The Focus 4: Estimating Construction Projects, Learn How to Complete Good Take-Offs

Construction estimating and bid development require professional estimators to complete take-offs. Taking a project off is defined as the act of determining quantities that an estimator needs in order to determine a project estimate. Take-offs can be completed by reviewing sets of plans and specifications designed for specific projects, including new construction projects or for renovations to existing structures. Estimators can also complete take-offs by visiting existing buildings and construction sites.

Learn how to estimate construction projects with this online video course “Construction Estimating 101: Introduction to Construction Estimating“.



Before an estimator can develop an estimate for the specified scope of work, he must first quantify the work to be completed. When the estimator “takes off the project” they are actually determining the quantities of the work to be included in the overall scope. The more accurate the estimator is in determining the quantities included in the take-off, the more accurate the estimate and subsequent pricing will be.

One of the first questions that a professional estimator may ask when approaching a take-off for a project is how are they going to measure the quantities of work and materials that must be included in the estimate or bid. In order to complete a successful estimating take-off, estimators account for the full scope of work using the Focus 4.



The focus 4 are…

The Focus Four are the 4 types of measurements required to measure the full scope of work included in most construction bids and estimates. The Focus Four are, Count, Length, Area, and Volume.

  1. Count – in order to determine count, the estimator must match like details with like details and find the overall quantity of those details included in the scope of work. For example, if the estimator is taking off a plumbing scope of work then they will want to count the quantity of plumbing fixtures.
  2. Length – the estimator is required to determine length for specific conditions that are best measured as a length calculation. If an estimator is working on a roofing project, they will want to determine the conditions such as the length of walls in order to determine material and labor quantities.
  3. Area – this calculation is for any condition that includes scopes of work where areas are being addressed as part of the scope of work. Painting contractors may use area in order to determine the quantity of paint needed to include in the bid or estimate.
  4. Volume – volume calculations are used by paving contractors. If a paving contractor is asked to provide an estimate for paving a large parking lot, the total amount of asphalt may be measured in cubic yards. This is especially true when determining trucking associated with hauling the asphalt to the construction site.

Every construction trade requires a unique approach to completing a take-off and an estimate of costs for a project. Roofing contractors require a different set of estimating skills when compared to concrete contractors. However, using the Focus 4 provides a foundation of basic math skills for all construction estimators to be able to perform competent take-offs for their construction projects.

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