What is a Takeoff in Construction

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An estimation is forecasting the resources required to complete a project, and an accurate estimate ensures you don’t overcharge or undercharge when you submit a bid for a construction project.

Most professional contractors or estimators understand that material estimation is the first step in a project bid; hence a material takeoff is a comprehensive list of the materials required for a project as well as their associated quantities.

What Is a Takeoff?

While some call it a construction takeoff, others also refer to it as a material takeoff or quantity takeoff.

A takeoff in construction is a process where all the materials related to the completion of a construction project are listed alongside the estimated quantity and costs. Material takeoff is a critical step in the project estimating process and is practiced by contractors within and outside the construction industry.

Construction Takeoff Process

Determining the accurate quantity and cost of all the materials needed for a project is a time-consuming but necessary process. Contractors use construction takeoffs when preparing a bid for a construction project, creating an estimate for a job or determining the quantity of each material to buy.

A construction takeoff for a construction project involves two basic steps. The first is listing all the materials needed for the task, no matter how insignificant they seem at first. This list should also include the dimensions and quality of each material set.

Once you’re done with this step, you’re more than halfway through your takeoff. In fact, some contractors believe the takeoff process ends here, while others believe that prices should be added to each material. This is where the second step comes in. The second step involves costing. This is when you add numbers to the listed material and calculate the total.

This two-step method is ideal for residential construction estimating software. However, it might be a bit trickier trying to determine the costs, quality and quantity requirements on larger projects. In such cases, the best way to approach your construction takeoff approach should be to consult with engineers, project managers, and architects to get complete accuracy.

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The Difference Between Estimation and Takeoff

what is a takeoff in construction: estimation vs takeoff

A takeoff and an estimation are two different processes, although they seem similar. They both involve determining and calculating resources needed in construction, but that’s where it ends.

A takeoff is a process of listing out the necessary materials required for a project, with an estimated quantity for each. When it is created for the estimation process (which it almost always is), it features the unit cost of each material.

On the other hand, an estimate is an extensive process that determines the overall cost of the project. When drafting a takeoff in the construction industry, the goal is to quantify resources, while an estimate builds on this, as well as other project expenses, to give a full report on the estimated cost for the entire project. Therefore, there can’t be an estimate without an initial construction takeoff.

Various Uses of the Takeoff in Construction

what is a takeoff in construction: various use of the takeoff

Now you know what a construction takeoff is, what it includes, and why it’s important to make one for every project, let’s see where and how they can be used in the industry.

  • Submitting a bid

    A flawed bid is a deal-breaker for any client hiring a contractor. Any bid you submit must be detailed enough to impress your client but also simple and easy to understand.

    An accurate takeoff is the bedrock of a good bid, and a construction takeoff is simply a process that helps contractors predict the approximate material costs. Before submitting your bid, ensure you know how much of each item is required to accurately predict the cost to avoid underbidding and losing profits or overbidding and missing out on the project.

  • Drafting an estimate

    Once you’ve performed your construction takeoff and now have a list of the materials required for your project and the associated cost, the next step is to create an accurate estimate for the entire cost of the project by compiling the material cost and adding additional expenses.

  • For purchase decisions

    Whenever construction projects require purchasing orders for raw materials, construction professionals use the takeoff process to understand how and make practical purchase decisions.

Importance of Accuracy of Construction Takeoff

what is a takeoff in construction: importance of accuracy and challenges of construction takeoff

An accurate takeoff translates to accuracy in the final cost estimate and gives both the client and contractor a clear overview of the total material cost for a project. Therefore, it is important that your construction takeoff is as precise as possible.

Contractors are generally responsible for any costs they didn’t include at the bidding stage and can be penalized for missing project deadlines. Contractors with an accurate takeoff can lower their financial risks and improve their competitive edge.

What Is Included in a Construction Takeoff?

A construction takeoff includes all the required materials to complete a project and if you’re quite new to estimating, knowing what to include in your takeoff report gets confusing sometimes. Below are the materials that will most certainly be part of your construction takeoff report:

  • Steel
  • Concrete
  • Sand
  • Rebar
  • Wood
  • Tiles and other flooring materials
  • Pipes
  • Electric cables
  • Light fixtures
  • Secondary industrial supplies to help work process on the site

Pro tip: Start your project requirement list with physical materials that form a core part of the project first.

What Is Excluded From a Construction Takeoff?

A construction takeoff should exclude the project expenses below:

  • Labor costs
  • Transportation costs
  • Rentals and equipment charges
  • Recruitment costs
  • Office overheads

Methods of Doing Construction Takeoffs

There are mainly two types of construction takeoffs:

  • Manual takeoffs
  • Digital takeoffs
  1. Manual takeoff

    For manual takeoffs, the contractor or estimator studies the project’s blueprints and figures out the material they need based on the project scope. They also make rough guesses on the quantity based on the blueprint measurements. This kind of material takeoff is usually created by a highly experienced contractor. However, they tend to be quite tedious and time-consuming.

    Also, manual takeoffs may not be entirely accurate, even with a skilled and experienced estimator. It requires complex mathematical equations and statistical calculations, which can make the estimation process quite tedious.

  2. Digital takeoffs

    Nowadays, there are many contractor estimate software available in the market. These apps can help you prepare takeoff documents within a few simple steps and have other tools to make the estimating process easier.

    In some cases, you can input your project scope to a digital takeoff software or building information modeling software for a recommended list of materials. Not only are digital takeoffs easy and quick, but they are also usually more accurate than the manual method.

    Frequently Asked Questions
      1. What is a takeoff sheet in construction?

        What is a takeoff sheet in construction?In the estimation report, the construction takeoff sheet is a document that contains a complete list of materials and the quantity to be used in the project.

    1. Why is quantity takeoff significant?

      Quantity takeoffs are a detailed prediction of the materials required to complete a construction project. Estimators or project managers use this process to break a project’s scope into smaller and more manageable units.


    Whether it is a small project or large, construction takeoff is an integral part of the construction cost estimation process. A detailed outline of the project material requirements, as well as their costs, is the first step to creating a winning bid. And every contractor should know how to create a construction takeoff.

    However, it’s difficult to ensure accuracy with manual takeoffs, no matter the level of experience. Therefore, you should use estimating software to create accurate estimates in a relatively shorter time.

    InvoiceOwl helps in creating accurate construction takeoffs and can analyze records from previous estimates for future projects. With InvoiceOwl, contractors can handle more projects simultaneously, eradicate estimating errors and create estimates and invoices at lightning speed.

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Author Bio
Jeel Patel
Jeel Patel

Jeel Patel is the founder of InvoiceOwl, a top-rated estimating and invoicing software that simplifies the invoicing and estimating processes for contractor businesses. Jeel holds a degree in Business Administration and Management from the University of Toronto, which has provided him with a strong foundation in business principles and practices. With understanding of the challenges faced by contractors, he conducted extensive research and developed a tool to streamline the invoicing and estimating processes for contractors. Read More