Did you know that some construction estimators get paid salaries of nearly $100,000? That’s right, six figures just to estimate the cost of a construction project. They’re that valuable.
It’s easy to see why. Going over budget on a construction project can immediately wipe out your profits and even put you at a loss in a worst-case scenario.
About 90 percent of so-called “megaprojects” worldwide end up going over budget. Unlike them, however, you probably can’t just bill the government for the overage and keep your profits intact. You’ll end up taking a bath yourself. And the reality is that most construction projects are doomed at the outset by poorly estimating how much materials, labor, and the like will cost, so it’s critical that you get it right at the beginning to avoid headaches later.
To do that, you need a good document to put together your estimate. Many construction management software options out there have cost estimation functions out there, but sometimes all you need is a simple document to provide an effective snapshot of your project for your client, your team, or just yourself. Fortunately, there are multiple good free construction estimate templates out there.
Free construction estimate templates
You’ll need a template that is easy to use in order to put together an impactful estimate. While things like database price updating, charts, and other tools are important, the initial basic estimate sheet doesn’t require complex software.
Once you’ve chosen from among the template options below, follow the advice of construction management assistance firm Construction Programs & Results, Inc., which offers the following handy step-by-step list for coming up with a good basic estimate via a method called “unit costing:”
- Compile all the line items (assemblies) for that job.
- Attach a unit cost to each line item (assembly).
- Total your numbers and have them checked by a second party that knows what they are doing.
- Apply a markup to get a final price.
Beware of several potential pitfalls before you begin, however, such as failing to read all relevant project documents, or forgetting to input an expense. Check and recheck your work to make sure you included all the expenses. And resist the temptation to make arbitrary cost adjustments to expenses that are unexpected—just because you don’t like reality doesn’t mean you should pretend you can change it.
With those caveats out of the way, what templates will help you handle the basic tasks of coming up with an estimate? We’ve reviewed a number of free templates and chosen the following five options that appear to represent a wide range of construction template options, and organized them from the most simple to fill out to the more complex.
Subcontractors and suppliers can use this very basic template to list to provide a quick snapshot of what their work will cost. The template doesn’t calculate totals for you, so you’ll need to determine the totals manually.
This template allows you to briefly describe the basics of your construction project and what it will cost to complete to the client. It won’t allow you to include an extremely detailed breakdown of the project, but it will work if you only need to help your client understand the basics of the project.
The template also functions as a contract with the client, with a spot at the bottom to sign and date, as well as an additional space to provide a special notice to the owner.
This BuildingAdvisor template works for construction managers who want a simple form that can provide a basic breakdown of the estimate costs of a project, and track how those estimates matched up with reality as the project goes on. You can build on this template and make it more detailed depending on your needs.
The template enables you to create an estimate you can put in the hands of a client who wants a quick and dirty rundown of what kind of costs are associated with the project, or for your team beforehand to figure out where the big cost drivers are and how to get a project in under budget.
Another free spreadsheet from BuildingAdvisor can be downloaded in either an Excel or Word format, and allows you to document cost estimates versus the actual costs, as well as payments and balances due. This template works better when you want to track how your estimate does throughout the course of a construction project.
The template offers the following features, according to BuildingAdvisor:
- Checklist for budgeting: Make sure all important items on the list are accounted for in your preliminary budget
- Checklist for estimating: Make sure all items get into your detailed estimate
- Tracking estimated vs. actual costs for each line item (called “job costing”)
- Tracking payments and amount due to all vendors and subcontractors
You can edit and customize the worksheet, but you will be need to pay for the premium version, which is $9.95.
SmartSheet provides this template, which allows you to break out the cost data a little more in terms of hours, rates, units, cost per unit, fixed cost and so one. It also allows you to compare your budgeted cost to your actual cost, which is helpful when conducting similar projects in the future.
This spreadsheet is primarily for building and remodeling projects, allowing you to create a more comprehensive budget for a construction project. The spreadsheet also does the calculations for you.
Another SmartSheet template helps you organize the many bid items that make up the final bid amount, and then compare them between different contractors and the engineer’s estimate. This is a good template when you are trying to avoid making bid tabulation errors and also want a handy sheet to compare bidders for your project.
Many construction projects have hundreds of bid items, so it’s not uncommon to see errors when the amounts are added together manually. The bid tabulation template can verify the final bid amount is correct. It also has a column for an engineer’s estimate to compare to the budgeted amount.
What other free construction estimate templates are out there?
I know I’ve only produced a few of the available free construction estimate templates. Putting together an estimate is typically a simple task, but there are undoubtedly many different templates for different types of construction projects, and we’d be happy to learn more about what options are out there.
Do you know of a collection of free templates that has been helpful for you? Have you created some of your own? Please let us known in the comments below.
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