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4 Common (& Costly!) Errors You’ll Avoid with Construction Estimator Training

Jan 09, 2017

construction estimator training

Photo credit: VIUDeepBay

Accurately gauging profitability at the very beginning of a construction project is crucial for protecting your business from painful (not to mention embarrassing) losses.

Under-estimate costs on your construction bid and you may “accidentally” win a project you couldn’t hope to complete on budget. Over-estimate on your bid and you’ll squeeze yourself right out of a deal.

The construction industry has a long and checkered history of under-estimating project costs. Statista gathered research on major construction estimating fails from across the globe, and assembled them into the following chart to compare just how big over-budgets can get. $21.1 billion for the Channel Tunnel!

construction estimator training


No matter what scale you’re building on, or what size project you’re bidding for, effective estimating is one of the pillars of good business practice.  This data-intensive, meticulous process is difficult to do well without construction estimator training that covers key areas, such as operational structure, tendering and reporting systems, cost and expenditure statements, and of course, estimating and take-offs.

These skills are essential for anyone hoping to enter the field of construction estimating, grow their own contracting businesses, or move into construction administration.

To put all of this in perspective, and highlight the importance of training, we’ve put together four of the most common—and costly— construction estimating mistakes.

1. Forgetting About “Soft Costs” & Other Expenditures

There are many kinds of costs untrained estimators will neglect to account for when drawing up a budget for a construction project. Among these are so-called “soft costs” such as permits and inspection fees.  Construction experts, Vermeulens highlights several other often-omitted expenses, including planning and feasibility studies, field supervision, and land acquisition and assembly.

Vermeulens points out that each of these project components has its own associated costs, all of which must be carefully accounted for in the overall estimate. Amateur estimators with no formal training typically make errors here, because they overlook key details, neglect to use an appropriate checklist, and forget to include relevant components in the plans and specs. More projects than you might expect have run embarrassingly over budget because the estimator forgot to include something as simple as sales tax!

2. Not Factoring-in Inevitable Job Site Surprises

Another costly estimating error is neglecting to make provisions for inevitable job site surprises. Building Advisor mentions several kinds of surprises estimators should be wary of, including:

  • insect damage
  • wood decay
  • outdated plumbing or electrical lines (which will need replacing)
  • radon
  • poorly compacted fill
  • spring water in the excavation

Forgetting  to account for the unexpected will lead to estimating shortfalls and additional costs the contractor will likely have to absorb.

3.  Neglecting to Account for Fluctuating Materials Costs

Learning how to calculate material costs lists is a central part of construction estimator training. A crucial element of this learning process is understanding how certain materials, such as drywall and plywood, can experience considerable fluctuations in price. Data analysis and an understanding of market drivers are needed to pinpoint a reasonable cost to include in the estimate.

4. Failing to Double-Check Final Calculations

Math mistakes account for the vast majority of estimating errors, and encompass a range of issues including:

  • errors in measurements and dimensions taken from plans, specs, and drawings (which skew the costs of construction items required for those items)
  • using incorrect wage rates for labour (these vary geographically), and neglecting to verify fringe benefits and overtime costs
  • getting the units of measurements wrong (recording lineal feet for lineal yards, cubic feet for cubic yards etc.)

Training programs always include safeguards and procedures for ensuring the accuracy of final numbers. While it’s impossible to predict every variable during the estimating process, students can certainly learn to minimize the impact of human error during calculations.

Interested in exploring other key concepts taught in construction estimator courses, and how training can help protect against costly shortfalls?

Take a look at the Construction Estimator Certificate offered by Kompass Professional Development.

This comprehensive training program takes just 12 weeks to complete and is offered entirely online. Students complete assignments around their own schedules with the support of a dedicated instructor, and plenty of online interaction with classmates.

For a limited time, Kompass is offering the first course of the certificate (Fundamentals of Estimating) for free! That’s a $499 savings for enrolled students.

Visit the program page to see a complete list of courses, and sign up for your free course today!

Click Here to Visit Construction Estimator Certificate Program Page

Categories: Kompass
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