How to Optimize Takeoff

Items like markup, profit, overhead, and general conditions are all based on the quantity derived from takeoff. Therefore, takeoff is absolutely critical to get right, regardless of whether a contractor is self-performing or taking bids from subcontractors. Self-performing contractors usually calculate the costs in estimates using a production rate based on the quantity takeoff. General contractors taking bids need takeoff in order to ask about the details of the project (how many cubic yards, how much rebar, whether the subcontractor will be using a crane or pump for the concrete, etc.).

What could go wrong if takeoff isn’t done properly? If a subcontractor hasn’t bid the job the way the contractor plans to build it (or if the numbers are short), It will lead to arguments later and the project will inevitably go sideways. If a self-perform contractor didn’t calculate quantities correctly, then materials and labor will be short. It’s abundantly clear that quantity takeoff drives everything in a project. So what can contractors do to ensure it is optimized from the very start?

Consider the size of the project and how much time it will take to do takeoff correctly. Depending on the project, takeoff might be completed in a single morning or even take several weeks. It’s not uncommon for large projects to have several estimators. One person might be figuring the concrete, steel, and carpentry while another is in charge of the MEPs. It could take weeks just to get the plans out to the subcontractors, get the plans back, answer questions, and submit requests for information to the designers. The key here is proper communication and realistic expectations. Make sure you have an accurate understanding of how long the takeoff process should take for a given project.

Leverage software and technology that was built with a specific focus on takeoff. As you become familiar with software such as Sigma Estimates, PlanSwift, On Center, or Timberline, you will gain perspective about how they fit into your company’s workflow. You will inevitably come to realize that some software is better suited towards completing specific tasks (like takeoff) because it was built from the ground up with that task in mind.

Silos aren’t just a problem in businesses—they’re also a problem when it comes to the tools that you use every day. When selecting tools, carefully consider whether it would be advantageous to integrate them with other existing components in your arsenal. While you might be successful in using general-purpose software, it simply won’t be as efficient as something built for a specific purpose.

We’ve just completed a seamless integration between PlanSwift and Sigma, and we are very excited about this new addition of functionality. Just like Sigma is built from the ground up for estimating, PlanSwift excels at performing takeoff because that is its primary focus. The functionality/features in takeoff software will make the process both easier and faster.

PlanSwift and Sigma integrate together so users can leverage the same information back and forth across both applications. After doing takeoff in PlanSwift, the changes are immediately visible back in Sigma. If an item is highlighted in Sigma, it’s immediately visible back in PlanSwift. This kind of bidirectional interoperability is something contractors might want to look for when selecting/assessing any tool that’s going to be used in the long term.

We will officially launch the application in the next month, so keep your eyes out for more info by signing up to our newsletters on Or, if you have any questions about Sigma’s interoperability and how it can help to optimize takeoff within your organization, don’t hesitate to reach out to support here.