Anshu Arora LLM, MSc, PMP

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Material Takeoff: What Is It & Why It Is Essential in Construction

Arguably one of the most essential documents to ensure a construction project’s success, a material takeoff (MTO) is a comprehensive list of all materials and their quantities required to complete a project derived from the construction drawings and plans. Also referred to as a construction takeoff, quantity takeoff, or simply a takeoff, is a crucial element in accurately estimating and bidding on a construction job. Creating your material takeoff requires measuring, or taking off, the various components of a construction project in order to calculate how much material is needed for each. For example, if you’re a drywall contractor, you’ll measure the linear feet of all the walls and the height of the walls to calculate the square footage of the walls. Using those measurements, you would then calculate all the materials (drywall panels, tape, mud, screws, etc.) and quantities of each needed to install the walls. If you’re also doing the ceilings on the project, you would measure the square footage of the ceilings and calculate the materials and quantities needed to install the ceilings.


Why Material Takeoff Is So Important 

Measuring and calculating material takeoffs are a vital part of any construction project. The person or team preparing an estimate relies on the information provided to determine the total cost for materials as well as the labor, equipment, and other associated costs. With the ability to completely dislodge a project’s budget, workflow, or even completion, material takeoffs are vital for all parties involved to initiate and oversee a project from inception to completion. Your bids are only as good as your estimates, and your estimates are only as good as your takeoffs. If the initial takeoff measurements, the specific type of materials needed, and the calculated quantities of each are off in any capacity, it could negatively impact the project and its budget.


Manual Versus Digital Takeoff

For years the only option for delivering material takeoffs was by doing them manually—meaning that the general contractor or estimator had to measure and count all the components using paper and pencil from the plans or blueprints. They would then have to perform various calculations to determine the material quantities needed for each project. Once the material takeoff was complete, more calculations would be needed to accurately estimate the project. Manual takeoffs are prone to a number of errors, from inaccurate measurements to miscalculating material quantities to just missing items, either during measurements or when calculating quantities. Paper blueprints can be expensive to produce and can also cause issues regarding the ever-changing nature of projects and their demands. This is where the incredible power of digital takeoff makes its grand entrance. Digital takeoff and estimating software have made the material takeoff process extremely efficient and accurate. Digital takeoff software not only achieves the obvious perk of saving hours of time completing meticulous tasks but also allows for better collaboration, reduces errors, and allows estimators to bid on more projects.


The Digital Takeoff Process

Although the workflow of a digital material takeoff varies depending on the software you are using, the type of project, and other related factors, the MTO begins its course by uploading digital plans and documents that can then be used to start performing takeoff. After uploading the plans and setting up the projects, the user can then set the scale on the plan sheet and start using the tools to start measuring and performing takeoff on the screen. The measurements are saved, and your material quantities are calculated.

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