What Is A Takeoff In Construction?

Table of Contents

TakeOff in construction

Home building takeoffs are used by construction project estimators, such as yourself or someone on your team, to set up the tasks that comprise comprehensive, accurate project estimates. The construction takeoff, also known as a quantity takeoff, typically includes the material required to complete your project as well as the labor expenses associated with its installation. Logically, the larger a project’s square footage, the more physical supplies and labor are required.

Don’t forget that a complete estimate includes additional expenditures on the list of jobs generated by construction takeoffs. Additional costs are incurred to cover expenses such as equipment rental and other overhead. The estimate is then utilized to create a bid, which is submitted to the homeowner for approval. As you can see, an accurate estimate is required to complete a job that fulfills homeowner expectations while generating the profit that your business deserves.

Challenges of Manual Takeoffs:

Quantity takeoffs used to be a time-consuming operation because they required a ruler, pencil, and paper. Builders could spend hours or days measuring, quantifying, and pricing, particularly on larger projects. Let’s imagine you have the time and staff to perform manual takeoffs. Manual takeoffs, however, provide a possibility for error. Light fixtures, for example, may be tallied twice by mistake, or dimensions may simply be incorrect, resulting in incorrect counts of crucial items.

Many builders believe they are saving time by putting estimates on a pad of paper, a scrap of cardboard, or entering them into a complex spreadsheet. However, simply because something is familiar does not imply that it is the ideal method to operate. For example, utilizing pencil and paper requires you to spend time in the office filing documents for future reference. You can’t run a business if you’re always looking for estimates, bids, and client approvals, and transferring data from these paper files to your company’s project management and accounting software adds further potential for error.

Even if the estimate is correct for the material count, standardized pricing databases, which are frequently frozen in time and not adapted to an area or location, result in mistakes in total material cost. Prices that are three months out of date cannot be used to calculate appropriate charges. While custom builders like you used to perform takeoffs manually, frequently with a scale ruler and pen and paper, today’s competitive builders use digital takeoff software to speed up the process and deliver more precise results than manual takeoffs. We’ll look at what it’s like to perform a material takeoff with digital takeoff tools. But let’s first cover some fundamentals:

How does a material takeoff occur?

A takeoff is performed during the estimating phase to determine the cost of completing a project. For smaller construction companies that do not have a dedicated estimator, the owner or builder often does the takeoff and estimating. To begin, the builder studies the plans to determine how much material and labour are required to finish the work. In most circumstances, the process begins with a material takeoff, which is a full list of all the materials and equipment required to complete the operation.

A takeoff involves measuring the space required to construct walls, roofs, floors, and other structures. In the past, builders performed manual takeoffs with rulers, pencils, and paper. Once the material takeoff is completed, the builder uses the quantities and list of materials to estimate the amount of materials and labour required to accomplish the work. Simply put, the more materials used for the construction of the residence, the more labour hours are required. Labour expenses for the project are estimated based on the projected number of hours and the various trades required. The builder may then add administrative and other charges, as well as a markup, to arrive at a price for their customer that makes a reasonable profit for them.

How is a takeoff evolving in today's construction industry?

In the past, builders would print out blueprints and manually measure them using rulers or electronic scales to ascertain the necessary quantity of materials. To retain the scale of the designs, special care must be taken while printing them on the appropriate size paper; otherwise, estimates may be wrong. Materials were listed on a notepad or in a spreadsheet, with a highlighter used to mark out sections that had been removed or counted. Needless to say, since the takeoffs were done by hand, there was a lot of room for error and wasted time.

In the past, fittings may have been tallied twice, or certain portions of the project may have gone unmeasured. Builders frequently performed a takeoff numerous times to check that the information was correct. Due to the rising complexity of projects and the need to expedite the bidding process, many builders attempt to take a shortcut and compute projects based on a whole home square foot rate. Because of the many variables in a custom house project, such as fixtures and finishes, this strategy frequently results in erroneous estimates, which can cause the company to lose money on a contract.

The builder then finds themselves in a tricky situation. Do they lose money on the project, or do they send change orders to the homeowner to compensate for the inaccuracies in the material takeoff? Often, a novice builder would accept a loss on a job, hoping to make up the difference in future work. However, this might lead a builder into a never-ending loop of tension and worry about how to get a correct takeoff.


In conclusion, understanding what is a takeoff in construction is fundamental for accurate project estimation. Takeoffs, also known as quantity takeoffs, encompass material and labor costs and play a crucial role in generating comprehensive project estimates. While manual takeoffs were once common, they were time-consuming and prone to errors, leading many builders to adopt digital takeoff software for efficiency and precision. By utilizing modern tools, builders can streamline the estimation process and deliver more accurate results, ensuring that projects are completed within budget and to the satisfaction of homeowners, while also maintaining profitability for their businesses.


A construction takeoff, also known as a quantity takeoff, is a process used by project estimators to determine the materials and labor required for a construction project.

Construction project estimators, including builders or members of their team, typically perform construction takeoffs.

A construction takeoff includes the materials needed to complete the project and the associated labor expenses for installation.

Manual takeoffs are time-consuming and prone to errors, such as tallying items twice or incorrect dimensions, leading to inaccurate estimates and wasted time.

Digital takeoff software streamlines the estimation process, providing efficiency and precision compared to manual methods, ultimately resulting in more accurate project estimates.