. Welcome to the rabbit hole…

Automate It

Excel can be intimidating, but you can still convince the rest of your team that you have super powers with a couple of relatively simple options. Or maybe keep it all to yourself, because the only thing worse than not having someone in the office that’s good with Excel, is being the person in the office that’s good with Excel.

Make sure you have the Developer tab showing on your Excel. If you don’t see it, then it’s just a few clicks to add it.
File – Options – Customize Ribbon – Developer

Once you’re on the Developer tab, we’re ready to get started:

  • Click Record Macro
  • Name your macro, and add a, wait for it…..hotkey
  • Choose where to save your macro (more on that below)
  • Click OK and start recording your steps
  • Click Stop Recording when you’re done

About saving your macro: if this is something you want to use on every Excel file, you’ll want to choose Personal Workbook. Once you save a macro here, it will be available every time you open Excel. This is how I personally use macros to edit my Excel exports from Measure Square.

TIP: Do a practice run or write down the steps before you hit Record because it will literally record everything you do. So if you forget a step and have to click around for an action, that will all be part of your macro.

Easy enough, right? 

The drawback to this method is that it isn’t dynamic, meaning that the macro is only going to work in the exact cells you used during recording. Say you wanted to change the date on every file and that info was originally in cell A1. If, on your next workbook, that date is in cell B1, your macro isn’t going to work as intended. If you’re continually exporting to a specific template, though, recording your macro is the way to go.

If you want to get deeper into macros, then learning some VBA is your next step. Visual Basic Analysis is Microsoft’s programming language for Office products, and that is the code that is created when you record a macro. 

Wise Owl is a great resource to learn VBA.

You can also use something like ChatGPT to help you write VBA code. I’d suggest knowing some of the basics before you jump into this, because the code isn’t always going to work how you want, and it’s helpful to know what changes need to be made. When you do enter prompts, I recommend doing one or two actions at a time instead of feeding ChatGPT everything at once. I’d do this for two reasons:

  1. Troubleshooting is going to be much easier when you’re only dealing with a few lines of code.
  2. You don’t give your future robot overlords all your secrets at once.

Here is a good video that shows you some examples of combining ChatGPT and VBA: 

Room Profiles

Say you’re working on a takeoff for a medical facility, and you have a patient restroom that repeats throughout the job. Instead of building it from scratch each time, how would you like to just do it once? Enter the Room Profile.

Our patient restroom has floor tile and a wainscot. And the wainscot has a tile base and bullnose cap. And there is a Dilex piece at the floor to wall transition. Depending on your setup, that can take a lot of time, and it can be easy to miss walls when you’re repeating the same steps over and over.

Pick one of these restrooms and do a full takeoff on it like normal. Once you have your typical restroom built just the way you want it, do this:

Right Click – Product / Assignment Profile – Add Room Profile

TIP: Make sure you get everything correct on this initial one, though. If you go back and make a change to the profile, it won’t update all the rooms you used it on. You’ll have to remove the old one and apply the updated one. 

Now these profiles can be project specific, or you can have generic ones saved if you find yourself building the same profile often. You can see in the clip above that I have a mix of both in mine. Once you have it all set up, you can drag and drop that profile onto any patient restroom, to stick with our example, and everything you need will be applied at once.

But Wait, There’s More!

This process  is also useful when you have a large sheet vinyl job with flash coving. Set your profile room to include the flash coving height, and it will be applied to every room you use it on. Normally, you’d have to apply this manually by either using the options bar on the right side of the screen or right clicking and going to Room Edit – Set Flash Coving, which you could use a handy hot key for, but this is faster. Especially on a job where not all the sheet vinyl gets flash coved.

Additional tip not at all related to this blog topic – just what you came for, right? It can be hard to tell sometimes whether or not you applied flash coving to a room without clicking on it. You can see below that the coving does show up on the perimeter of the room, but on a crowded floor plan that can be easy to overlook.

A quick way to double check this is to go to your Options menu and check the box next to Label. This will let you know at a glance which rooms are flash coved and what height they’re set at. This can also be helpful to have on if you’re sharing this with someone else who doesn’t use Measure Square.

So there we have it – 3 ways to help speed up your flooring takeoffs. What will you do with all this newfound free time? Travel more? Learn a new language? I think we all know the answer to this one…

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