Estimating Sitework: What You Need to Know

An accurate estimate is one of the first steps to starting a construction project off right. It sets expectations for the customer, for us and for everyone else involved with the job. We should all be on the same page when it comes to costs and timeline for a project.

This is particularly important for sitework, the core of Gray & Son’s capabilities, which includes grading, excavation, sediment control, utilities, curbs and paving. Our estimating team is made up of experts in this field, so we asked them to share some of their tips and advice for a successful estimate.

From our side as the contractor, these are some of the main things we do and think about when estimating sitework:

1. Visit the job site! (you’d be surprised how often this seemingly obvious step is ignored)

2. Do a dirt quantity take-off, and most importantly, communicate the results with all members of the project team. Communication is key if there is a large excess or borrow.

3. Make a plan for what to do with the topsoil.

4. Gather all information that is available, including a Geotech report. If the report is missing a Proctor test, ask the owner to request a test from the engineer.

5. Perform test pits to verify utilities, and ask if the existing grades have been field verified so you know what you’re working with.

6. Get a stakeout price early. It’s always better to have all pieces of the puzzle as early as possible.

7. Make sure you’re on the same page as the owner when it comes to what they want.

8. Constantly think outside the box to add value for the customer through value engineering (such as alternate ideas for storm water management).

9. Once near the end of an estimate, step back and think: do the plans represent the most cost effective and efficient solution? It can be difficult when it comes to such a complex job, but keep it simple.

Our estimating team also has some advice for customers who are on the other side of an estimate. Here are some things sitework customers should be aware of:

1. Get to know your contractor’s safety culture. Ask for a company safety plan along with their MOD rate and OSHA training history.

2. Fully developed plans (more than 75%) result in better pricing and minimize extra costs down the road – so be patient and make sure your contractor is thorough.

3. Related to the above, allow your contractor time to properly price the job. This stuff takes time!

4. Get your sitework contractor involved as early as possible during the design process, so they can provide input on means and methods of construction.

5. Material costs can be volatile based on global markets, especially blacktop and pipe, so be prepared that those costs may not always be what you expect.

6. Similarly, sitework costs can vary greatly from job to job. Don’t rely on past experience and/or historical cost data to set your expectations.

When it comes to estimating sitework, there are obviously a ton of factors at play. For both contractors and customers, one of the main things you need to do is stay in communication with each other, which is instrumental in many of the above tips. Keep talking and be clear about expectations, and everyone will end up happy!

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