The 5 Steps to Estimate a Lumber Takeoff

how to calculate a lumber takeoff framing takeoff

Estimating construction materials starts with the primary count of framing lumber, often referred to as lumber takeoff. With increasing competition in the market, many reliable framing contractors are looking for ways to develop high-quality and dependable craftsmanship while preserving profitability. This article has compiled all the necessary details you need to build the next framing takeoff for your construction project.


What is a lumber takeoff? 

A lumber takeoff, often called a framing takeoff, refers to the count of the lumber or wood elements used in a construction project. The estimate includes wood beams, floor joists, wall studs, knee wall framings, trim joists, and lumber estimates.

Therefore, the framing contractors play a significant role in construction as they are responsible for setting up the skeletal shell of the building. The building frame supports the rest of the structure during the implementation of design plans. The lumber and framing business is in rising demand as there is an ever-increasing demand for construction projects. The evolving market has made it critical for both clients and contractors to look for accurate cost estimation methods. The profitability of a framing contractor depends on the ability to have a steady volume of repeat jobs and precise cost control.

How to estimate a lumber takeoff

As earlier stated, the lumber takeoff determines the type and amount of lumber you need for your structure. Accurate takeoffs are the difference between the success or failure of your construction company. The process of conducting framing takeoffs is similar to quantity takeoffs.

1. Start with a rough plan/sketch

The first step in estimating your framing takeoff is performing takeoffs from a set of construction plans or drawings. If you do not have a construction plan, you can create your sketch that identifies wall sizes, door openings, window openings, and wall studs. You should note the spacing between the wall studs and points of intersection with other walls.

framing takeoff

2. Calculate the number of studs

You can calculate these using simple calculations. First, you need to measure the wall length in feet and multiply it by 0.75. You then add three studs for 90-degree corners or four studs for 45-degree corners. Openings less than 5 feet wide need two studs, whereas those more than five feet need one stud. After these calculations, you need to consider a 15% wastage factor for the measures.

3. Estimate the header material

For regular door sizes and windows, the header materials are built with two 2×12 timber pieces between a half-inch thick plywood cut to the same size as the header.

The framing materials for door openings are computed by adding seven inches to the total opening size. The header thickness for a 2×4 wall frame is calculated by adding 3.5 inches to the width or depth of the opening.

4. Estimate supporting plates

The next step is calculating supporting plates for the walls. For load-bearing walls, one should consider single bottom or double top plates. It would help if you multiplied the length of the wall by three to get the total length of the plate. It would be best to account for a 5 to 10% wastage factor for the plates.

5. Sheathing

The last step is estimating the sheathing. For the sheathing, you should calculate the wall area by multiplying the length by the height and subtracting the area of openings. You should then divide the result by 32 and round it up to the nearest whole number. This will be the total by the number of sheets needed for one wall face.

In your lumber takeoff calculations, there are four basic measurements you need to account for. These parameters are dimensions, count, area, and volume.

  • Dimensions: You need to compute the length of the materials you will use in your takeoffs. Joists and studs are grouped by size during procurement. For instance, you need to know how many eight-foot studs and ten-foot joists are necessary for a project.
  • Count: The other vital factor to consider is the count. After dimensioning, you need to know how many components you need to get a job done. You need to see the number of screws, fasteners, studs, and nails that you need. You will then use the overall count to compute your comprehensive estimate.
  • Area: Area estimates are essential in framing for determining roof decking, wall sheathing, and subfloors. As you erect walls, they will need sheathing to keep out elements, and the roof requires decking to support the roofing materials. The areas are necessary to compute the amount of material needed, and from there, you can make projections on material costs.
  • Volume: Volume is not very common in lumber takeoff. However, you may occasionally encounter volume calculations in small projects when calculating for piers or footers.
improve lumber takeoff

Improving your lumber takeoff

A good lumber takeoff does not necessarily give you the best material use. You can ensure proper material usage by reducing wastage. For instance, if you need 2×6 floor joists, you can buy 12-foot-long studs and cut them in half instead of 8-foot studs that will have a two-foot wastage per joist. For seven-foot rear walls, you can get two seven feet studs from fourteen-foot studs instead of cutting a foot off from eight-foot studs. This will reduce your wastage on-site drastically.

You should also ensure you are in constant communication with your crew because if you don’t, they might follow everyday practices and have a lot of wastage. You, therefore, need to develop a cut list and communicate it to your crew. As you build your framing takeoff, create the cut list and keep track of it using hash marks. Quality framing takeoffs can save you money in the long run, and following these tips improves profitability.


If you have an upcoming commercial or residential project, you now know how to go around lumber takeoffs. You can use construction estimation software like ProEst combined with proper human knowledge to develop accurate takeoffs for your project. With the correct data, you can estimate the labor and other associated costs from your framing takeoffs. The estimation process is not as simple, but if correctly done, it gives you the avenue to win more projects and opens the door for more profits.