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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I need a break and when I need a break I like write something I like or something that may be helpful, or brag about my new system.

During the past year, I went through a few construction estimators and every one used Excel for crunching their numbers. It was very difficult to understand the numbers without personal explanations. The most serious problem I had when working with an estimator is just one page from a set of blueprints contains a massive amount of information and to check my estimator's work I had to count every item and measure every inch on the entire page to get subtotals. With my system I divided the blue prints into small sections and each smaller section has its own subtotal that can be calculated and checked within a few seconds vs. calculating an entire page.

The other problem I encountered was a completed bid contained hundreds of pieces of paper that were difficult to manage. Most estimating software sold online was difficult to use. The software cost was $4,000 to up to $20,000 and had too many whistles and bells that added more difficulty.

As a contractor, relying on an estimator when my money is on the line is very scary. We are doing underground utilities and one rainwater system on our blueprints is $66,000. Miss that and the money comes out of my pocket. On one blueprint we almost missed the need for shoring and the cost for the shoring for a 75 ft x 75 ft x 9 ft hole was $40,000 for 4 weeks. Very scary! We came super close to missing this one day before we submitted our bid and we won the job.

I developed my own system to try to eliminate errors and the system uses 3 software programs that are very simple.

I found a software program called Blue Beam and I love it because it does everything I need and the cost was only $229. I enclosed an image below. We open the blueprints from a pdf file and I draw red several red boxes as shown. It is much easier to make sure you don't miss something on the plans when you draw multiple boxes and check within each box one at a time.

As you will see in the image, I created boxes on the blueprint that shows the size of every pipe and the size and type of every fitting. I created a text box for each box that contains an entire list for everything within the boxed section. When I am not sure about something I create a box with a red background.

When I am finished with the blueprints I create a file with MS Publisher. The MS Publisher is the best software I found to use because it is easier to use than any other software I found and it does exactly what I want it to do.

I put in MS Publisher everything that has to do with the bid. I put in every piece of paper, every quote from a supply house, every blueprint detail section, every blueprint note, installation instructions, and everything you can think of that is related to the job. MS Publisher eliminates the horrible task of having to look for something related to the job and when workers perform the work they use the MS Publisher file as their quick reference.

One great thing about Blue Beam is you can take a snapshot of everything on the blueprints and paste it to MS Publisher. You can snapshot all the blueprint's notes that pertain to your work and when pasted in MS publisher your workers won't have to read a hundred pages of blueprints to make sure they cover your butt.

I created the third software program myself and this allows me to create exact material lists, calculate labor costs, perform construction calculations and it gives me the ability to analyze and tweak the bid so I can find the best price that I think is a win-win for myself and the general contractor or owner.

In its simple form, my software program is a line-by-line list of all costs. I enter my overhead, insurance rates, payroll tax matching and the software gives me a total. Then, I input a price and the software tells me my profit. You can do the same thing with Excel, but Excel does not have the ability to give you good reports.

The last thing I do is I make two additional estimators go through the entire bid no less than two more times each and all three estimators work together. This pays off because we always find several errors that make the additional work worthwhile.

You can see in the image that I drew red circles around every item that pertained to my scope of work and I labeled each section as SS1 (storm sewer), SS2, etc. The SD7 was a note that stated the SD8 was an error made by the architect. The red box was the achitect's error because he listed the pipe as 12 inch (if my memory is correct) and I think the pipe is actually 6 inch.

At first, I didn't like the idea of doing take-offs with software, but now I am doing my bidding without any blueprints at all and this saves me a lot of money, but last week I purchased the Canon IPF750 blueprint printer from B & H Office Supplies (or something like that) in New York for $2500 including sales tax and if you purchase it on bidmail.com the cost is about $4200 with taxes and shipping.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
View attachment 114720 Attached, is an image from MS Publisher to give a visual showing how Blue Beam takes a snaphot of the blue print notes and we paste everything important into MS Publisher.

The 2nd image shows how the breakdown is organized into groups where the calculations are easy to view and manage to make adjustments.
 

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