Accurate estimating in trade and construction: Key skills and proven practices for project success

accurate estimating

Accurate estimating is a critical part of the construction process. It allows contractors to determine the true cost of a project and develop a realistic budget. Without accurate estimating, budgets can quickly spiral out of control, leading to missed deadlines, cost overruns, and even project cancellations. Moreover, poor estimating can result in disputes with clients, subcontractors, and suppliers, leading to a tarnished reputation and lost business opportunities.

To develop accurate estimates, trades companies need to have the right skills and strategies. Below are some of the key skills and proven practices that lead to successful estimates.

What key skills are required for accurate estimating?

Estimating is a complex process that requires a wide range of skills. Ideally, trades companies or estimators should have a combination of the following skills to be successful:

Industry knowledge

A comprehensive understanding of the materials used in a construction project is essential for accurate estimating. Bricklaying, concrete forming, roofing, plumbing, carpentry, and other construction processes all require specialised materials, and estimators must be able to accurately identify the right materials for each job. 

An effective estimator must also have in-depth knowledge of various construction techniques used in the industry. Knowing the difference between different concrete forms, bricklaying methods, and roof installations can help estimators better forecast project duration, labour costs, and other overheads. 

Strong analytical skills

Since there are lots of numbers involved in estimations, estimators should have strong analytical and mathematical skills. Estimators must be able to analyse large volumes of data, including blueprints, engineering specs, and past project information to accurately forecast the cost of a project. They should also be closely familiar with per-unit material prices, labour rates, and competitor bids in order to accurately calculate the markup of construction jobs. Making sense of all this data is crucial to developing competitive job quotes, timelines, and budgets.  

Attention to detail 

Estimators need to have excellent attention to detail because even minor errors or omissions in a cost estimate can have a significant impact on the final cost of a project. Estimators need to be meticulous in their work and take the time to double-check all calculations and estimates to ensure that they are accurate.

Effective communication skills

Communicating effectively with clients, subcontractors, and suppliers is critical to the success of a project. This is why estimators should be able to clearly explain their cost estimates, the assumptions behind them, and any potential risks or challenges that could impact the project. Estimators also need to be able to negotiate with stakeholders to ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding project requirements, timelines, and costs.

Time management skills 

Project requests can come in at any time so estimators need to be able to quickly create accurate cost estimates and budgets. This is why good time management is so important. A good estimator stays organised, prioritises deadlines of bid requests, and balances the demands of multiple projects. 

6 Proven estimating best practices

Effective estimating requires a structured and methodical approach. Here are some proven practices to improve the accuracy of cost estimates for jobs and projects:

Develop a scope of work

To create an accurate estimate, it is crucial to have a detailed scope of work. This document should clearly define the project’s objectives, requirements, and specifications. It should also identify all the necessary materials, equipment, and labour needed for the project, making it easier to create a detailed cost estimate.

Use historical data 

Historical data can reveal useful information from past projects, including how long they took and how much they cost to be completed. Estimators can use this information to inform how they quote similar projects in the future. For instance, if a renovation project took two weeks to complete, estimators can calculate the labour costs and equipment rentals needed for a similar duration.

Past activity logs and reports can also be useful in identifying potential risks that could impact the project’s cost and timeline. Seasonal demand, for example, could influence the cost of supplies and labour, while harsh weather conditions could delay the completion of outdoor projects.

Conduct a site visit

Site visits allow estimators to assess the site’s existing conditions, identify potential challenges, and determine the project’s feasibility. Site visits also provide an opportunity to meet with subcontractors and suppliers to gather information about the project’s specific requirements.

Involve key stakeholders 

It is essential to involve stakeholders like project owners and engineers in the estimating process because they can provide insights on project requirements and challenges. They can also ensure that the estimate aligns with the project’s objectives and specifications.

Update and refine estimates

Estimating is an iterative process that requires regular review and updates. Estimates may need to be updated to reflect any changes or adjustments necessary as the project progresses. Regular review and updates can keep estimates consistent with the project’s actual requirements and help to prevent cost overruns.  

Utilise comprehensive field service management software  

Field service management software helps trades businesses create more accurate and detailed cost estimates. WorkBuddy, in particular, can automatically generate price estimates and job quotes based on the scope of work, material requirements, region, project duration, and other factors. The software provides historical data on past projects and pre-established price books, giving estimators a better understanding of job complexity, cost, and service markups. 

Additionally, WorkBuddy’s field service management software can provide real-time data on job progress and costs, so trades companies can monitor project performance and make adjustments as needed. It can also streamline communication, reduce errors, and improve overall project efficiency. 

If you want to ensure accuracy across estimates and job quotes, leveraging WorkBuddy is the best way to do so. With its comprehensive features, your trades business can generate estimates that meet your customers’ needs while helping them stay profitable. Schedule a free personalised demo today to see our estimation and job quoting features in action!

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