What is a takeoff in construction?
Pro Tips

What is a takeoff in construction?

BuildBook Team
May 1, 2023
May 1, 2023

You know this better than anybody. Life as a contractor in today’s crowded and competitive construction landscape is no joke. To win the jobs and remain profitable, you’ve got to nail material and project costs. That’s why a smooth takeoff is such a key part to the success of any project.

So what is a take off in construction? Glad you asked. We're going to shed some light on what a construction takeoff is and lay out all you need to know to get them right every time.

What is a takeoff in construction?

A construction takeoff is the process of accurately determining and calculating all materials, products, services, and labor required to complete a construction project. Yeah, that’s a lot. But the purpose of a takeoff is to provide a comprehensive list of materials needed to bid on or complete a construction project. It ensures that there will be no delays caused by missing or wrong materials. The process includes analyzing detailed plans and specs to know the exact material quantities you need, along with descriptions and estimated costs of each item. 

Why are takeoffs important in construction? 

For starters, takeoffs will help you stay on budget. This is a win for both you and your clients! Your profit margins are protected, and customers aren’t forking over more than they bargained for. Fewer stressful money conversations also mean greater odds of positive reviews when the job is done.

Takeoffs also give you a better idea of what you should be spending on materials. The more detailed you are in your pre-project estimates, the better. Cut way down on the amount of materials wasted. You can also make adjustments if the price of materials changes during the project. 

How do I perform a takeoff?

The first step in performing any takeoff is to get cozy with the project documents like blueprints, plans, drawings, and specifications. Get a good understanding of the job before making any estimates or decisions about materials. Once you’ve got a strong grasp of the project scope, follow these steps to complete your takeoff:

  1. Identify all materials – The first step in any successful takeoff is to figure out all materials you need for the project. This means reviewing all documentation carefully to make sure your estimates include all supplies.
  2. Make a list – Now that you’ve identified all materials for your project, it’s time to create an itemized list and determine the quantity you’ll need for each material listed. This will help make sure you stay within budget.
  3. Calculate the cost – After creating your itemized list and quantities needed, it’s time to determine the costs associated with each material using unit prices from suppliers. Make sure to double-check your math before moving ahead with estimates to avoid costly mistakes down the line.
  4. Record it all – Finally, record everything during each step of the estimation process. If questions pop up later, you’ll have documentation on hand. This will also help streamline future takeoffs, and you’ll have valuable data points about past projects that can be reused.

What should you include in a takeoff?

Let’s start with what’s not included. Assets like tools and equipment required to do a job aren’t what we’re talking about. Subcontractors will often package all materials and labor you’ll need. If not, takeoffs will include any supplies and materials that you need to purchase to complete the project. They can be raw and prefabricated materials like:

  • Concrete
  • Sand
  • Lumber
  • Bricks
  • Doors
  • Windows
  • Electrical cable
  • Light fixtures
  • Shelving
  • Plumbing pipes
  • You get the idea! 

 Obviously, a roofing contractor will have a wildly different list than a foundation contractor. 

Difference between construction takeoffs and construction estimates

So far, we’ve laid out the basics of what takeoffs are. To recap—takeoffs are largely an information-gathering and preparation process, often followed by the estimating process.

Estimates take things a few steps further. They’re the bid you submit to a client based in part on the details you compiled in your takeoff. Estimates also include costs beyond the materials and quantities from takeoffs. These costs include things like labor costs, management fees, markup, travel expenses to and from the job site, overhead expenses, taxes, waste removal, and any other extra costs you’ll face while completing a project. 

Construction takeoff software

As you can tell, takeoffs are detailed, time-consuming processes. They also pay off big time in the end. 

But there’s an easier way. Here’s where we come in. 

BuildBook offers simple-to-use features that help you save a ton of time planning and creating accurate estimates for your projects. You can create and store a complete library of your material and labor costs, create thorough estimates and proposals from your library, and automatically turn those estimates into active project budgets with built-in material and vendor expense tracking once the project is underway. 

With our job costing tools, you can easily track your labor and material expenses at any given time within a project, allowing you to make quick adjustments to minimize additional costs without jeopardizing profit margins. Instead of spending countless hours comparing your actuals to takeoffs to find your discrepancies, our job costing system lets you quickly identify where your projects have gone over or under on materials and expenses, saving time and improving your takeoffs moving forward.

Before you take off

Now that you’re up to speed on takeoffs, you’re ready to land and attack your next big project. And the #1 rated construction software will be here to help, like always.


Like what you are seeing? Sign up to receive our blog content and product announcements right to your inbox.

No spam. Ever. Just helpful biz tips and stories you can relate to.