An estimate vs. a material take-off. depending on where you are in your project, you may need one over the other. I have heard a lot of people use these terms as though they were the same, but let’s be clear, they are not the same and you will need both.

Material take-off vs. Estimate

Material Take-off

A material take-off is just that, a list of the materials and their quantities. It may be very generic, like a framing list, or a lumber list, which just lets someone know the pieces of the project.

These lists can be very detailed or very generic. One person may want a list of framing material to send out to local lumber yards so they can compare prices on a complete package. They don’t care what floor, or section the material goes to, they just need to know what the price is going to be to purchase it and they want an apples to apples comparison of prices from several sources. These are a great help for anyone looking to get initial prices on their project.

Depending on what you are doing with your project, you may need several different types of material take-offs. Things like a lumber list, or framing list, to get the needed materials for the skeleton of your project. You may have a separate window/door list, a drywall list, a paint list, flooring list, etc. It can be broken down into as detailed of a list as you may want.

An overall material list for a project is great for pricing and shopping around, but it doesn’t help as well as an estimate when it comes time to actually build the project.


An estimate uses material take-offs. It assigns costs to the material and adds things such as labor costs and overhead costs. Administration costs, such as permits, impact fees, inspection fees, etc. An estimate will often be the first full document to specify what the materials used will be.

One thing to understand about estimates is that it is an estimate, not an exactimate. I know, sounds sketchy, but if you understand what goes into creating the estimate, you understand why it is named as such.

An estimate projects the material and labor costs of a project based on construction documents and specifications that are available at the time. It says that if you build this building exactly as it is drawn and specified, then these are the prices that are associated with it. However, added to these are projected changes, which occur during most, if not all construction projects. Things like a waste factor are figured in to make sure there is enough money to cover things like damaged lumber, or minor theft. (Someone taking a few 2×4’s may not seem like a big deal, until the framing carpenter has to stop the job to go get them.) With this in mind, the estimate is created with the intent purpose of foretelling what the project may cost in the end and what is going to have to go into it to stay within that price.

Estimates also have the ability to hold the specifications of the project and can become the contract. The estimate stops being an estimate and becomes a new document all onto itself. This is an efficient way of using your estimates, but, that means that your estimate needs to include a lot of information.

Both are needed to start a project off on the right foot. The material take-off can allow you to know what will go into the project regarding specific materials, the estimate is the document that says this is what it will cost to complete the entire project, this is what is supposed to go into the project and this is where it goes in the project.

Add these tools to your cart by contacting us to help. We can aid you in your construction documents and your material take-offs and estimates.

Like us on Facebook

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s