Every project has to start somewhere. Industry giant BuildingAdvisor.com™ has partnered with BMC to provide our customers with an Estimating and Budgeting Spreadsheet to help speed along the number-crunching process. The BuildingAdvisor.com™ Estimating and Budgeting Spreadsheet can be used for the following:
Warning: If you unprotect the worksheet, it is very easy to introduce errors to the hidden formulas. Only experienced Excel users should attempt to make revisions. After making revisions, you should always protect the worksheet again before adding data.
Important: Once you’ve downloaded the worksheet, make a few copies of the original Excel files and back them up to a safe place for future use.
Enter Vendors and Prices . Start entering data. For each item included in your job, enter a vendor name (under Vendor/Subcontractor/Contractor ), and labor and material prices. Some line items will have only material or labor costs. If the price is from a Subcontractor, and includes both labor and materials, you can enter it as Materials or Labor or directly into the Total column – but whatever you choose, be consistent. Make a note that the vendor is a sub in the Vendor column or in the Notes column at the far right.
You can edit line items to suit the needs of your specific job. For example, you can change “Other” in General Requirements to “Construction Management Fee.”
See the Excel Tip below, for more details.
Once you’ve filled in all your numbers, the spreadsheet will automatically calculate subtotals and job totals.
Excel Tip (Hide Rows): For ease of use, you may wish to hide rows, or entire categories, that you don’t need for the current job. You can also hide all the detailed items in a work category when you complete the category, leaving only the main category and total.
Excel Tip (Unhide Rows):
Excel Tip (Hide/Unhide Columns): To hide or unhide columns that you do not need for the current job:
Actual Cost. Once you receive an invoice for an estimating item, record that in the Actual Cost column. When you enter the actual cost, the spreadsheet will automatically calculate the Variance between the actual and estimated cost, which is vital for analyzing cost overruns and improving your estimating skills. See Job Costing in our supplemental guide for more on this topic. If additional costs or invoices come in for an item, update the Actual Cost as needed. Amount Due. Once you pay all or part of an invoice, enter the amount under Current Paid and the spreadsheet will show you the Amount Due. Update the Current Paid until the invoice is paid in full with $0.00 due. % Complete. Many contractors also like to record the % Complete to help track job progress and to make sure that payments do not get ahead of materials delivered or work completed. For example, if an invoice comes in for windows not yet delivered, or work not completed, it’s best to hold off payment. Using the Estimating Worksheet is that simple – once you have all the numbers, that is!
Getting Started. The first step in developing your estimate is to compile a complete list of all the work to be completed. This is critical, since omissions are a frequent cause of errors in construction estimates: and omitting something is always an error in the wrong direction.
To avoid omission, use the Estimating Checklist which can be downloaded here. The Checklist closely follows the Worksheet. As you go through the list apply a checkmark or highlighter to the items that apply to your job and cross out those that don’t. Revise items on the list or add new ones, as needed. You will be able to edit, change, or add new items to the Estimating Worksheet to match your checklist. Make sure every item checked on your list has a corresponding line item in your estimate. If you’ve never done this type of job, it’s a good idea to have a more experienced person review your checklist and estimate for omissions or other errors.
Material Takeoffs. Depending on the type of job, you may be purchasing the main building materials yourself – lumber, doors, windows, appliances, etc., while other materials may be provided by subcontractors and included in their bids. To get a bid on the project’s building materials, you will need to compile a complete list of materials called a “takeoff.” BMC can provide this service. It is also a good idea to do your own takeoff to ensure the most comprehensive and accurate estimates possible. Alternatively, if you are inexperienced with takeoffs, you may employ someone experienced to do so who understands local building practices, material waste factors, and the little (but often costly) items that are easy to overlook. This could be your architect, designer, draftsperson, or construction manager.
Customizing the Estimating & Budgeting Worksheet. Next, with your marked-up checklist in hand, customize the Estimating Worksheet to suit your project. You can add, delete, or rename items as needed, and the spreadsheet will still work to track costs. Remember, you can easily add up to four new items in each work category by using the “Unhide” feature. It’s important to carefully consider every line item and either assign it a cost, modify it as needed for your project, or mark it NA (not applicable) if it does not apply to your job. For example, if you are getting one bid for roofing, covering all the items listed in that category, just enter the price after the heading Roofing. You can mark all the other line items covered by the roofing bid as NA. Later, you can hide the unused rows using the “Hide” feature. On the other hand, you might want to break down some categories or line-items further, such as Permits and Fees in General Conditions, or Countertops in Kitchen & Bath.
Gathering Prices. Now comes the most difficult part of the job: gathering your prices. Prices can come from a variety of sources: suppliers, subcontractors, unit-pricing guides, and company cost data that a contractor has developed over time. An experienced contractor has an extensive price list based on historical data that will cover most common work such as siding, roofing, and framing, although he will usually need to update his material prices as these change frequently. For materials that you buy directly, take your detailed materials list from the takeoff, and get quotes from BMC. Other materials will be purchased by subcontractors and included in their prices, so you will not need to price these items. For materials that you will be installing yourself or hiring tradespeople to install, you will also need to account for labor hours and rates. Labor costs are critical as they may account for half or more of the total cost of a job. How many hours does it take to install a square (100 square feet) of roofing? Or to demolish a linear foot of interior wall? If you’re unsure, answers to these questions can be found in unit pricing guides. While these numbers are not perfect, they will get you in the right ballpark, and are a lot better than throwing darts.
Unit Pricing vs. the Stick Method. Many contractors use unit prices: that is, the cost to complete a measured unit of construction such as a square foot of roofing. This method is fast, but may overlook items particular to the job. In addition, the unit prices may need adjustment (usually upward) for special circumstances complicate the job, such as access problems for workers or deliveries, unfamiliar materials, or similar conditions that will slow down a job. Some contractors prefer the “stick method,” whereby they create and estimate stick-by-stick; that is, they count every piece of material required to do a job and the labor required to install it. This method is slower, but can be more accurate for complicated or unique jobs. Most remodeling work fits this model as no two jobs are exactly alike. Most use a combination of the two, using unit prices for predictable work and doing stick estimating for custom work or other work that involves new materials and techniques or unusual work conditions. If you don’t have historical data to work with, you can get material prices from BMC.
Job Costing. As your job progresses, you will need to update your Actual Costs as invoices come in. Over the course of the job, you will inevitably find that Actual Costs don’t always match Estimated Costs. The Variance, calculated by the spreadsheet, will show you where your estimates were off. In rare cases, things will cost less than estimated, but the reality of construction is that errors are usually in the other direction. Hopefully, you won’t find any large errors or unanticipated costs, and you’ll have built in a large enough fudge factor into your estimate to cover these. Job Costing is the process of tracking these variances and analyzing them to improve future estimates. To make use of this information, you will need to go back and uncover the reason for the variance. Was it due to a measurement error, a math error, more-than-expected material waste, price changes from suppliers, overly optimistic labor hours, weather delays, hidden job conditions, or other unanticipated costs? The list of possible causes is long. Tracking this data will enable you to improve the accuracy of your estimates and avoid future problems.
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