A Guide to Construction Takeoff Software   

top construction takeoff software how to choose

Ever try to bake a cake without an accurate list of ingredients and their measurements? While you might know you need flour, eggs, and butter, if you forget another crucial ingredient or put in the wrong proportions, you could have a baking disaster on your hand.  

The same is true for construction projects, only on a much grander scale. A missing “ingredient” can mean lost revenue, ruined relationships, stalled projects, and blown budgets. 

That’s where construction takeoffs come in, listing out the materials needed for the project along with their respective quantities and costs before you get started. The process of conducting a takeoff is important, but the value it provides entirely rests upon its accuracy. Even the most carefully prepared takeoff still poses the risk of disorganization and missed materials, though, which is why analog and manual approaches are distinctly dangerous. 

Fortunately, construction takeoff software solutions can solve that problem for you. Here's what we'll cover:

What is construction takeoff software? 

Construction takeoff software is a type of technology that helps digitize and streamline your takeoffs to provide more accurate construction estimates and create more competitive bids. With tools for automation, collaboration, and digital measurements, you can improve the efficiency and quality of your takeoffs and ultimately bids. 

Today, we’ll discuss why construction takeoff software is so important, five things to look for when choosing it, and the top takeoff solutions on the market today. 

Why is construction takeoff software so important? 

There exist any number of reasons to use construction takeoff software, from the financial side to the functional. Let’s take a closer look. 

Enables accurate and consistent cost estimating 

Accurate construction takeoffs and quantification lead to more profitable projects. Precise information about materials and costs enables general contractors and subcontractors to allocate resources effectively and produce more competitive construction bids


Read more: Construction Estimating Software: The Complete Guide


Plus, if your solution has easy access to historical project data, it can also help inform future bids, so estimators can generate more accurately priced estimates. As you continue to use takeoff software, it collects ever-richer data about your projects and way of doing business, improving your forecasting and making for happier customers. 

Improves efficiency and ultimately profitability 

Achieving realistic and accurate takeoffs is essential for a successful construction planning process. By empowering teams to meet even the most challenging of deadlines, effective takeoffs play an invaluable role in ensuring projects come in on time and on budget. 

The right takeoff software will allow you to optimize every part of your takeoff workflow. Whether you’re counting fixtures, calculating flooring, or measuring wall surface area for painting–or even trying to access quantifies from a BIM model to achieve tremendous time savings–using a construction takeoff software solution can speed up your tasks. 

Streamlines preconstruction workflows and reduces errors 

Software can further streamline the takeoff process and correlating preconstruction workflows so teams can devote more energy and resources to higher-level responsibilities. Digital solutions also reduce human mistakes, so teams can confidently proceed with the estimation process.  

Plus, with real-time cloud-based document management, estimating teams can access the most up-to-date construction documents, drawings, and models at any given point in the takeoff process. 

Enhances collaboration and communication among project teams 

Construction takeoff software also facilitates better collaboration between estimators by breaking down data silos and enabling access to essential documents, drawings, and models.  

When utilizing cloud-based takeoff software, estimators can use a centralized platform to increase accuracy and project transparency. Since everyone is working on the same platform while using, teams can stay aligned and experience fewer headaches and miscommunication issues. 

Reduced skill requirements

Producing a material takeoff manually requires a high degree of skill. The estimator must understand how to read the project plans, perform complex calculations, and have a firm understanding of forces affecting material prices. In contrast to this, construction takeoff software automates many of the most difficult aspects of creating a material takeoff. 

Essentially, construction takeoff software makes producing top-quality takeoffs much easier and more accessible. Complex calculations are taken care of by the software program itself. Totals and quantities can be dynamically updated, with those updates reflecting in the total material cost for the project. Additionally, plans and models can be loaded directly into the program itself. From there, a variety of tools can assist the user in generating a comprehensive list of required materials. 

Perhaps most importantly, construction takeoff software significantly reduces instances when errors are made. This is partially accomplished through automating many of the more complex processes, but also because information only needs to be entered once. This eliminates the need to enter data correctly multiple times in different databases, which helps reduce time spent on the project as well as reducing the chances of an error or omission.

What is included in a construction takeoff?

A construction material takeoff should provide an exhaustive list of materials required to complete a construction project and their associated costs. Construction material takeoffs pull the materials required for a project from a blueprint or architectural drawing. Traditionally, an estimator would need to understand how to read and interpret engineering and architectural documents, but with digital takeoff software, this threshold is reduced. The materials listed in the construction takeoff must be detailed. If a specific type of treated lumber is necessary for a project, that information must be in the material takeoff.

In addition to detailed material requirements, a takeoff will also include the quantity of the material required. Quantity is provided in the unit of measurement appropriate for the material. So, lumber and steel would be provided in length, concrete and asphalt would be in volume, flooring or tile would be provided in area or square feet, and prefabricated materials would simply have a quantity assigned to them. Some construction projects will require additional details for some materials. For example, the weight of the required materials may be necessary to include. This is because the weight of materials may impact shipping and transportation costs, which would then need to be included in a full detailed estimate.

Once all of the materials have been itemized, described, and assigned a quantity, the estimator must then assign a price to each material. There are a couple of different ways that this can be accomplished. Sometimes a bid will be acquired directly from the material supplier. If the project is small and uses materials that the contractor or subcontractor uses regularly then they may already know the price. An outside database for construction material costs can also be used. The largest of these databases, RS Means, provides detailed material cost estimates based on national averages. Material price information based on specific locations is also available through external databases like RS Means.

Regardless of the source, once a price is assigned to each material, the estimator must prepare a total material cost estimate. In general, the estimator will want to consider any factors that may result in increased for material costs between when the estimate is taking place and when materials are actually ordered. Market forces may result in increases to material costs over the interim period that can impact the profitability of the project. Incorporating any anticipated cost increases is an important aspect of the construction material takeoff because it ensures ongoing profitability for the project. Determining whether to markup any material prices, which materials should be marked up, and how much to increase the price is a difficult aspect of producing a construction material takeoff.

5 things to look for in construction takeoff software 

All right, so exactly what should you look for when considering takeoff software? Here are five qualities you need to prioritize in your selection process. 

1: Cloud-based

Moving to cloud-based rather than internally hosted software is a huge time-saver. By centralizing project data, teams can improve workflows through ease of access to information. This frees up estimating resources to focus on other areas of the quantification process. 

Also, with a centralized location for project data, teams can feel confident using the most up-to-date information for takeoffs. Everyone knows where to look to find the info they need, which is both handy and democratizing.

2: Both 2D and 3D capabilities

With 2D and 3D takeoffs, teams can review quantities with complete transparency to understand budget scope and trajectory. They can then leverage that data for downstream procurement, self-perform, and production workflows. 

You’ll also save time creating competitive bids by performing more accurate 2D takeoffs and generating automated quantities from 3D models. These capabilities allow you to capture the most detailed quantities to ensure the best construction scope of work on your projects. 

And if you don’t love rework (who does?), good news. You can now proactively avoid it by visualizing the project scope in 3D, which allows a better understanding of design intent and constructability issues. Leverage a single inventory of 2D and 3D quantities throughout the construction process for ease, transparency, audits, and best of all, peace of mind.

3: Historical project data insights

Competitive bids are often impacted by fluctuating material and market costs, procurement methods, construction and delivery methods, and the availability of labor resources. As the market evolves, data helps teams bring more value, insight, and reliability to the table to remain competitive. 

With the right takeoff software, historical project data such as actual quantities, production time, and material costs can be used to bid more accurately on the next project. This reduces research time, improves your confidence, and assures stakeholders you know what you’re doing. 

4: Standardizable and customizable

Customization is key, given how different businesses and buildings can be. The size of your business, as well as the size and complexity of your projects, dictate what you’ll need from the software. You need options with tailored features and capabilities, high ease of implementation, compatibility with your existing tools, and great value for the cost. 

Therefore, good construction takeoff software must let you not only utilize your own custom classification systems but also allow you to save these settings into project templates. Project templates could include preferred measurement system settings such as imperial or metric, classification systems, as well as takeoff types, making it easier for companies to streamline the process of creating multiple projects with similar configurations faster, ensuring consistency and standardization across entire estimating teams.  Regardless of their location. The customization doesn’t stop there. Good takeoff software will let you use customized formulas to generate complex quantities in both 2D and 3D, then go over them with a formula checker to ensure no errors are present.

5: Robust change management 

Estimators often have the challenging task of relaying to stakeholders why a project’s scope or budget changed at different milestones. An excellent construction takeoff software should empower estimators to answer these tough questions confidently. It should allow them to easily compare different versions of sheets and models to identify changes quickly. Stop wasting hours manually conducting plan reviews to find the elusive change that can impact your scope. Using the right technology can help you identify changes in a snap to avoid costly mistakes.  

The best construction takeoff software even goes beyond just sheet comparison; it allows you to move existing takeoffs to the latest version of the document without the need to re-takeoff, which saves you tremendous time. Additionally, the top-of-the-line takeoff software utilizes snapshots to preserve a point-in-time capture of all takeoff data for a project so you can look back in time and understand how the project has changed and why. With robust comparison capabilities, estimators can visually compare takeoff along with quantities in the inventory when comparing sheets from previously saved snapshots and work in progress to see the quantity and unit cost changes to help identify cost impacts. If your current construction takeoff software doesn’t allow you to do all this, you must re-evaluate your workflows and choose the right takeoff software to help reduce project risk and generate profitable bids. 

Top Construction Takeoff Software 

Knowing what to look for in software and knowing which software to choose are horses of a different color, of course. Below you’ll find some of our favorite software takeoff tools to create and streamline the takeoff processes and related workflows.  

Autodesk Takeoff 

Want to generate 2D takeoffs with 3D quantities from a single solution? Autodesk Takeoff helps you do just that, helping you win more bids more quickly with accurate estimates and super-refined takeoffs. You can even add unit costs to both your 2D and 3D takeoff to generate those rough budgets and estimates quickly. It’s a fundamental tool throughout the construction lifecycle, and your workflow will never be the same.  

Assemble 

Assemble helps extract takeoff quantities from a 3D model, which can be further organized, sorted and enriched with custom meta data to power a wide variety of downstream workflows. Now you can condition and connect BIM data to keep your projects on track, which helps with everything from the design and estimating processes to change management, tracking, scheduling, and more. 

ProEst 

ProEst’s advanced cloud-based software combines cost estimating and digital takeoffs in a single solution. Forget measuring by hand and hoping you get it right; ProEst reduces potential errors and halves the time you have to spend on takeoffs. 

Construction takeoff software: an absolute must for modern estimators 

If you want to keep up with the competition and ultimately deliver projects at the highest quality possible, you need the right construction takeoff software in your corner. Create takeoffs in much shorter time periods, share them with stakeholders, edit as necessary, and bid more accurately than ever. 

Looking to get started and improve your takeoffs today? Learn more about construction takeoff software with Autodesk Construction Cloud.

Grace Ellis

As Manager of Content Marketing Strategy at Autodesk and Editor in Chief of the Digital Builder Blog, Grace has nearly 15 years of experience creating world-class content for technology firms. She has been working within the construction technology space for the last 6+ years and is passionate about empowering industry professionals with cutting-edge tools and leading strategies that improve the quality of their jobs and lives.