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Common Challenges Faced by Construction Estimators and How to Overcome Them

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  • Digital Team 

Construction cost estimating involves a lot of factors that cannot be easily learned; it takes time and effort to master. Construction estimators are thus expected to come up with the total costs and the amount of material that is likely to be used in a building construction project within a given time frame and cost control. It is not a small accomplishment given the fact that estimators encounter several hurdles that can affect the accuracy of their estimates. It is, therefore, crucial to have a clear understanding of these challenges since they are easily witnessed in project settings to address them appropriately. In this article, the key issues that are likely to be faced by estimators will be highlighted and measures for overcoming them outlined.

Lack of definition and definition of the objectives and tasks of the project

One of the biggest issues or hurdles that construction estimating services estimators encounter is projects that are described either with vague scope and specifications or both. Architects and engineers may not always give adequate information during the initial stages of the design to specify design features, systems, and materials, the phases of work, and the procedures to be adopted. This makes estimators assume what should be estimated, hence coming up with unachievable estimates. The costs of these imprecise scopes are significant, resulting in incorrect cost estimation, subsequent confusion among the stakeholders, and alteration of cost later in the project.

Estimators can overcome this by reading several times the project documentation, preparing and sending sound and complete RFIs (requests for information), attending clarification meetings, assessing similar historical projects, and especially documenting in writing the assumptions made where no specifications are given. The diminishment of ambiguity is achieved by asking numerous questions and by constantly liaising with design teams.

Incomplete Drawing Sets

Yet today residential construction estimation services projects, with the help of Building Information Modeling technologies, are creating intricate 3D models, and its estimators are still using 2D technical drawings to perform a rough calculation of the amount of materials and labor needed. If drawing sets are missing pages, have no update revisions, or contain errors, it poses another challenge for estimators to come up with total cost forecasts.

There are several critical oversights to avoid when using drawing sheets and revision logs: The estimator should use an RFI to draw attention to any differences in the design between the sheet and the logs and should maintain an ongoing conversation with architects about any necessary corrections or supplementary drawings. In addition to this, using robust estimating software that emphasizes any missing assemblies or specifications can also aid estimators in identifying incomplete areas.

Complex Project Phasing

Complex schedules and workflows, that may be required to complete intricate projects, obscure construction estimators’ view of construction cost by phase. Given the inherent complexity of multi-year, multi-stage project deliveries, it does not make sense to accurately match particular materials, equipment, workers, and other overheads with the detailed activity schedule. Complex phasing entails more assumptions that the estimators need to make, which results in varied pricing across milestones being made.

Although project management schedules are established by project managers, estimators may ask for phase-by-phase maps, Gantt charts, and numerical milestones to compare trade-level budgets with pre-construction, construction, and post-construction phases. Including time lag between phases also provides some room for unexpected events concerning the next phase.

Misjudging Market Volatility

As a highly volatile business based on material costs and various wages of workers, construction estimators are challenged by the unpredictability of complex market shifts that can take place from the time of the estimate to the physical project. The information they quote today may change the following month or even the year. This volatility makes estimators remain alert as they always have to predict the future with a certain degree of accuracy. Huge expenses on items such as steel, copper, lumber, and fuel become even more prohibitive as inflation rates soar.

For the estimator, real-time cost tracking systems enable them to recognize pricing patterns and act promptly on them. Vendor/subcontractor communication on commodities and labor markups also offers visibility to estimators for changes in quoted amounts. Maintaining estimating databases on a weekly or monthly basis allows for the incorporation of the most recent costs.

Outdated Estimating Resources

The reality remains even with the tremendous power that comes with the best estimating software, tools are only as good as the data that feeds into them. These are where the poor cost database, historical price references, and poor estimating factors used by the estimators distort the actual market conditions they need to portray in their bottom-up or square-foot estimate. This can just skew budgets in terms of where they are and what they need to be.

For optimization of construction estimating service efficiency and accuracy in the construction environment of the current day and age, estimators should make it a point to always update and develop estimating tools to ensure that quoting remains a relevant exercise. Checking them against other authoritative sources or at least having more than one legal source for prices and productivity rates is also relevant.

Limited drawing revision cycles

During construction and before the actual construction activity, there would be drawing revisions and updates because of change orders or missing details that were omitted in the plans. As you can see in the above examples, when estimators are not included in these redlines, they are not able to update the BIAs effectively. They also mentioned that limited access causes estimated versions to expire at a faster rate. About changes, estimators maintain estimates as well as costs in check by closing communication gaps with design teams.

Understand how to coordinate and use drawing tools and choose cloud-based solutions with the possibility of collaborative work and to see the changes in real-time. Recording the cost of redlines internally enables estimators to quickly regenerate them if required leading to some significant impacts. This level of estimating adaptability is crucial.


Even though estimators will carry on dealing with these common challenges, it is possible to prevent them and apply best practices when it comes to daily estimating adversity so that the teams would not only be able to battle them but to prevail. As the construction project progresses communication and coordination management, process improvement, and technology updates estimates will be bang on as the construction project life cycle progresses. Estimators must recognize the importance of sharpening their skills for the benefit of their customers.

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