How to Build an Estimating Department: A Comprehensive Guide

Estimating is a critical function in any construction project. Accurate cost estimation is essential for project planning, budgeting, and decision-making. To ensure the success of your construction projects, it is crucial to have a well-established estimating department. In this article, we will explore the key steps and considerations involved in building an effective estimating department.

The Importance of a Strong Estimating Department

Before diving into the details of building an estimating department, let’s first understand why it is so important. Here are a few key reasons:

  • Accurate cost estimation: A strong estimating department ensures that project costs are accurately estimated, minimizing the risk of cost overruns and delays.
  • Competitive advantage: Accurate and competitive bids can help your company win more projects and stay ahead of the competition.
  • Improved project planning: A well-established estimating department provides valuable insights into project feasibility, resource allocation, and scheduling.
  • Effective budgeting: Accurate cost estimates enable effective budgeting, ensuring that projects are financially viable and profitable.

Key Steps to Building an Estimating Department

Building an estimating department requires careful planning and execution. Here are the key steps to follow:

1. Define the Scope and Objectives

Start by clearly defining the scope and objectives of your estimating department. Consider the types of projects your company undertakes, the size of the projects, and the level of detail required in cost estimation. This will help you determine the resources, skills, and tools needed for your estimating department.

2. Hire and Train the Right People

The success of your estimating department depends on the skills and expertise of your team members. Look for individuals with a strong background in construction estimating, preferably with experience in your specific industry. Provide comprehensive training to ensure that your team is up-to-date with the latest estimating techniques, software, and industry standards.

3. Invest in Estimating Software

Estimating software can significantly streamline the estimating process and improve accuracy. Look for software that aligns with your specific needs and integrates well with other project management tools. Consider features such as quantity takeoff, cost databases, and reporting capabilities. Train your team on how to effectively use the software to maximize its benefits.

4. Develop Standardized Estimating Procedures

Standardized estimating procedures ensure consistency and accuracy in cost estimation. Develop a set of guidelines and templates that outline the steps to be followed, the information required, and the format of the estimates. This will help your team work efficiently and produce consistent results.

5. Establish a Knowledge Base

Building a knowledge base is crucial for continuous improvement and knowledge sharing within your estimating department. Encourage your team members to document lessons learned, best practices, and industry benchmarks. This knowledge base will serve as a valuable resource for future projects and help your team make more informed decisions.

6. Foster Collaboration with Other Departments

Effective collaboration with other departments, such as project management and procurement, is essential for successful cost estimation. Establish clear communication channels and workflows to ensure that relevant information is shared in a timely manner. Collaborative decision-making will lead to more accurate estimates and better project outcomes.

7. Monitor and Evaluate Performance

Regularly monitor and evaluate the performance of your estimating department to identify areas for improvement. Track key metrics such as accuracy of estimates, bid success rate, and project profitability. Use this data to identify trends, address any issues, and implement necessary changes to enhance the performance of your department.

Case Study: XYZ Construction

Let’s take a look at how XYZ Construction successfully built their estimating department:


XYZ Construction is a mid-sized construction company specializing in commercial projects. They recognized the need to establish a dedicated estimating department to improve their bidding process and project outcomes.

Steps Taken

XYZ Construction followed a systematic approach to build their estimating department:

  • Defined the scope and objectives: XYZ Construction clearly defined the scope of their estimating department, focusing on commercial projects ranging from $1 million to $10 million.
  • Hired and trained the right people: They hired experienced estimators with a background in commercial construction. The team underwent comprehensive training on the latest estimating techniques and software.
  • Invested in estimating software: XYZ Construction invested in industry-leading estimating software that integrated seamlessly with their project management tools.
  • Developed standardized estimating procedures: They developed a set of standardized estimating procedures, including templates for different project types and a detailed cost breakdown structure.
  • Established a knowledge base: XYZ Construction encouraged their estimators to document lessons learned and best practices. They created a centralized knowledge base accessible to all team members.
  • Fostered collaboration with other departments: Clear communication channels were established between the estimating department, project management, and procurement teams. Regular meetings were held to ensure alignment and timely information sharing.
  • Monitored and evaluated performance: XYZ Construction regularly tracked key metrics such as bid success rate and project profitability. They used this data to identify areas for improvement and implemented necessary changes.


By following these steps, XYZ Construction was able to build a highly efficient estimating department. Their bid success rate increased by 20%, and project profitability improved by 15%. The standardized estimating procedures and knowledge base enabled consistent and accurate cost estimation across projects.

Key Takeaways

Building an estimating department is a strategic investment that can significantly impact the success of your construction projects. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Clearly define the scope and objectives of your estimating department.
  • Hire experienced estimators and provide comprehensive training.
  • Invest in estimating software that aligns with your needs.
  • Develop standardized estimating procedures for consistency and accuracy.
  • Establish a knowledge base for continuous improvement and knowledge sharing.
  • Foster collaboration with other departments for effective cost estimation.
  • Monitor and evaluate performance to identify areas for improvement.


1. How long does it take to build an estimating department?

The time required to build an estimating department depends on various factors such as the size of your organization, the complexity of your projects, and the availability of resources. It typically takes several months to a year to establish a fully functional estimating department.

2. What skills are essential for estimators?

Estimators should

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