Tag Archives: defensive estimating

Estimating Book Recommendations

I’m often asked for recommendations regarding books on estimating techniques, not the data mind you, but the techniques and methods of estimating.

Unfortunately there aren’t a whole lot of books out there to choose from but still there are some good ones that are well worth the time.

Defensive EstimatingOn the top of the list I like Defensive Estimating: Protecting Your Profits by William Asdal, CGR. It’s not about how to estimate a kitchen, a deck or some other project in the literal sense in terms of what items to include and look for but is instead a book about the “big picture” of estimating and is about approaching estimating with a particular type of viewpoint and that is one of “protecting your company’s profit” which is very different than an estimating mind set that many contractors dangerously adopt which is “estimating to get the job”.

The lesson of Chapter 2 Establish the Company Profit Number Based on Your Income Needs which again so many contractors fail to do is alone worth the price of the whole book.

Chapter 6 Using Retail Pricing at Every Line brings up a point I’ve often talked about when considering ‘risk’ in building and remodeling projects which is to ‘Put the Risk into the Line Item and Not the Bottom Line‘ , in other words ‘Nullify the Risk at First Entry‘ so that it can be specifically dealt with based on the risk of the task the line item describes.

And he concludes the book with chapters that give some great example of contract and specification language that can be used by builders and remodeler’s to defend their profits.

I highly recommend this book. I thought it was interesting though in reading the editors description of the book they say “Asdal takes the magic and science of estimating and turns it into an art.” whereas I would say “Asdal takes the mystic and mystery of estimating and turns it into practical science”. I think a problem many contractors have is they view estimating as some kind of mystical purely intuitive art and therefore never really develop the repeatable scientific methodologies (systems) for approaching it and it becomes a mess.

EstimatingBuildingCostsDelPicoAs for the nails, screws, nuts and bolts of producing an estimate and to what to actually look for in estimating particular projects and trades I think Estimating Building Costs by Wayne J. DelPico and Estimating for the General Contractor Estimating for ContractorsCookby Paul J. Cook are pretty good for that. You will get things from them such as how to calculate liner measure, are and volume
and then what to look for as you produce cost estimates in the individual trade areas.Where they are lacking is in connecting the COST of production to the PRICE you need to charge to run a business.

Estimating Building Costs Estimating for the General Contractor

Two other books I think that are very helpful and good resources to have in the ‘nuts and bolts of producing an estimate’ category come from R.S means and are entitled: Kitchen & Bath Project Costs: Planning & Estimating Successful Projects and Home Addition & Renovation Project Costs: Planning & Estimating Successful Projects . And like the two books I just mentioned these two book don’t do a good job of connecting the COST of production to the PRICE you need to charge for your services and are in fact terrible in that regard. Under no conditions should you use these books to actually price a project out. Instead use the line items lists and the project commentary on what to look for as basic templates of what you will need to estimate. Then substitute your own labor, material, and subcontracting costs and markup structure for what they give you.

Given this list people often ask ‘Well, what about Jay Christofferson’s Estimating With Microsoft Excel and while I have read it and keep a copy of it for reference it’s more about using Microsoft Excel to build a software tool than how to actually “estimate” anything so that’s why I don’t include it on this list of ‘Estimating Book Recommendations’.

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Looking Back on My Thoughts On Reading from August in ‘97

Way back 90’s I used to have personal web site on AOL and writing at that time what we’re really essentially blog posts years before I had ever even heard of blogs I wrote this:

In the introduction to his book Leadership Is an Art, Max DePree says:

"In some sense, every reader "finishes" every book according to his or her experiences and needs and beliefs and potential. That is the way you can really own a book. Buying books is easy; owning them is not. There is space for you to finish and own this book. The ideas here have been in my mind for quite a few years, changing, growing, maturing. …As a child, I often watched adults study books and learned one of my first lessons about reading. They wrote in their books. Intent and involved readers often write in the margins and between lines…Good readers take possession of what they are learning by underlining and commenting and questioning. In this manner they "finish" what they read."

My copy of Defensive EstimatingWell that’s me. My books are more often than not full of underlines, circled text, highlighting, and post-it notes. Their pages are sometimes wavy and wrinkled from being soaked from the sweat dripping off my brow on as I read them on a stair master or stationary bike.

Recently an online friend said to me he’d like to not just get a copy of Defensive Estimating: Protecting Your Profit
but that he like to get my personal notated copy of the book. I thought it was funny reading that in that he pretty much figured out on his own what I did to the books I read so I took a photo of it at the time to document it.

It turns out I’ve got whole bunch of books that look like that or even worse. Tom Peters’ Liberation Management: Necessary Disorganization for the Nanosecond Nineties which was perhaps one of the books that really inspired me to go on the business book reading binge that I’ve been on for over a decade now. It was in fact the book I was referring to above whose pages were all "wavy and wrinkled".

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