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Creating a Construction Job Estimate Template

by: Smith and Howard

July 17, 2015

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Every contractor knows it: the more accurate a job estimate, the better the chances of completing a job within budget and realizing your anticipated profit. And so it follows that, the more thorough and systematic your estimating process, the better your estimates will be. For this reason, every construction company should create a standard structure for its estimates.

Getting started with a construction job estimate template

The most efficient way to develop your estimating format is to start with an established estimate template. If you’re still preparing estimates manually or ad hoc, there are many online resources available that can serve as a base from which to build your own estimating form. Just type “construction estimate template” into your favorite search engine and go from there.

If you’re working with estimating software, the product may also provide a framework that you can use as is or customize to your needs. It may even offer average or typical prices you can plug in for an item. Don’t overlook this built-in functionality!

Evaluating construction job costs

If you hope to run a viable construction business, it’s crucial to incorporate fixed and variable overhead costs, as well as a reasonable profit margin, into your standard estimating form. Choose customary calculations for determining the payment amount you need to cover not only your costs to complete, but also your operating expenses. Ensure your standardized approach also leaves enough in the margins for reinvesting in the business, covering your salary and, if possible, paying into a savings account.

Moreover, it’s a good practice to review and compare actual costs to your estimates after a job is complete. So, ideally, the “back pages” of your standardized estimating forms need to include a required review of the estimate in question and lessons learned from the job.

Assessing contingency costs

Every estimate should take into account contingency costs — that is, costs over and above the base labor and materials costs anticipated for the project. AACE International defines contingency as “an amount added to an estimate to allow for items, conditions, or events for which the state, occurrence, or effect is uncertain and that experience shows will likely result, in aggregate, in additional costs.” Some examples of contingency costs include:

  • Planning and estimating errors and omissions,
  • Minor price fluctuations,
  • Design developments and changes in the scope, and
  • Variations in market and environmental conditions.

Build these expenses into your standardized estimates, allowing for the fact that you’ll likely spend this money without being able to precisely estimate it.

Suiting yourself

Following a standard format for estimates reduces the chance you’ll overlook some factor of the prospective work. Doing so can also speed the process by giving your staff a tried and true guide based on previous estimates for similar jobs. Plus, it facilitates the training process when you need to on-board a new estimator.

The exact look, length and feel of your ideal standardized approach to estimating depends on many factors, including the size of your construction company and the types of projects you typically take on. Work with your financial advisor on drafting the documents and procedures that best suit your business.

Construction Advisory Services

Looking for help with creating a construction job estimate template or simply looking for construction accounting and advisory services? Contact Paul Atkinson at 404.874.6244 and or simply fill out our form below and we’d be glad to help.

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