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RE: Construction Estimating

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I will second what Stan recommends.  I have dog eared the heck out of our office copy of the RSMeans books.  We do not have the software but from what I have seen from their web site it looks real slick.

The RSMeans books are broken down by Division (1. General, 2. Site Construction, 3. Concrete, 4. Masonry, etc.) but they also have a Division 17 which has the ROM costs based on square footage and type of building.  This is great for that quickie "How much is the construction cost of a three story jail made of block" type question.

As far as estimating in general, the key is not the cost but the items.  To do a defined breakdown you need to know all the components such as clearing/grubbing, backfilling, compaction, concrete installation, scaffolding, landscape repair, on and on.   Once you have all the items the cost part is fairly easy even if you have to make up the costs on your own.

For really serious construction cost estimates that may be required for a project that will be used by our clients for budgeting purposes we typically subcontract this out.  If you go this route be prepared for sticker shock as these guys charge a lot of money because of the associated risks involved.

Thomas Hunt, S.E.
ABS Consulting

"Caldwell, Stan" <scaldwell(--nospam--at)>

07/24/2003 09:46 AM

Please respond to

"'seaint(--nospam--at)'" <seaint(--nospam--at)>
RE: Construction Estimating


I recommend that you buy two or three of the annual R. S. Means books.  They also offer CD and online tools.  None of this is perfect, but it is what we use most often.  Of course, we avoid making construction cost estimates whenever possible!


Stan R. Caldwell, P.E.
Dallas, Texas

The goal of every engineer is to retire
without getting blamed for a major
catastrophe!                 ...Dilbert


-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Polhemus [
Sent: Thursday, July 24, 2003 10:02 AM

To: seaint(--nospam--at)

Subject: Construction Estimating

I am frequently called upon by clients to render an estimate of construction cost. I don't mind this at all, except for the fact that I've never come up with a satisfactory set of tools to do it.

I have tried various spreadsheet formats and even looked at software available for purchase, but they are all geared more toward estimates FOR construction cost, not OF construction cost.

The distinction is that I, as engineer, am not concerned about the grisly details of what goes into an estimate. I want to work with gross effects. The contractor wants to be able to apply minute controls; I simply want a bottom line with a reasonable breakdown of how I got there without all the ghastly detail.

I wonder if anyone here has come up with or developed a tool that you like to use for making such estimates, and if you would care to share it with the rest of us. For myself, I'm tired of flailing around trying to find something that fits.