What is a Takeoff?

What is a takeoff, what is takeoff software, and why are takeoffs important?

The term takeoff (also written take-off or take off) is commonly associated with the construction industry and is usually a part of the pre-construction phase of a development. It refers both to the process of estimating the building materials required to complete a project, and the product of that process: the material list, or the takeoff. It’s an important step in the building process because it provides essential information to many different parties who will be involved in the project.

Once an architect completes the plans for a building, an estimator takes the plans and, well, estimates the materials needed for the project. Estimate might be too soft of a term though. A good takeoff provides not only a highly accurate list of materials, but also a comprehensive list of discrepancies, potential problems, oversights, and other useful information pertaining to the project.

Architects and engineers create the designs to be safe and up to code, but there are always other factors at play. Current prices, availability of certain products, specific preferences of the builder and their team, the phases and timeline of the build process…the list goes on. A great takeoff is much more than just a list. This is where software can really make a big difference: taking ‘just a takeoff’ and making it a good or great takeoff.

Why use takeoff software?

Many different solutions exist to help estimators complete takeoffs. The core functionality is usually the same. Rather than measuring with a ruler and a set of printed plans, digital plans can be loaded and traced over to collect the material measurements. Tell the software what each material is supposed to be, a wall, a beam, sub floor, and let the software do the rest.

Estimating by hand often involved taking measurements collected from plans and plugging those numbers into calculators or spreadsheets to generate the materials required. For walls, it might be simple enough to use multipliers and basic equations to calculate stud quantities and OSB and sheetrock But you also need to account for interior walls and exterior walls, shear walls, gable ends, and blocking. Not to mention all the hardware…and regional code requirements. It’s a lot to keep track of, and the folks who have been estimating by hand have to be experts at their craft to get the job done right.

Takeoff software handles of all of that extra accounting and calculating in the background so that estimators can get their job done faster and with much less room for errors. Well-designed takeoff software can make this even easier, faster, and more efficient. Estimators can produce better and more accurate results, fine-tune preferences for specific clients and regions, and keep up with industry trends in a competitive market.

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