Estimating Excellence: Key practices for your next project


Published by: Mary Kim, September 15th, 2022


In the world of commercial flooring, estimation can either make or break your project. Mary Kim, DCO’s lead estimator, shows you estimating excellence; and  key practices for your next project.

What is Construction Estimating?

Construction estimating is the act of calculating the cost for a construction project. The first step of every estimate is to perform the construction takeoff which measures all the quantities. You can then assign costs to those items.

In order to build a project, you need to know the costs first to allocate a budget and secure financing. Owners and Developers ask for bids from General Contractors so they can compare pricing and make design decisions prior to starting construction. Sometimes a project may need financing from a bank or investor group to build. General Contractors typically get bids from their Subcontractors so they can add up a total price, add their markup, and submit the price to the Owner.

Why is Construction Estimating Important?

Construction estimating is THE most important part of any project.

It can make or break your project, and maybe even your entire business. “I’ve seen companies estimate projects extremely accurately and beat competitors. And I’ve also seen construction companies make mistakes in estimating that have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. And I’ve even seen some go out of business. Estimating accurately can be the key to grow your business, or it can be the cause of the failure of your business.” (Amy Johnston)

Estimating Excellence: Key practices for your next project

Estimating is one of the most important aspects of a project, if not the most important. Estimating can truly make or break your odds of getting the project, and can even compromise the integrity of your company as a whole if it is not done correctly the first time. However, estimating is much more than just the measurements and estimation of the flooring needed for the project. The process, timeline, and overall quality of the work speak more than just getting a job done on time. Getting your sales team the correct and current information also helps determine the outcome of your project and allows you as the estimator to build relationships that will be built for success. To get your team started on the right foot for winning the project, estimators need to be able to communicate the following specifics to their company.

Key Specifics for Success:

  1. Project manual: Construction schedules, contractual terms and conditions, insurance requirements, alternates, submittal information, change order information, billing information, close-out and warranty information. These are just a handful of items that need to be found, researched and communicated to the team pricing out the project.
  2. Project specifications: Division 9 specifications are not the only specifications that pertain to commercial flooring. Other divisions such as division 1 and division 3 can affect our scope and responsibilities. Therefore, all specifications must be reviewed and communicated.
  3. Project drawings: More often than not the architectural drawings/finish drawings are not the only plans with the flooring information to be quoted. Many times, plumbing drawings, reflected ceiling drawings or demolition drawings may have notes that affect our estimate or scope, so all drawings should be reviewed.
  4. Review Miscellaneous Info: All addenda, bulletins, and requests for information logs must be reviewed during the estimating process as well.

Specified finishes: Product, installation and maintenance information should be reviewed. When unfamiliar with products, be prepared to call and discuss these products with vendors and manufacturers as to pass on the newly acquired information to whoever is preparing the quote. Question when we find the wrong type of product specified in the wrong type of area.

Estimating Excellence: Key practices for your next project

Mary’s Lessons Learned:

1) Know the industry, Know your Flooring:

When it comes to the success of your project estimation, it’s important to know the industry, the products you are working with, as well as the concepts. It will be assumed by the project plans that you know certain things about the products and their properties, so make sure you are reading up on all the important information! A great example of this is that sheet vinyl always needs a welding rod, but it won’t be marked on the plans, because it’s assumed that the estimator already knows this. Make sure to understand the difference in pricing for products like epoxy grout. It could seem like a simple mistake to specifying the wrong type of grout, but it could be very costly to go back and fix. Mistakes are expensive, so make sure you are being vigilant in your understanding of the specifications.

2) Check and Check again:

It’s always important to be cross-checking all of your references to make sure there isn’t conflicting information. We want to make sure we are catching these and asking for clarification so that everything runs smoothly. If you happen to have RFI’s and these questions aren’t answered, it is your job as the estimator to make an educated guess on what to do based on your experience. Using your best judgment is appropriate, as long as it is clarified on the bid so that all parties involved are in the know.

Furthermore, when you are assessing a project, it’s important that you are making sure the print lines match up so that you can accurately complete the estimation for the project. Overlapping can be just as bad as not having enough product.

To keep your project on schedule and ensure that careless mistakes aren’t being made so that the right amount of material can be ordered, make sure to check your work more than once. It’s never a bad idea to step away from a difficult project to give yourself time to refresh before jumping back in.

If you don’t understand what is being asked of you, the first step is to read your notes. For example, if a finish note asks for rubber base everywhere unless otherwise noted, there would be no way to include that information unless you read through the page notes. Reading your notes before you start a project gives you the time to digest and understand before you jump in head first. Creating a process for yourself for each project you work on allows you the time and space to complete your projects seamlessly without as much stress in hitting the deadline.

3) Communication is Key:

When handling any project, communication between everyone involved will be the key to success. Your team is there to help you, and you them, so it’s important to make sure everyone can reach out and depend on each other. “Good communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity.” – Nat Turner.


Proper communication is important to entirety of the project. Successful commercial installations begin at the very conception of the project. As a whole, not only should you be assessing the strategies for estimation excellence; but also creating key strategies to succeed in your scheduling process, so that entire project team can accomplish their goal. For more information on how project managers can schedule projects effectively, click the link below. 

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About the Author: Mary Kim has been in flooring for 9 years and is DCO’s lead estimator. Her experience in the commercial industry ranges from preconstruction to commercial estimating. Mary is skilled at breaking down large and complex projects into understandable segments. Her team-first mentality gives our estimating team an advantage and drives the success of our company as a whole. Email:

About the firm: DCO Commercial Floors is a nationwide flooring dealer that is committed to being a flooring solutions leader for all finishes, bridging the gap between traditional floor covering and modern access flooring solutions. We provide comprehensive project management so that your project is smooth from the estimating stages to breaking down the bid, and procurement, from installation to closeout. DCO will provide and deliver on all facets to become the partner of choice for your project.