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What Does a Construction Estimator Do?

By Mark Wollacott
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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All construction projects, big and small, require a construction estimator. The estimator’s job is to calculate the total cost and duration of a project. People who perform this job can also be called building estimators, cost estimators, professional estimators, and, in some countries, civil estimators.

A construction estimator works with architectural designers and engineers to determine the exact raw materials needed to complete the project. This is usually a huge list pertaining to every element of construction, including materials that might not be present in the finished article, but are integral to building and completing the structure.

The second aspect of estimating for a project is the labor cost. Different contractors and sub-contractors will be required for different elements of the project. This ranges from the foundations to the roof via utilities, electricity, and brick laying. The estimator will calculate how long each project will last, taking into account how certain elements cannot overlap.

Construction estimators then request proposals for each job within the project. Interested companies or contractors will negotiate to produce the best combination of quality, time, and cost. The company behind the project expects the construction estimator to finalize the best deal possible. The estimator is therefore under pressure to maximize quality while minimizing time and cost.

In order to become a construction estimator, an individual is required to have some kind of background in the construction industry. Suitable trades include electricians, carpenters, roof layers, and construction workers. Interested individuals can gain experience by estimating elements of projects related to their profession. For example, a carpenter could be called upon to estimate the carpentry costs of a project.

Education is also important for construction estimating. Individuals with degrees or other qualifications in architecture, civil engineering, and construction engineering possess a distinct advantage in this field. There are also certification programs run by organizations such as the American Society of Professional Estimators. Education and experience are essential for larger projects.

The construction estimator will often spend the majority of their time in an office. They may also visit construction sites and companies tendering bids or proposals for projects. Estimations are aided by software packages. These individuals work a relatively standard work week, though there might be overtime as the deadline for an estimation looms.

Construction estimating is a high pressure job. Though the company or individual behind the construction wants to minimize costs and time, the construction estimator must produce a realistic estimate. Miscalculations can lead to additional costs and a diminished reputation. The bureau of labor statistics shows that estimators average more than $50,000 USD a year in earnings.

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