Update 1/11/18: This article has been updated to include two new free construction estimate templates, and remove one that no longer fit the criteria, bringing the list to six options from the original five.
Did you know that some construction estimators get paid salaries over $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.
Nine out of ten 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.
The reality is that most construction projects are doomed at the outset by poor estimatesof how much materials and labor 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 help you put together your estimate. Many construction management software options 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 quality free construction estimate templates available.
How to use free construction estimate templates
You need a template that is easy to use in order to put together an accurate estimate. While things such as database price updating, charts, and other tools are important, the initial basic estimate sheet doesn’t require complex software.
Once you’ve chosen from the template options below, take a look at 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 your standard 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’ve included all the expenses.
With those caveats out of the way, which 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 six options that represent a wide range of construction template options. They are organized from the most simple to fill out to the more complex.
This is a good template if you have a simple job and need a basic layout of what it is going to involve. The template, from Template.net, features a construction work description section for describing the project in two or three sentences. Then there are single lines for how much the entire job will cost and who is doing the estimating.
Obviously, there isn’t much here in the way of detail or accountability, so this is only suitable for a straightforward and relatively inexpensive job that doesn’t require a lot of cost breakdowns.
Subcontractors and suppliers can use this very basic template 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 additional space to provide a special notice to the owner.
This free spreadsheet from BuildingAdvisor can be downloaded in either Excel or Word format, and allows you to document cost estimates versus the actual costs, as well as payments and balances due. This template allows you 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 use the template as is for free, but in order to edit and customize the worksheet, but you will need to pay for the premium version, which is $9.95.
SmartSheet provides this template, which allows you to break out the cost data in terms of hours, rates, units, cost per unit, fixed cost, and so on. 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.
You can get this template for free using SmartSheet’s 30-day free trial for new users.
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.
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.
Also from Template.net is this template that is essentially a spreadsheet of all the other costs that come with a construction project besides materials, such as building permits, warranty insurance, and fees.
When you’re working with a client, it’s important to inform them of these costs so that they understand everything that goes into a project and aren’t surprised when they get the bill.
What other free construction estimate templates are out there?
I know I’ve only listed 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.
Looking for Construction Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Construction Management software solutions.