Why you need to invest in take-off software

Take-off software is a must. No matter what size your business, if you quote off plans, you must use construction take-off software to do it. Anna Turner highlights how measuring off a paper copy of plans is fraught with danger, not to mention time consuming and clunky.

To help convince you to ditch the paper and go digital, here are some pitfalls of measuring from paper plans:
• Printer accuracy – printers can easily, and often do, distort plans, causing the measurements to be inaccurate. It is often hard to tell if the plan has been distorted, but such an error can cause you to underor overestimate quantities by a big margin
• Time to print – most plans must be printed on A1 or A2 paper, meaning a trip to Officeworks every time you get new plans through. That’s a massive waste of time and money for everyone!
• Time to measure – it takes a lot more time to manually measure a paper plan than it does online.
• Storage sucks – once the plans are printed they need to be stored. They take up a lot of physical space.
• Human error – measuring from paper plans exposes many more opportunities to make little mistakes that can be costly. For example, measuring in the wrong scale, incorrectly calculating the area or volume, incorrectly adding up all the quantities, or missing changes when new plans are issued.


Now I’ve scared you into to entertaining the idea of using take-off software, let me outline why it’s worth the time to learn it and the small annual subscription fee. The advantages include:
• Speed – once you learn how to use the software I guarantee it will be 10 times faster than manual measuring. Good take-off software will measure the area, perimeter, volume, and wall height all at the same time. Often the software will make all these calculations with a simple click. It will also collate all the same measurements, giving you a final measurement for each item. This makes it extremely quick to measure up for materials and rates
• Accuracy – take-off software automatically snaps the mouse to lines, so the measurement is accurate. It scales to the scale listed on the plan and remembers that scale, so each measurement is taken using the right scale
• Collates quantities – one of the biggest advantages of using take-off software is it automatically collates quantities of each item. For example, it will collate all the areas and volume of all the garden beds on a plan, meaning you’ll never again miss one
• Colour – I always colour my plans as I measure to help me visualise the layout, but it also ensures I haven’t missed measuring an item. I use the same colours to represent the same things, eg: orange for paving and brown for decking, so I can easily identify items when I reopen a plan
• Historic evidence and version control – it’s very easy to save all measured plans so you can go back to them at any point. Good take-off software will also allow you to compare two plans for differences, allowing you to spot changes easily, and
• Collaboration – easily share your take-offs with colleagues, ensuring you are all on the same page, so to speak.

Check the features

It won’t surprise anyone to read not all takeoff software is created equal.

Be wary of take-off software embedded in estimating software. In my experience most of it is only a fraction as good as the standalone stuff. Here are the features that will save you time and money:
• Scale measure checking tool – sometimes the scale listed on the plans is incorrect, so checking it is important
• Labels – allows you to label all measurements
• Counting – allows you to court items like pots or steppers
• Collating measurements – collates all measurements automatically. Make sure the measurements can be exported to an Xcel or csv file for this
• All-in-one measuring – allows measuring the perimeter, area, volume, and wall heights all at the same time, and • Plan comparison – the software allows you to compare two plans. This is especially helpful when repricing a project based on revised drawings. The software should highlight the differences between the plans, allowing you to quickly make a judgement call on if the changes affect the price. And it prevents missing a change. I have heard horror stories about estimators missing changes that cost a lot of money!

A definite plus

The only drawback for take-off software is I am yet to find good take-off software that works well on a Mac. Most have been built to run on PC. The workaround is to install Parallels on your Mac and run the take-off software through that. Alternatively, you could purchase a cheap PC to run the software. This might sound like a pain for Mac users, but I promise it’s worth it.

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